I had just been overlooked for a promotion I really worked my tail off to get. I was pulling 60-70 hour work weeks (salaried too, ouch). I was up to my eyeballs in work, while hitting my deliverables out of

I had just been overlooked for a promotion I really worked my tail off to get. I was pulling 60-70 hour work weeks (salaried too, ouch). I was up to my eyeballs in work, while hitting my deliverables out of the park in every aspect. I even had a glowing recommendation from my boss.

But I never got an interview. I didn’t even get a meeting with anyone to tell me I wasn’t being considered. I got a rejection email.

Needless to say, I was pissed. Indignant and on a mission to really understand what I was missing, I hired a career coach. I thought for sure that a coach could tell me what I was doing wrong. Was I too ambitious? With all those extra hours I was working, was I enabling an overworked/under-recognized pattern? Maybe I just smell like corn chips or something.

I discovered Coach Jennie at a Network Roulette event here at Brazen Careerist. Jennie is spunky, audacious and a driver of awesomeness for folks. She spoke my big, loud language and I was convinced she was the coach for me (side note: check out the “Ask a Coach” group to identify more awesome coaches).

But Jennie was also 700 miles away. I was certainly more than a little skeptical about giving money to someone who knew nothing about me, the company I worked for or my industry. Additionally, I seriously questioned whether or not a remote coach could help me. An hour on the phone with a stranger once or twice a month was supposed to change my world? It seemed like a big iffy risk with money I shouldn’t spend.

But I set my doubts aside and decided to just go for it. I jumped in head first, and it has paid off in a huge way. In a few short months, I went from being desperate for a promotion among a sea of cubicles to creating my own promotional materials in anticipation of launching my own business in the fall.

You can gain similar benefits from a career coach if you take the necessary steps. Here are some guidelines for how you can get the most out of working with a career coach:

1) Pick the right coach

Personal dynamics are so important in a coaching relationship. Some career coaches are nurturing and like to give a lot of affirmations. Some coaches are data-driven and pragmatic. Some subscribe to the tough love philosophy while others provide a more spiritual angle. Mine doesn’t allow excuses or the words “I don’t know” during sessions, which suited me perfectly. Pick a coach that complements your own communication style. Strike up a conversation with the coach via email and you should be able to determine whether the two of you are a good match or not. Don’t settle for a coach that doesn’t fit.

2) Always answer honestly

You’re paying a coach to help you so you better be giving them the tools they need to do so. Fudging the truth and holding back are just going to postpone your ability to succeed with a coach. Coaches gauge their approach to working with you based solely on what you tell them and what they can infer from those stories. If everything is out there on the table, they’ll have the tools they need to get you moving where you want to go.

3) Do the work

If your coach wants you to write down all your strengths and weaknesses, take the time to do it and do it well. Just like homework in school, if you wait until the last minute and deliver weak answers on the spot the next day, you’re only cheating yourself out of the learning experience. You’re paying a professional to help you – trust that he or she will know what you need to learn about yourself and do the work that is asked of you (no matter how bizarre or goofy it may sound). It helps you to learn about yourself and helps your coach know where to lead you next.

4) Leave your self-doubt and skepticism at the door

Negativity can serve as a protective shield against the scary stuff of life, but it’s not helpful in the coaching environment. Upon suggestion that I start my own business, I once told my coach that entrepreneurship is “just not for me” and explained that the inherent risks of going it alone were just not in my life plan. Weeks later (while watching some admittedly awful reality TV) I realized I was not open to creating my own business simply because I had been taught all my life that it was too risky. The shield I was wielding was from other peoples’ fear of risk — not my own. I really wasn’t scared of risk of at all. Now I’m in the beginning stages of building my own business and I’m loving every minute of it.

The coaching experience can be phenomenal if you’re committed to it. I went from being a scorned young professional trying to make traction on the corporate ladder to corporate day-jobber and budding entrepreneur in a handful of sessions with Coach Jennie. I also don’t think my experience was so positive because Jennie is magically more effective than other career coaches necessarily (I might argue she is, but of course I’m biased). The success of this experience is because she was the right coach for me, and I did my part too.

What other strategies can help you get the most out of sessions with a career coach?

Megan Atkinson is a member of the Brazen Life Contributor Network.


  1. Steph Auteri

    I’d add that you should draw up a list of short- and long-term goals before entering a coaching arrangement, accompanied by the action steps required to reach each goal, and even target a specific goal for each session you have with your coach. Not only will it make your goals seem less impossible, but it will help your coach keep things on track and make real headway with you.

