For the person being coached: If you’ve read my previous blog posts on how to identify and choose a career coach (or mentor), you’re probably wondering how a coaching relationship works in the real world. Here are my top five tips for how to prepare, and what to expect, at your first meeting:
1. Do a bit of planning.
Before the first meeting, think about your work situation and which areas are challenging. Start a list of ways you want the coach to help grow your career and handle challenging areas of your job. Time spent thinking through exactly what you want to address with a coach will pay off, ensuring the first coaching session is productive.
2. Show up ready.
Be ready to share a brief description of your education, any licenses or certificates, and your job history. This information will give your coach an overview of where you are in your career. Come prepared with a list of topics or questions, and have a way to take notes, whether by pen and paper or electronically.
Then stop talking. Full stop.
Listen, listen, and keep listening. Be respectful and take notes, even if you don’t agree or are not ready for all the suggestions that may be offered by your coach. Building trust takes time, so don’t expect every item to be addressed or resolved immediately.
3. Have a positive attitude.
Show and maintain a positive outlook during the coaching meeting. The goal is to help you succeed in your career at your current employer, so word your questions in a manner that shows you are looking for solutions. In other words, this is not a gripe session; a negative attitude will not be helpful. The coach’s purpose is to try to help you see other perspectives and perhaps different ways to focus your thinking.
4. Be coachable!
Don’t disagree or push back; be open to trying other approaches. Career growth is your responsibility, so show the coach you will look at their suggestions and take ownership of following through on any next steps. Moving your career forward is your choice, so give real thought to what your coach suggests. They will offer suggestions and options, but you are the one who needs to take action.
5. Expect to be challenged!
Growth means change, and change can be scary, so I urge you to hold yourself accountable and gather your courage. It can be tough to push yourself to follow through on your coach’s advice, but this is the best way to see results. Take action on those suggestions that are outside your comfort zone. Six months to a year from now, you want to look back and feel proud of how much you accomplished.
The coaching relationship will evolve over time and as your coach gets to know you better, but you should expect to repeat most of these steps throughout the coaching processes, and especially during the first few meetings. Don’t be afraid to give your coach feedback – you both are working towards the same goal.