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Job Search Coaching is Like Eating an Elephant
One Small Bite at a Time

Here is what I do when coaching a client about his or her job search.  First of all, I never start with “BIG” goals.  So instead of saying “Come back for our next meeting with a job offer in your hands” or even “Come back next week having confirmed an interview with a decision-maker”.  These are big goals for a job seeker, especially for one who is out of work.  I would rather start with small and easy to accomplish goals.  “How many phone calls will you be able to make between now and when we meet again next week?”  Notice here that I am not setting the goal for the client, but asking him or her to set the quantitative goal by choosing a number that they can easily reach.  If the answer is “twenty phone calls”, I will respond with “o.k., I have written down your goal of 20 phone calls.  Is there anything you need to do to prepare for making those phone calls?”  If the client answers with “Yes, I will need to write up a list of questions to ask in the phone call” I will respond with “When do you think you will have the time to sit down and prepare the list of questions?”  

Yahoo! Personals

If I am working with a young entry-level job seeker, I might use this modified version.  “How many people do you think you will come into contact with between now and our next appointment?”  The answer will often be “None or maybe one.” because I have not given a good description of the “people” the job seeker will come in contact with.  I will then say “I am not talking about people who could hire you, but everyday people you will come in contact with in your daily activities - for instance the clerk at the seven-eleven, the cashier at the local drug store or the mechanic at the corner gas station.”  These are all people that you talk with on a normal day, and you can end each conversation with ‘By the way, I am a stock handler in between jobs - what one or two local employers might be looking to hire a stock handler?”

So, when the young stock handler arrives at our next appointment, I will say “Last week you said that you would interact with maybe just one or two people that you could network with. Right?  How many did you actually interact with and tell them that you were looking for information or referrals on companies that might be hiring stock handlers?  You talked with eight people!  Great! You exceeded your goal!  Now lets talk about each of your contacts and the information and referrals that they gave you”

If it is a professional that I am working with, my questions might be something like this “How many professional association meetings will you be attending between today and our next meeting?”  If the answer is “Only one.” I will respond with “Good, lets talk about what you will do at that meeting.  It will be a luncheon meeting, right?”  If the answer is yes, I will ask “Do you think you will be able to exchange business cards with the other people sitting at your luncheon table?”  If the answer is “Seven to eight people” I will respond with “Good, bring their cards to our next appointment so you can tell me about each of the individuals who will then be members of your ‘network’ of contacts.

When the professional arrives at our next appointment I will start with “How many did you say you would talk with at Tuesday’s professional association meeting? I note in your file that your goal was seven to nine. Is that correct? How many did you actually interact with and obtain their business cards?  Eleven - that's great!  You have exceeded your goal!  Now, lets look at each business card and discuss what your next interaction with that person might be.” In another article I will discuss how to effectively use a network.

The important points here for the coach are: 

  • •Make sure the goal is small enough that the client has a 90% chance of reaching it.
  • Ask questions (Do you think you need to do something to prepare for your phone calls?)
  • Allow the client set the quantitative goals (How many phone calls will you be able to make between now and our next appointment?)
  • Reward the client for making or exceeding the goal (Eleven business cards! Great! You exceeded your goal).

© Richard Knowdell, National Certified Career Counselor trains and certifies Job & Career Transition Coaches.  He can be contacted at

 Richard Knowdell
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