Why you should consider getting a graduate coach

No-one aims to win at sports, master a musical instrument or learn to drive a car without first getting some kind of coaching or mentoring, do they?

Then why do so many graduates not think the same when it comes to building their equally important graduate careers?

A career or graduate coach may seem alien to some but in actual fact you will have enjoyed exactly this kind of help from the moment you started school (if not sooner). You will have called these people teachers and tutors, but these are the people who coached you to get you where you are today.

Now that they have done their part, what about the rest of the way? Surely you need the same type of support to help you get ahead in your career – at least if you expect to land a graduate level job.

Career coaching helps you to prepare for what’s ahead

Coaching is about getting somewhere or achieving something. Someone who has been there, or somewhere similar, is in a very good position to show you how. They can point out the fast lanes to take and pitfalls to avoid. A graduate coach or mentor can help you set smart career goals and keep you accountable to them. They will help you do the work required to move your career forward.

Coaching, whether it’s for sports, business, singing, health or fitness, is especially important wherever achieving your goal means facing competition or resistance (whether external or internal). When that resistance comes, as it will do when going for a graduate level job, your graduate coach will be there to keep you motivated, focused and on track. A coach or mentor can act as a cheerleader to cheer you along the way.

Career coaching – a common misconception

According to Richard Branson one of the main reasons why people don’t seek out a coach or mentor is because they think it is a sign of weakness. This is a common misconception. Asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength not weakness. It shows wisdom and good self-awareness. You understand that no successful person, no matter who they are, gets to the top of their game on their own. The person who thinks they can is in for an unnecessarily long and bumpy ride.

Graduate coaching brings out your strengths

A graduate coach will help you to bring out your strengths. For a start, a coach can give you useful feedback and critique. They can help a graduate realise skills they never knew they had. Take Mark, a graduate we coached recently. He wanted a career as an accountant and, after many failed interviews, came to us for help. Through working with us he realised that he much preferred digital marketing as the career suited him better. Pretty soon Mark landed his first interview, got the job and has since been promoted. Mark is in fact typical of the many graduates who come to us with one career idea in mind and end up with something that suits them far better. Coaching can open your eyes to a better job for you.

Not only can a coach open your eyes to latent skills, they can also help you understand what areas to work on. You cannot develop your skills all at once. There will be skills that need to be developed first before you can work on others. It’s all about learning the right things at the right time so you’re always growing.


What should you look for in a graduate coach?

In my book, The Graduate Book, finding a coach or mentor is the twelve key to success for anyone who wants to do well in their career. In that book I share some advice on what to look for in a coach, and where to find one.

If you want to find a graduate coach look out for the following:

  • Someone who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. A person that’s too nice or too soft will not help you grow.
  • Someone you respect, admire and hold in high esteem. This is likely to be someone accomplished in their field, who you can look up to.
  • Someone who inspires you. This person should make you feel encouraged and energised. After a session you should feel ready and inspired to act on your goals.
  • Someone who has gone before you. This will likely be someone who is older than you, at least in your early career. We tend to refer to a coach as someone who has already achieved some mastery in the same thing you want to do, and a mentor as anyone who has the life skills to guide you in your own life.
  • Someone who can communicate clearly. You need a coach or mentor who can explain what they mean in simple language you can understand, who isn’t long winded but gets to the point to tell you want you need to know and do.
  • Someone who believes in you. This person should be able to see your gifts and talents, even if you can’t, so they can point them out to you. They should be someone who roots for you and is committed to seeing you through to the end goal. Another person’s belief, expectation and confidence in you will create a miraculous field of energy that will help you to also believe and have confidence in yourself.


How to find a graduate coach

To find a coach you must first know what you want to achieve. There must be a goal and objective before you can ask anyone to help you – otherwise how will they know how to help?

Next, look around you for people who inspire you. Who do you admire and look up to? These can be teachers or lecturers; bosses at places where you’ve done paid or unpaid work; neighbours or family friends; or speakers you’ve met at career fairs, societies, clubs, networking events and other events you’ve attended.

