Career Coaching explained

LSA junior Mary Dwan was seeking support as she was applying to internships, so she turned to the Hub for resumé and cover letter guidance.

She made an appointment with one of the Hub’s Career Coaches, Maddie Roman. Three months later, Maddie was still coaching Mary as she made 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 explained. “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.”

Maddie acknowledged that for many students, Career Coaches can be easily confused with academic advisors. However, she explained that the purpose and goals of these two roles are fundamentally different.

"Coaching is really a co-creative process. The biggest difference between coaching and advising is where the knowledge sits,” Maddie clarified. “In an advising session, the advisor has the knowledge and they're saying ‘okay, here are the deadlines, here are your options, and this is what you can do in informing them.’ On the other hand, coaching leaves the student in charge—the students have all the knowledge and information and it's the Coach's job to help interpret what their experiences and ideas mean through a process of reflection."

In coaching, the student has all the information and knowledge in their head, while Coaches help pull it out and piece it all together. Mary confirmed this, emphasizing that her appointments felt like they were driven and led by her.

“Maddie was willing to sit down and go through individual things with me, even if it wasn't something that my advisor would have the need to see,” Mary affirmed. “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 U-M 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 didn’t return for another session until the following September, seeking support on finding internships.

After that, Mary scheduled coaching appointments with Maddie every few weeks, building up a routine that carried through the semester. This consistency, Maddie said, 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 whenever they need it,” Maddies explained. “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."

For Coaches, it's also easier to provide tailored support to students if there's a foundation, as  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.

Even beyond support through job search process—cover letter creation, resumé edits, finding and deconstructing job descriptions, and interview prep—Maddie and Mary got to know each other as individuals.

“She was a great student to work with,” Maddie affirmed. “I wanted her to feel comfortable and supported in every step of her professional journey. I hoped that at every appointment she attended she understood that it was going to be me, and I would have this shining energy and positive attitude that was ready to meet her where she was. It was a very genuine connection.”

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

"It's been nice to form a relationship with my Coach," Mary said. "I looked forward to appointments with her and it's fun to share about my career journey because she knows what I'm doing so well now." Because they maintained a working relationship, it was easy for Maddie to help Mary identify which opportunities would be good for her, and help her understand how to take her skills and apply them to different opportunities.

That skill of translation, Mary explained, was the most critical support of all.

“My Coach helped me understand how to retool the skills that I had already gained through my work experience and coursework,” Mary emphasized. “She coached me through applying 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 has helped me understand why I would be a good candidate, and how to advocate for myself.”

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

“It's good to have someone who's supporting you unconditionally," Mary said. "Maddie’s like my cheerleader."


Next Steps

The following semester, Mary sought out an internship within healthcare administration and continued using Hub resources during her internship hunt.

For students like Mary who are thinking about their next steps, in addition to coaching appointments, there's one Hub resource that can offer immediate support:

The Planning Your Next Steps resource is a helpful tool focused on the key elements of reflection and then action. 

Maddie emphasized 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 explained. “But, sometimes you need to take a second to remember, ‘I had an internship last summer’ or 'I had a summer job’, and recognize all the insights that you can pull from those experiences that can inform your next steps. I think that's where Coaches can be really important: reminding students that ‘hey, you have all this going for you, let's put it together.’"


Regardless of what part of your professional journey you are on, career coaching is a supportive space that can help guide you and provide a tangible way to shape your goals.

Schedule a coaching appointment today.