• geoffashton

What next after graduation?

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

So you’re coming to the end of your course. You’ve access to a great career’s service at your place of study, advice from friends and relatives, a chance to speak to employers at open days, and an internet full of information on how to get a job. Why would you want to speak to a coach?

I’ve coached people about to graduate, recent graduates, and people who have been in their first job for a while and were wondering whether they should really be doing something else. I’ve noticed in these conversations a number of areas that regularly come up where coaching adds real value to the other avenues of support available.

Intrigued? Read on.

Understanding how you decide

A lot of careers advice will give you options and practical tips – what you can do. But you still have to apply that knowledge, and making choices about work can be confusing and daunting. What can really help here is recognising how you make other significant choices. Do you collect lots of information and reflect on it, weighing up options? Maybe you decide by testing experiences, trying out some alternatives to see which seems to work best for you. Do you wait and see what comes up and respond to opportunities that come your way, or actively seek to create opportunities by building an extensive network of friends, colleagues and associates? How important are other factors such as family responsibilities? Or do you just try and avoid making decisions wherever possible! Every decision-making style creates possibilities and carries limitations and understanding what these are, and how they apply to your next career move, can save you a lot of time pursuing dead-ends, help you focus, and give you the confidence to trust in the strengths of your decision making approach.

The power of identifying your values

We are all to some extent driven by our values – what’s important to us, what shapes our behaviour, and what kind of difference we want to make in our world. A personal “values audit” can be a powerful eye-opener. I am reminded of work with one client whose values highlighted a latent entrepreneurial spirit. After initially working for an employer, this person has now set up a project of their own. Coaching identified this entrepreneurial potential as an avenue to explore. Matching your individual values to a company’s ethos may also provide an edge at an interview, adding strength to your pitch that you will be a good fit for a company. If you are not only competent to do the job, but also share the company’s emotional drivers you are more likely to stay and be committed which is good for all concerned. Recruitment is an expensive process, and companies are looking for reassurance that they are making a sound decision in taking you on.

Turning interview traps into openings to sell yourself

Coaching provides an opportunity to identify and try out responses to potentially tricky interview questions. As well as being asked what you are good at, you may well be asked to talk about something you haven’t done well. This sort of question doesn’t just trip up people looking for a first career – I’ve worked with people in mid-career who hadn’t worked out a good response. Through coaching we can explore why the question is being asked – generally employers want to know how you handle set-backs and are giving you a positive opportunity to share what you’ve learned about yourself. I recall working with one client – looking for their second job after university – who repeatedly fell foul of this question. After reflecting on a variety of situations they were able to identify the value they had drawn from these experiences, valuable self-learning that they realised they had been able to apply at other times. In the fist interview following the coaching, the client had some positive stories to tell when the question came up. They  got the job, and were pleased to see in their feedback how impressed the interview panel had been with the candidate’s answers about situations they had not handled well.

Taking a longer term view

You can expect your working life to cover at least four decades. That’s plenty of time to have a variety of jobs and more than one career. A 2017 article in the Financial Times encouraged readers to “Plan for five careers in a lifetime.” It’s not an unreasonable thought. This means that the first job you do when you leave University doesn’t have to set the entire course of your working life. It’s fine to take a longer-term view, to recognise that you will have different stages of life with different priorities and that you can cultivate a range of transferable skills to enable you to take a variety of career directions. I can think of a number of clients who were empowered by coaching to make complete career changes and yes, one of them really did say that the coaching relationship “changed my life.” Not all career coaching relationships are so dramatic, but they can leave you with an experience that you can draw on repeatedly throughout your working life. What you discover about choosing a way forward when you graduate will stand you in good stead whenever you consider further career transitions.

Take the opportunity to spend time with a coach

An increasing number of universities are making coaching support available for students about to graduate, or for a time after graduating. Whether they access this by contracting with local coaches, draw on internal expertise, or engage with professionally qualified volunteers, this is a wonderful resource. Why not ask your career’s service what’s available? Coaching really is a gift that goes on giving, and may turn out to be the added ingredient you need to clear the mists of uncertainty and give you the extra confidence to pursue your chosen career path, and ace your next interview.

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