Don’t overlook people you’ve met online – but do be wise. For example, choose someone you have taken the time to get to know. Observe them for a while. Follow and listen to what they have to say. Research them thoroughly. What do they stand for? Are they consistent? Do they have good morals, such as integrity, honesty, reliability and respect for others? These may be old-fashioned but they still work!

Finally, get in touch with them and ask for the help you need!

If you’ve been inspired by the whole idea of finding a graduate coach why not speak to us? We offer a range of support to help you become the best version of yourself you can be, including courses, workshops, one-to-one coaching and, of course, two very great books to help you find and get ahead in your graduate career.

Why you may be more work ready than you think

The number one question a graduate looking for that first graduate level position tends to ask is whether or not they have enough relevant work experience to get the job they want. Am I work ready?

This is understandable. Work experience is very important because without it, it will be extremely difficult for you to find a job. However, if you have graduated and don’t have much relevant work experience then what should you do?

In such cases you might find it better to flip the question on its head and to ask yourself the following question instead:

“What work relevant experience do I have?”

They may seem like the same question, but they aren’t. There’s a world of difference between the two, as you shall shortly see.

Relevant work experience is what the employer lists as a requirement for doing the job. Whereas work relevant experience is what you currently have to offer. The difference between the two is perspective.

Change the way you see your work experience

When you change the way you look at your work experience you will realise that you have far more to offer than you at first thought. You will quit believing that you cannot apply for a job that interests you purely because you don’t have the relevant work skills and experience the employer asks for.

When an employer writes a job advert he or she will list it from the perspective of what the position needs, but you cannot look at it entirely that way. At least not at first. You must ALSO look at what YOU have done that is relevant to the job.

How do you do that?

How to change the way you see your work experience

In my role as a career coach I frequently come across graduates who sincerely believe they have nothing to offer. They read a job vacancy and see a mismatch between the experience they have and what the employer is asking for. They see the sparseness of their CV and their hearts sink. And, sadly, they often give up.

But I tell them the same thing I’m telling you now: if you want to succeed at getting your feet on the ladder you must to begin to look at your skills and experience differently.

What I usually do at this point is ask them, what have you done at university? What do you do in your spare time? Have you volunteered anywhere, travelled to any countries? Do you have any hobbies?

The answers I get back usually astounds me just as much as it astounds them. They begin to reel off a long list of activities they have been involved with.

As the graduate talks about what they have done, and realise what they have learnt as a result, their eyes begin to light up. They realise that they have a lot more to offer than they first believed.

Analysing your work ready skills and experience

Work relevant skills and experience are those that can be used by an employer. They may need to be unpacked and repackaged differently but that’s all.

I once coached a guy who up until starting college had never rowed before in his life.

Within four months he was rowing for his college. He started university and by Christmas he was on their rowing team, a team that did exceptionally well in the England finals.

To achieve all of this he had to get himself up at 6am seven days a week to row between 6:30am and 7:15am. He went to gym three times of week. And he got his rowing blue in just 12 months.

He hadn’t thought anything of all of this until we spoke about his experience.

I had to point out that he had learnt self-resilience, time management and teamwork as you’re only as good as the worse person on your team.

I met another guy who wasn’t the best cricket player by his own admission but excelled when he took over the running the team.

He did a lot of rugby coaching and had to put out four or five teams to play on a Saturday. Through this he learnt soft skills like organisation, fundraising and leadership.

I have numerous examples of people who threw themselves into university social life, such as running societies, and I can always tell the difference. You don’t have to do a formal work experience programme with a big employer to understand what employability skills are.

How to find your work ready skills and experience

Ok, so you should now have a better idea of what work relevant skills are. Work ready skills are those that you have developed from:

  • School
  • College
  • University
  • Voluntary work
  • Travelling
  • Hobbies, like sports and writing
  • Non-paid work (like work experience you had to do while at school or college)
  • Internships
  • Part or full time work, whether job-related or not
develop employability skills via activities at university, volunteering, hobbies, internships, paid work

Obviously, the closer related they are to the job you want to apply for the more recognisable and easier they are to sell to an employer.

