What exactly do Alumni Career Services (ACS) coaches do?

This is the question that starts many of my coaching sessions. In my first eight months at Darden, it has been my privilege to meet with many Darden alumni who are pursuing change and advancement in their careers. I am hopeful that an explanation of our career coaching might encourage more of you to take advantage of our services.

In thinking about my role as a career coach and what ACS coaches can mean to you, I can’t help but draw on parallels from my coachee experience. Some of you know that I am an avid triathlete. (Avid, not elite!) Since 2011, I have competed in about a dozen triathlons including one full and four half Ironman races. I am currently training for the Louisville Ironman and am working with a seasoned and certified triathlon coach. While I can download hundreds of training plans off the internet for free, I extract notable value from working with a professional. A coach holds you accountable, shares knowledge and offers perspective.

Every day, I log my workouts online for my coach’s review. This accountability can be the difference between me running on a cold, dark winter morning and staying in bed. You don’t graduate from a top program like Darden without exceptional personal accountability, discipline and achievement orientation. However, when you are juggling work, family, hobbies, volunteering and life, career management might slip off the radar screen. Partnering with a coach to set goals can provide the extra motivation you need to turn goals into accomplishments.

ACS coaches can work with you to establish goals, a framework, a timeline and deliverables.

A great coach is not always a great athlete, but should possess great knowledge of her sport. My triathlon coach happens to be a great athlete, but that is not what makes her valuable to me. First, it is her understanding of the science and the techniques of triathlon that help me make the most of my abilities. In ACS, we do not know your business better than you do. In most cases, you are the industry or functional expert. We are here to help you recognize, measure and articulate your expertise, talent and value to an organization. We know the questions to ask and the techniques to share so that you can showcase your unique abilities.

What I value most about my coach is her perspective. She has competed herself and trained other athletes for many years. She has seen everything on the success-failure spectrum. She helps me to benchmark and set my own expectations. As achievement-oriented, highly successful people, you are likely to be your own harshest critics. Career management, especially job search, can be humbling and tiring. Networking can be intimidating. As career coaches, we in ACS have “seen it all.” Let us help you to reflect on what is possible, to remind you how talented you are and to give you that boost of energy to keep you moving forward.

ACS coaching can be a one-off conversation or a series of sessions — the frequency and duration of your relationship with ACS is driven by you and your particular needs. Whether you are actively seeking change or simply trying to position yourself for advancement, we are here to be your sounding board, your knowledge resource and your advocate.

And unlike my triathlon coach, we are free of charge to Darden alums!