    • Megan

      Steph, I think that is great advice for folks who have a goal and just need help figuring out how to achieve it! I, on the other hand, had little idea of what I wanted and loved that the format was very open. It resulted in a lot of skill/passion exploration and action. Excellent pointer for those with a goal in mind, though!

  2. Anonymous

    Great tips! I think that as more and more people are turning to career coaches for help, these kind of guidelines are invaluable.

    • Megan

      Thanks, Noel! I really hope some people gain some insight and benefit from this.

  3. Erica Soultanian

    Great Article! Thanks for the advice! I was just wondering if you could give me a specific example of how having a career coach benefited your professional life

    • Megan

      Erica, I have so many things I choose from! At my day job, I currently work in an entry-level technical position that I really enjoy… but Coach Jennie helped me realize my strengths, talents, and passions weren’t really being tapped. So I did a lot of evaluating with her and she helped me set some goals based on values. For example: “I will pursue a career path in the energy industry that employs my strategic skills, intuition of learning needs, and passion for sharing knowledge.” Once I made that goal, it came to me that I could make a big splash in the training world. Currently, I’m working on a training method pilot program for our new staff training in hopes to become a part of the training department in the future. That realization totally rocked my reality as I was at the point of considering going back to school for engineering degree just to get a promotion on the technical ladder. Now I’m really pursuing my passion of teaching, sharing, and training in the energy world.

      Does that help?

  4. Jaclyn Schiff

    Love this post, Megan! I like that your recognize that just because you pay someone for a service, doesn’t mean you’re free of responsibility. To gain the maximum benefit out of something you pay for, you definitely need to be active about getting the most out of it! I am looking forward to learning more about your future business!

    • Megan

      Thanks, Jacci! Putting in the work is so important. I’m excited to let some details loose in the coming months – it’s hard keeping a secret about something I’m so jazzed about. 🙂

  5. Togotutor

    Great Post Megan! I am going to look into the Career Coach to get something out of it.

    • Megan

      Thanks! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions about choosing the right coach. I’m more than happy to help in any way I can!

  6. Ralph

    Megan, I am happy to hear that you had so much success with your career coach! I am currently in the process of choosing a coach with the help of the graduate program that I am currently enrolled with. I have one question that I would like to know from your experience. Did it include an assessment of your skills and personality trails? The firm that I am seriously considering offers a comprehensive assessment test, but they are by far the most expensive so I am cautiously proceeding with them…. I hope to have the same experience that you had. Best of luck in the future!

    • Megan

      Ralph, I’m excited to hear you’re looking into coaching! The process of Coach Jennie and I connecting was much more organic. We had a brief conversation on Network Roulette about what I hoped and dreamed for and then we followed-up via email to talk a bit more. I knew just by talking to her that she was perfect for what I wanted to achieve (no idea where it would lead me, especially where I’m headed now though!). After we both decided we’d be a pretty good fit, I did fill out a client in-take form where I described my goals, passions, motivation triggers, employment background, and setbacks – but I have to say that it really felt like all that happened after I was sure that Jennie was the right coach for me.

      Feel free to “fan” me here if you want to talk some more about my experiences with coaching or if you have anymore questions. I’m always up for sharing!

      Good luck!

  7. Lesley Mitler

    I think one of the most important qualities of a coach is to be a good listener. Often, especially when working with young job seekers, they don’t have enough clarity to give lists or assess their strengths. You have to listen to them talk about themselves- their skills,experiences and academic accomplishments- and you will learn about their interests and passions as well as those things that do not interest them.

    • Megan

      Lesley, I couldn’t agree more. The handfuls of coaches that I know are all fabulous listeners. Coach Jennie is especially great at the kind of intuitive listening that involves reading between the lines and sort of pulling things from the unconscious/unawareness of my sometimes muddled mind. 🙂

  8. Jennie Mustafa-Julock

    Megan! What an amazing post! (And I’m not just saying that because of how complimentary you were to me in it.) I LOVE your four guidelines on making the most of your investment in coaching…spot on! You have to find a coach that resonates with you + “gets you” at the same time; you have to be brutally honest in order to make any real strides; you gotta do the work + toss your procrastinating tendencies out the window; and you have to trust the process in order to get anything out of it! This is so good that I’ve decided to add a link to this post to my new client intake information!!!

    Thank you for sharing your story of how coaching has taken you from “pretty awesome” to FREAKING EXTRAORDINARY!!! Rock on, chica!!!
    ~ Coach Jennie

  9. sears carpet cleaning

    This is a great post, I have found whenever I want to further my career I have to be totally honest with myself, and only then can I work towards my goals.

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