So you’ve decided to meet with a career coach, and you’re asking yourself, How should I prepare for my first session? Excellent question! Before you meet with a career coach, I recommend that you take the time to ask yourself the following questions to make the most of your experience and maximize this worthwhile investment you’re making in yourself.

What’s my story?

When working with a coach, the two of you may spend some time reflecting on your past experiences, successes, strengths, and weaknesses as your coach listens for a common thread of purpose that has occurred throughout your life. The idea is to discover the common theme that your life journey has been pointing toward, but that you might need help defining. Before your appointment, spend some time thinking about what motivates you, what you feel passionate about, and what have you enjoyed doing in the past. Jot down your thoughts and be willing to share them with your coach. Also, when your coach asks you questions about your story, try not to edit yourself too much as you share your experiences, thoughts, and ideas. Your coach isn’t there to judge you! He or she is looking for insights to help you identify your personal education and career goals, and then plan your next steps to achieve these.

What are my expectations from this coaching experience?

This is one of the first questions your coach is likely to ask of you, so it would be a good idea to think about what you would most like to gain from your coaching sessions. Are you feeling overwhelmed selecting a college major? Are you concerned about feeling satisfied in your future career? Are you unhappy with your current job and considering a change? Your coach wants to help you be successful in your journey, so consider what you want to achieve during your time with your coach, and again, record your thoughts by writing them in a journal or typing them up in an electronic format, whichever works best for you. Be willing to open up and share your story so that the two of you can begin to shine a light on the possibilities for your future and plan the steps to make your dreams a reality.

Is my current resume an accurate reflection of my personal brand? Why or why not?

Your resume is a way to communicate your experience and qualifications with hiring professionals and a strong resume will open the doors to an interview. Your resume should be tailored to the job for which you’re applying with special attention to incorporating keywords from the organization’s job description; however, a one-page resume is not the only tool you may need to open the interviewing doors. We’re in a time where technology is advancing and changes are happening quickly. There are new ways in which candidates are able to communicate with hiring professionals that provide a better picture of who you are and your unique qualifications. You may want to share your personal brand by creating a website or electronic portfolio to showcase your work experiences, academic achievements, certifications, awards, blogs, graphics, or other examples that paint a clear picture of who you are. You may also need to update your social media sites to include more relevant information as you connect with people in your field. (Be sure that you’re not posting anything inappropriate that could harm your chances of employment.) Your coach can help you navigate these decisions to ensure you’re using the best tools to showcase your many talents and making a good impression with hiring managers.

Have I thought about how my personal interests, skills, and work values relate to my personal career development?

Before you can truly make wise decisions that will affect your life direction, you first need to know about yourself: what you like to do, what you’re good at doing, and what is important to you. Even once you’ve established this “personal snapshot,” it can still be challenging to match your self-concept and your values with a place in the workforce that will give you the best shot at a satisfying career. To help you through this process, your coach may ask you to complete interest, skills confidence, and work values assessments to get a picture of who you are, what you’re good at, and what you value. This personal snapshot can be aligned with occupations where you’re likely to find the most satisfaction. During your coaching session, let your coach know whether you’re interested in using assessments to help you through the career planning process. If you have any hesitations or concerns about completing an assessment, communicate your concerns with your coach who will be happy to help ease your concerns and find the best solution for your situation.

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What are my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to my employability, and what barriers am I facing?

Your coach is going to work with you to set up goals to achieve your career dreams. However, if you have obligations or barriers that are going to make completing these steps difficult, you need to communicate these with your coach. Before your scheduled appointment with your coach, spend some time thinking about any commitments or barriers you may be facing that may limit your ability to reach goals. Your coach will help you to find ways to overcome barriers and accommodate your plan so you can reach your goals and be successful. Let your coach know what you’re facing; you don’t have to do this alone!

How much time am I willing to invest in education or training?

We all wear many hats in our daily lives as we fulfill various responsibilities due to the various “life roles” we’ve taken on. For example, you play a role as someone’s daughter or son, a spouse or partner, an employee, and as a volunteer at a community organization, to name a few. The different roles we play in our lives require varying amounts of our time and attention. For example, before adding on an additional role of “student,” it’s wise to consider how you’ll balance this new role with your current responsibilities. Perhaps you’re a parent with young children, or you’re caring for elderly parents and working a full-time job. A career coach will need to take into consideration how much time each role currently requires of you in order to identify areas where you currently have time to donate to your role as a student. Your coach will also want to consider resources that could potentially help you take on this new role by freeing up some of your time so that you can pursue the necessary education or training to help achieve your career goals. Your coach will have tools to help you work through this process, but it’s a good idea to have a realistic view of your life roles and responsibilities before you arrive for your first appointment.

Am I willing to set goals and do the work to achieve them?

You and your coach will work together to identify goals and the steps to take to achieve your career objectives; however, if you find that you’re struggling to accomplish the goals between sessions, let your coach know as soon as possible. It could be that you don’t know how to get started, or you have a new obstacle/challenge in your life, or the goal was too big. Maybe you don’t feel that your goals are moving you in the right direction. Share these concerns with your coach. Your ability to communicate openly with your coach will help you reach your career objectives more quickly because it will allow the two of you to reevaluate your goals and make the adaptations necessary for your personal journey. Your coach is there to hear your concerns and ambitions, show you possibilities for your future, and help you achieve your goals. Don’t be afraid to talk to your coach about how you’re feeling.

What if you repeatedly miss the mark in your daily life when it comes to accomplishing your to-do list? If you’re one of those people who continually struggles with accomplishing tasks, inform your coach during your first session together. Your coach will work with you to develop a plan that takes this into consideration, and may even provide some tools to help you improve your ability to accomplish tasks by addressing motivation issues, organization skills, and/or behavioral changes that need to take place to improve your ability to accomplish life’s responsibilities. This will be a benefit to you in your future career as well as your daily life.