Growing into a transformational leader in today’s business world requires more than just technical prowess, advanced strategies and a thorough understanding of the complex global economic machine. It also calls for developing the ability to influence, empathize with and guide others to success. This is where Darden’s Second Year Career Coach Course elective comes into the spotlight, shaping future leaders who not only succeed in their own paths but also contribute significantly to the growth of their peers.

A Foundation for Effective Leadership

Led by Darden Career Center coaches Ed Yu, Senior Director, Investment Banking Careers and Michele Rankin, Senior Director, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, the yearlong course is a testament to Darden’s commitment to leadership and personal development.

The course is designed to equip Second Year (SY) students with the necessary skills to coach First Year (FY) Full-Time students towards a successful internship recruiting experience. By working with multiple First Years, the students are faced with different circumstances, personalities and challenges which allows for a broader scope to apply their newly acquired skills.

Learning Through Doing

Central to the course is the hands-on coaching experience that SY students gain by guiding a group of approximately four to five FY students through internship recruiting. They are provided with tools to help their coachees grapple with questions such as “how do you deal with situations when you are in the moment? How do you best strategize recruiting given your situation? How do you set your emotions aside and then move on to the next task at hand?” This intimate setting allows for the formation of productive coaching relationships, fostering an environment where SY coaches can provide personalized feedback and support to their coachees.

The search for an internship and identifying a career path can be isolating and stressful and when combined with the rigorous coursework of Darden, the challenges can feel insurmountable. Having a peer coach who has been in their shoes and walked the same path provides benefits to both students. Second Year coaches pose questions they wished they had been asked, learn to guide their coaches in redirecting negative thoughts into productive solutions, and give practical feedback based on relevant and recent experience.

Growth Beyond Coaching

Ultimately, coursework at Darden is aimed at developing transformational leaders, and this course reflects that mission. In speaking with a past Second Year coach about their experience, they revealed that initially they applied “to pass on the benefit that [they] receive[d] from [their] Second Year coach to the next class.” What they discovered, however, was that the course was “practice in motion more than any other classes that we have at Darden. It’s experiential and you are in charge of individuals. You have real responsibilities to be working towards their outcome or goal. It felt like a high-stakes environment. You are celebrating your coachees’ wins. If your coachee is not [doing] well, you take it on yourself and you try to work out – What should be the next step? How should I be trying to connect to this individual? This all helps with your emotional skills, your communication skills, your ability to make decisions. And, these are some of the more critical skills that you will take on in your next role wherever you start full-time.”

Become a Peer Coach

From the perspective of another Darden student who has undertaken the course, “I think it helps the Second Years to understand what kind of coaches and managers they can be, and I think it helps the First Years actually navigate the process, because it is a process that can overwhelm anyone.”

For those students who are interested in pursuing this unique competitive elective, applications open each spring. Featuring a combination of classroom learning and experiential coaching, the elective spans the full duration of the year and offers 3 credit hours.