But, for the purpose of this article, where you may not have lots of this type of experience, you need to be much more critical of what you’ve done if you are to identify skills you can sell on your CV or in a job interview.

Start by asking yourself the following sets of questions:

Business awareness

Have I ever

  • volunteered or done work experience in an office, retail outlet or other place where I had to deal with people I did not know (i.e. customers, clients, suppliers)?
  • had to work anywhere where I have had to work to fit in and behave professionally?
  • worked with people from different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs?
  • worked with people of different positions, either senior or subordinate to me?
  • read and understood a business or trade report, article or newspaper?
  • done any research on a company or organisation to understand what makes it successful?

Communication and literacy skills

Have I ever had to

  • speak or do a presentation before an audience?
  • carry out research and to produce a conclusion or summary of what I learnt?
  • persuade anyone to make a decision, such as to sign up to or support a project or event?
  • write a blog, report, article or other material that was to be published in print or online?


Have I ever

  • been elected to represent my peers as a prefect, head boy/girl or in some other capacity?
  • had to lead others?
  • had to lead or manage a project?
  • had to convince people to sign up to a campaign or attend an event, like an open day?
  • had to show visitors around my school, college or university campus?

IT Skills

Have I ever used

  • a computer
  • Word, Excel, Photoshop, illustrator, SPSS, or other software?
  • WordPress, Joomla, Dreamweaver or other website building software?
  • social media to promote an event, product or information?


Have I ever had to

  • assess the outcome of an activity or situation and to provide feedback?
  • analyse figures, tables, statistics and other data and communicate them in a way that others could use?
  • handle money or budgets?

Problem Solving

Have I ever had to

  • help others solve a problem?
  • find my own ways to solve a problem?
  • ask others to help me solve a problem?


Have I ever had to

  • motivate myself or others to achieve a goal?
  • keep going in the face of disappointment or difficulty?
  • perform under pressure and keep my head?
  • deal with difficult or negative people?


Have I ever had to

  • organise my own time, workload, priorities or diary to get stuff done?
  • meet a deadline?
  • assume responsibility for others, a budget, a situation, event, outcome or anything else?


Have I ever had to

  • supervise others?
  • work as part of a team to achieve a goal?
  • find ways past problems so that I could achieve either of the above?
employability skills include business awareness, communication, entrepreneurship, IT skills, numeracy, problem solving, resilience, self-management, teamwork

There is no substitute for work experience gained from an employer. However, if you’ve graduated without having accumulated lots of relevant work experience then work relevant work experience will be the place for you to start. All is not lost. By answering the questions above you should be able to see that you still have something to offer.


A degree is no longer enough – Aspect County

Young people graduate into a different world from that of twenty or thirty years ago when their parents went to university. The student population has doubled since 1992 and last year UCAS reported that a record number, almost half, were accepted into university. The problem is what happens when they leave. With 78% of students now achieving a 1st or 2:1, competition for graduate level employment is rife. Which is why, according to official data by the Office of National Statistics, almost half (47%) of graduates were in non-graduate jobs two years later.
Read Article

How we help

One-to-One Coaching: Stage 1

If you’re a student or graduate looking for help, stage one of our one-to-one coaching: Learning about yourself – Find your ideal career will help you learn about yourself, give you a better understanding of your preferences, strengths and skills and help you find your ideal career.

The Student Book & The Graduate Book: Get (& Thrive In) The Job You Really Want

Chris Davies is the author of The Student Book, All you need to know to get the job you really want and The Graduate Book, All you need to know to do really well at work. The Student book introduces the 9 Employability Skills, how and where to acquire them, ways to develop them, how to prove you have these skills and how to create a CV that highlights your achievements.

Nail That Interview Course with Chris Davies

Nail That Interview Online Course will teach you everything you need for interview success. Module 1 – I CAN do the job – contains the Graduate Coach Skills Audit and the 9 Employability Skills.

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