One Student’s Story: Why Should I Hire a Coach When Campus Career Services Are Free?

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Here’s one student’s story that illustrates the value of a single coaching session:

This guy has amazing experiences–a summer internship with the federal government in DC, another with a top tech company in Silicon Valley, and yet another with a well-known tech company north of Silicon Valley.

He’s now applying for a highly competitive post-graduation grant.  His major is business and the b-school has its own career services office that offers even more services than the main campus career services office: they will video record mock interviews, they provide job fairs, they host networking events with alumni who are invested in helping current students make the transition to the workforce.

All of those resources are amazing–and every student should take advantage of every single resource available through career services. And this student did!  

But here’s what didn’t happen until he sat down for a one-on-one coaching session to prepare for an upcoming interview for that aforementioned competitive grant:

Nobody had every told him: the interview process is about them (the organization where you are interviewing), not just about you.  If the question is “Why are you applying for this competitive grant?” the answer can’t be all about you:

“Because I did this…

Because I want to do that…

Because I’m looking for an opportunity to….learn! grow! advance!”  

You have to answer in this way:

“Because your organization is all about X [do your homework!  Know about the organization, its mission, vision, and history–especially as it relates to the position you’re applying ford], your organization needs Y, and– [here’s where you come in!]–I have Y.   But…

Nobody ever told him: use a specific example to prove that you have the requisite skills & experience (in this case, “Y”).  Don’t just think, “the description says they’re looking for a self-starter” so I’ll say, “I’m a self-starter.” Noooooo!  

You tell the story of how you created something from nothing–maybe you designed an app or wrote the coding that became an important workaround–or whatever it was that showed that huge tech firm that they wanted you as an intern.  Then you say how that example illustrates that you’re a self-starter. Finally, take one more step and say how you plan to apply that skill within the organization where you are interviewing. Or explain how that example aligns with the mission & vision of that organization.

But most importantly, nobody ever sat down across from him and gave him time to go through two or three or four iterations of his answers to the job interview questions.

Just as you wouldn’t ever submit the first draft of your resume with an application, you shouldn’t prepare only one draft of your answers to important, commonly-asked interview questions.  If possible, you should find an impartial third party to bounce ideas off of. This is where a career coach can come in.  You give your answer and that person can say, “but you forgot to mention that you were the only non native-speaker of Spanish on that team in Chile, yet had exclusive responsibility for one whole aspect of the campaign” or “how did we get through that whole mock interview and you never once mentioned that you interned with one of the most famous tech firms in Silicon Valley?”

Nine times out of ten, my clients have over-the-top, amazing skills and experiences. The problem is not that they aren’t qualified; it’s that they take their superior qualifications for granted–they fail to mention them; they think they’re not important examples; or they don’t even have a sense that those skills & experiences are directly related to whatever they are applying to.

The coaching session reveals these gaping holes! And they almost never are gaping holes in your qualifications, but rather gaping holes in your self awareness. How are you representing yourself?  What are you forgetting to say?  Whose perspectives are you failing to consider?  

In my “Quick Check” sessions ($50), I am that impartial third party.  I have one client–you–not the dozens or hundreds or thousands that career services offices have at any given moment. A Quick Check includes a face-to-face practice session (live or on Skype/FaceTime) and feedback on interview or networking questions so that you have a polished presentation of your spoken answers.


2009 Head ShotDarcy Lear is a career coach specializing in training students to highlight their humanities studies so they stand out in the job search and workplace. For one-on-one support in preparing for your job search or to set up a workshop, contact Darcy:
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