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Navigating the Career Coaching Process Part 2: What Happens and How Long Will Coaching Take?

Are you ready to embark on the deep self-discovery process of career coaching?


Career coaching is a valuable tool for clients to gain confidence and a clearer vision of their career paths. However, many clients are unaware of how it works and what are its short and long-term benefits.


In a previous collaborative post, I asked other professional career coaches from the D&S team to share their insights to set the stage for clients to consider career coaching as part of their career management process. They answered several questions to describe what coaching is, its most important components, and how it benefits clients. We barely scratched the surface!


In this second collaborative post, my colleagues Michelle Merritt and Lynda Grossman contributed their perspectives on a typical coaching session, how long a session lasts, and how much time the typical career coaching process takes. With this information, you are better prepared to make decisions about career coaching as part of your career management.


Let’s continue.


Describe a typical coaching session. What happens before, during, and after?


Like any new experience, the first coaching session raises many questions. We break down the process by what happens and when so that you can prepare for what’s next.


Michelle and Lynda agreed that the coaching process follows a basic structure: preparation, session delivery, actionable steps, and follow-up. Lynda says coaches prepare for that first session by reviewing résumés, bios, results of self-assessment tools, and any other information that will paint the picture of each client’s reality. With this information, coaches are ready to ask questions that prompt clients to come to their answers from their first contact.


All of us agreed that coaches encourage and guide clients to establish their goals for the coaching process and that these goals become the foundation of the coaching experience from the first session. As clients establish and revisit their goals, coaches ask questions for clients to reconsider and reframe any unrealistic goals so that they are reachable.


Michelle encourages clients to think about what is and is not working in their focus area before the first and every subsequent meeting. She motivates clients to come to sessions with an open mind for new ideas and ways of thinking and to be willing to share their “a-ha moments.” This invitation energizes the client’s shift into a coaching mindset for the entire process.


According to Lynda, at the beginning of each session, coaches validate what clients would like to achieve to ensure coach-client alignment. In my experience, coaches also address any unanticipated events that may have an impact on the session’s focus before setting the session in motion, suggest rescheduling sessions if clients are not in the proper mindset, and refer clients to other professionals who can address their particular needs such as the sudden loss of a loved one.


Sessions are safe spaces where coaches and clients talk about what happened since the last time they met, how much progress clients have made toward their goals, and any challenges they have encountered in reaching them (in the words of Michelle). Based on my practice, when clients have completed exercises before a session, coaches ask questions about the results and the experience of completing or, not completing them, which often reveals issues that demand additional exploration.


Michelle points out that, listening is critical for coaches to build on client’s successes and ask the right questions at the right time to uncover underlying concerns and self-limiting beliefs. Lynda adds that listening is critical to working collaboratively with clients and determining when to infuse expert advice.


As the time assigned for the coaching session ends, coaches usually ask clients what they discovered during the session and what they would like to do next; this is when they agree on the actionable steps clients will take to prepare for the following session. Based on my work, coaches may ask clients to complete exercises, assessments, research, and other tasks relevant to their goals before their next session.


In addition, Michelle invites clients to practice any skills they discussed and to reflect on where they still need support to set the stage for the next coaching session. Lynda says that clients have a clear action plan based on the session’s discussion before the session ends.


Thus, the end of a session marks the beginning of what clients do between sessions.


How long should a client expect coaching to last?

Previously, we proposed that a coaching relationship is based on trust and we acknowledge that building trust takes time. However, we understand that our clients have many commitments and priorities and often want to begin to see results quickly.


The client’s coaching goals determine how long the coaching process will last. For example, someone having an unanticipated interview may schedule a “rush” interview coaching session to address their most critical concerns before the interview and another session after the interview to identify lessons learned and establish a more structured interview coaching program. In contrast, someone deciding the next career step may participate in five or six role-clarifying sessions to assess skills, interests, preferences, and other aspects of that new path and establish development plans.


Individual sessions tend to last between 45 minutes and one hour including the time

needed to address the next steps and schedule upcoming sessions. Knowing about this time frame in advance allows coaches and clients to focus on the most pressing issues during sessions. Michelle and I brought up that we meet with the average client between three and six times for a particular purpose.


Final Comments


Knowing more about the process of career coaching empowers you to make the most of each session and of the entire process. Embrace the journey.



Interested in working with one of our talented coaches at D&S Executive Career Management to help advance your career?


Schedule a call today to learn more and take the first step toward achieving your professional goals.

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