Career Coaching explained

Coming back to campus this fall, LSA junior Mary Dwan was seeking support as she was applying to internships, so she turned to the Hub for résumé and cover letter guidance.

She made an appointment with one of the Hub’s new career coaches, Maddie Roman. Now, three months later, Maddie is still coaching Mary as she makes leaps and bounds in her career journey.

But what exactly is career coaching?

“Coaching is a way to organize and carve out a path that bridges together all the elements of your professional identity,” Maddie explains. “Whatever is going on in your head in relation to your career journey—the job you may want and how to relate your major to it—coaching is a way to navigate these pieces by helping pull together those questions and offer access to resources.”

But Maddie acknowledges that for many students, career coaches can be easily confused with academic advisors. However, she explains that the purpose and goals of these two roles are fundamentally different.

‘Coaching is really a co-creative process, so I think the biggest difference between coaching and advising is where the knowledge sits,” Maddie clarifies. “In an advising session, the advisor has the knowledge and they're saying ‘okay here are the deadlines here your options, this is what you can do in informing them.’ But coaching is a co-creative process that leaves the student in charge—the students have all the knowledge and information but it's the coach's job to help interpret what all their experiences and ideas mean through a process of reflection. So the student is the one who's going to have all that information and knowledge in their head, and coaches just help pull that out and piece it all together.”

Mary confirms this, emphasizing that her appointments feel like they’re driven and led by her.

“Maddie is willing to sit down and just go through individual things with me, even if it's maybe not something that my advisor would have the need to see,” Mary affirms. “But with the Opportunity Hub, coaches are willing to move at your own pace, which is really nice.”


Mary & Maddie

Mary first discovered the Hub during Fall semester of her second year at UM, when it was recommended to her by her academic advisor. At that time, she used her first session to focus on learning about and developing her network, but she didn’t return for another session until this September, seeking support this time on finding internships.

Since then, Mary has scheduled coaching appointments with Maddie every few weeks, building up a routine that has carried through the semester. This consistency, Maddie says, is beneficial for both student and coach.

“The value in long term coach-student relationships is that students know they have an endless source of support and knowledge on standby for whenever they need it,” Maddies explains. “Knowing that whatever barriers a student faces as they go along their professional journey, they’ll have a coach present with them to cheer them on and process things with them. It’s also easier from the coaching perspective to provide tailored support to students that you have a relationship with, because personal connection informs service. So getting to know a student on a deeper level helps individualize coaching, generate a stronger energy in appointments, and create a rhythm.” 

But beyond support through most of the steps of the job search process—cover letter creation, résumé edits, finding and deconstructing job descriptions, and interview prep—Maddie and Mary have gotten to know each other as individuals.

“She's a great student to work with,” Maddie affirms. “I want her to feel comfortable and supported in every step of her professional journey. I hope that at every appointment she comes to she knows that it's going to be me, and I'm going to have this shining energy and positive attitude that’s ready to meet her where she’s at. I think it’s a very genuine connection.”

Mary echoes a similar sentiment, reflecting on how the professional and personal aspects of her relationship with Maddie have evolved since September.

"It's been nice to form a relationship with her because now I look forward to appointments with her and the time I’ll spend with her. It's fun to share with her about my career journey because she knows what I'm doing so well now that I'm like, ‘oh, I found this opportunity’ and she’ll say ‘that sounds perfect for you.’ Since we’ve had so many appointments, she can kind of help me identify which opportunities would be good for me, and help me understand how I could take the skills that I have and apply them to different opportunities.”

That skill of translation, Mary explains, has been the most critical support of all.

“The most important thing that Maddie's done for me is helping me understand how I can retool the skills that I have already gained through my work experience and coursework,” Mary emphasizes. “She helps me figure out how I can apply those skills to specific jobs, since that was an area I struggled with before—figuring out how I would be a good candidate for the positions I was interested in—and she's helped me to like be able to understand not only why I would be a good candidate, but also how to advocate for myself as a candidate.”

This encouragement can also be valuable on-campus, in the midst of a competitive and rigorous academic environment. 

“I love it here, but it feels like you're constantly competing with everyone around you,” Mary explains. “It's good to have someone who's supporting you unconditionally and thinks that you'll get the job. Maddie’s like my cheerleader, and every time I come in she's like ‘oh my gosh you're doing so awesome’ and it helps a lot.


Next Steps

Looking at next semester, Mary is hoping to find an internship within the healthcare administration or research sphere, and she intends to continue using Hub resources during her internship hunt, especially Maddie.

But for students like Mary who are thinking about their next steps, one Hub resource can offer immediate support.

“The Planning Your Next Steps resource is like a mini coaching appointment,” Maddie explains. “It’s focused on the key elements of reflection and then action. So if you’re a student worried about the upcoming semester, or you feel behind or just a tad lost, zeroing in on that web resource is a good first step to wayfinding and sorting out some direction.”

Maddie emphasizes the importance of students pausing to reflect on their academic and career experiences before taking action, identifying reflection as a very important step in a student’s developmental journey. 

“Reflection is something students miss out on a lot,” Maddie explains. “But sometimes you need to take a second and think to remember, ‘I had an internship last summer’ or 'I had a summer job’, and recognize all the learnings and insights that students can pull from those experiences that can inform their next steps. I think that's where coaches can be really important: reminding students that ‘hey, you got all this going for you, let's put it together.’"

Maddie notes the Planning Your Next Steps resource as particularly valuable over winter break, offering it as a method of preparation for spring and summer internship searches while there aren’t classes to focus on. 

“What can be particularly useful is doing some reflection to see where you are in the process and assessing your needs as you head into winter break,” Maddie affirms. “This will help create a focus for the winter semester. Doing some reflection and a splash of goal setting can help students get the most out of those two weeks, so just take some time to consider where you are now, and where you'd like to be come May. Then, come next semester, students can work with a coach to find the right resources and formulate next steps to get you there.” 

Now a believer, Mary stresses the enduring value of coaching for students.

“A lot of people don't take advantage of coaching, and it can be a really helpful source of inspiration and meaning making,” Mary emphasizes. “So I would say, just go try it out. Remember that coaches can help you with specific things like improving your application materials for jobs, but also the bigger things like looking at the bigger picture of your collective experiences.” 

Maddie has one last message for students: 

“No matter what part of your professional identity journey you are on, career coaching is a supportive space that can help give you direction and give a tangible shape to your goals. In the end, career coaching is really designed with you in mind, and the Hub is here for you always.”