So, you’ve decided to work with a career coach and have your first appointment all set up—that’s wonderful! Job searching is such a grueling process and it’s unbelievably nice to have a partner for the whole thing, especially if that partner happens to be an expert.
Assuming you just spend a few (or several) dollars on this investment, you’re probably wondering how to best prepare for your first session. After all, you want to make sure you’re doing this right, getting your money’s worth, and all that jazz. (Trust me, the fact you clicked on this article means you are!)
Fret not, here are four ways to ensure that you’ll me making the most out of your first meeting.
1. Be Ready to Tell Your Story
Having this expert in your corner can be a transformative experience, but that doesn’t mean he or she is an all-knowing wizard. The person you hire won’t know anything about you that you yourself do not tell him or her. For some reason, many people are surprised when they realize they’re expected to share where they are in their career and how they got there. This makes for a clunky start.
While you’re not expected to give your elevator pitch per se, you should consider what information might be important for your coach to know going forward. It might be obvious from your resume that you’ve been in PR for several years now, but how did you get your start and what drew you to it in the first place? What parts of that career do you want to take with you to your next one and what would you like to leave behind? He or she will help you work through these question as well, but it’s helpful to begin mulling them over yourself in preparation.
2. Prepare Some Questions
One way to make sure you get what you want out of this is to know what questions you want answered. Yes, you want your resume reviewed or to receive a job offer, but what are your specific questions about getting there? You can get really big picture and abstract about it (think: career values) or down to the nitty-gritty details (think: how to find out who to address your cover letter to).
It doesn’t matter if your questions are big or small, it just matters that you have them. Because knowing them means you have a sense about what you’re looking for, and that’s an important first step in finding it. So, before your first session, take some time to jot down a few. Just note you might not get all your answers in one session, especially if one is something like, “What is my calling in life?”—but it’s a place to begin the conversation.
3. Take Out a Pen
Many coaches will take notes during your session, and some will even provide you with them at the end. Regardless, you should be taking your own to track your own thoughts and ideas throughout the process. It might occur to you that you should really chat with that contact your uncle gave you a long time ago. That’s the kind of thing you won’t find in someone else’s notes and that you’re likely to forget once the moment has passed. So really, jot down anything that comes to mind—even if it’s in shorthand.
4. Have Appropriate Expectations
Will meeting with a career coach make your dream company offer you your dream job?
No. But, you will likely get some strategies for how to create a good target list of companies and some concrete steps to take to get you closer to the path you envision. It’s important to understand this is not a silver bullet for all of your job woes and that it’s frequently not a one-and-done thing.
You’ll certainly get some tangible takeaways—maybe a new resume, cover letter tips, a networking plan, or some much needed structure in a very unstructured process—but be aware that many are less obvious. Expect lots of self-reflection. If all goes well, you’ll be leaving your meeting with a better sense of what your interests, skills, and values are, too.
Going back to the partner idea, your coach isn’t there to go out and get you a job, but he or she will be there to help you along the way. Putting in your own effort to make this session useful can only help ensure that it will be.
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Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author