Supporting clients through the job search process takes a variety of skills and knowledge bases, as well as the ability to build trust with the client. For example, as a Career Coach, you need to know:
- How to overcome complex barriers that clients may present with
- What organisations are out there to help people with specialist issues
- How to help your client identify their transferable skills and the unique contribution they can make
- Your client’s local labour market
- How to help you client use their network effectively
- Where jobs are likely to be advertised
- How to approach employers who have not advertsied
- How to make good use of social media
- How to tailor a CV to your client’s unique situation
- How paper based and online application forms are likely to be assessed
- What questions may be asked in a job interview
- How to help your client improve their body language and tone of voice so hey can present themselves calmly and confidently
- How to help your client overcome lack of confidence
- How to help your client build and maintain their motivation in the face of set backs.
All of this takes time – you are unlikely to be able to fully prepare a client for the job search process in one session, particularly if they lack recent experience of applying for jobs or have complex barriers.
You might focus initially building confidence and motivation, identifying transferable skills and interests, and how they relate to the labour market, Giving the client positive feedback about what they have to offer also helps to build your relationship. If your client has not worked for some years, you may need to think more creatively about how to identify their skills. For example, a mother of two young children may have good organisational skills, be able to lead others, be effective at managing her time, and have well developed empathy. A petty drug dealer may have the ability to be self-motivated, to sell a product and understand their cash flow.
Your client may also need help to identify local employers and sources of vacancies. Working up the confidence to actually approach those employers can take some time. Role playing a conversation can help helpful so the client can practice what they want to say.
Talking to employers about how they assess their applications and what they look for in interviews is a hugely valuable investment of time, since this understanding will help you to support your clients with high impact applications.
Finally, you may need to help your client to present themselves positively at interview. Preparation is key, and of course, we will want the client to rehearse answers to the more likely questions, and feel confident to articulate what they have to offer. Spending time on positive body language will not be wasted, as how we hold our bodies determines how we feel and the level of confidence we project. Tone of voice is also important, and helping your client to practice a calm and confident delivery will be a huge asset.
The example below brings all this together and shows how a career coach might help a client with complex barriers over several sessions.
Chris has recently completed a prison sentence for driving the getaway car in armed robbery. He says that he was asked to drive the car because his friends knew him as a reliable person who would not panic in a stressful situation. While he was in prison he completed some basic skills courses, and obtained some support for previously undiagnosed dyslexia. Chris kept himself occupied in prison, finding work in the garden and undertaking kitchen and laundry duties.
Chris would like to get a job in catering, as he enjoyed the lively activity of a busy kitchen, and found that he had a natural aptitude for preparing food. At the same time, he is quite open to the idea of getting any job at all to establish a solid work history – and an income – while he considers his options.
Indira seeks some up-to-date advice from a specialist charity about disclosing convictions, and discusses with Chris how to disclose his offending behaviour in the best way. They agree that Chris would feel most comfortable if he were to write a letter to the employer after he has been offered an interview, but before the interview itself, so that they can ask him any questions they want to, and he can be open and honest.
Indira also encourages Chris to make good use of his network. Chris does not use social media much, but Jackie encourages him to post on Facebook that he is looking for catering work, and ask if anyone knows of any opportunities. Chris talks to all his friends, and finds out that some of them do know people who work in pubs, cafes and restaurants in the local area. He asks if they will introduce him to their contacts so he can find out more about the local employers, and whether any of them are likely to be taking on staff.
Indira helps Chris to create a CV so that he has something to bring with him when he meets these employers. Since Chris has no regular work history, they create a skills-based CV which highlights Chris’s catering skills, teamwork, ability to organise others, ability to operate in a stressful environment and reliability.
Indira also shows Chris a number of websites where catering jobs are regularly advertised, and offers him some support with completing the application forms.
Since Chris has no experience of formal job interviews, and is rather anxious at the thought of having to present himself to others, Indira encourages him to visualise how he will enter the room. She gets him to think about his body language: what he will wear; what he will say; how he will shake hands and then sit down. They also role play possible interview questions, until Chris feels well prepared.
Chris has a habit of slumping in his chair, with his arms folded protectively, so Indira encourages him to sit up straight and see what difference this makes to how he feels. Chris finds that he feels more confident and speaks more calmly when he sits up straight.
Finally, Indira helps Chris to practice what he will say about his time in prison, and how he will explain what he learnt from the experience. Chris needs to sound authentic and genuine, rather than rehearsed, so Indira helps Chris to identify the main points he wants to make, and they discuss how he can explain his change of attitude and regret for past mistakes.