Meet Alex, Career Coach at the International
Institute of Metropolitan Detroit
Coaches are the backbone of the CWF model! Clients meet with financial coaches, career coaches, and income supports counselors to achieve financial stability and economic success.
How do coaches work with clients to meet goals? What does coaching involve? We asked Alex, a career coach at the International Institute of Metro Detroit (IIMD), a CWF Site, about her job as a career coach:
Tell us about yourself and how you became a career coach:
I’m a first-generation American and college graduate, my parents are immigrants from Poland, so the International Institute’s mission is important to me. I graduated from Lafayette College in PA with a degree in psychology and sociology. I like languages and culture; I speak English, Spanish, and Polish.
To learn more about Centers for Working Families at the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, visit https://www.iimd.org/center-for-working-families
I was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Colombia and taught ESL classes at IIMD. A lot of my work included teaching students how to prepare for the workforce and higher education and using English to teach students about the cultural differences in the workforce, how to write resumes and what the job search process was like in the US. Others wanted to know about the higher education and academic system here and the scholarships available. Through my positions of teaching English and my experiences with my parents, I ended up sort of acting as an employment coach to many students. I sort of became an employment coach on accident, but I enjoy that it combines aspects of teaching and community organizing – some of my passions.
Describe what a career coaching session with a client looks like
During a first session with a client, I ask them to tell me about themselves so I can get to know them and get them to speak freely about themselves. Clients’ interests and goals come out naturally, and the unstructured space helps them feel relaxed and trust me. I ask additional questions based on what they tell me and focus on what a client is saying because they know themselves best. As they continue visiting, I check in to ask how things are going with education or employment, depending on what they are doing.
I ask clients questions about where they are now, where they want to go, and the action steps to get them there, and we work on those action steps. I may give “homework” to tackle action steps, like having a client ask about a job or apply for a job, and I may have action steps for myself like following up with resources for a client. During sessions, we may also talk about job search strategies or will work on a resume or job application together or will discuss interview strategies.
How do you help clients articulate and achieve their goals?
I try to empower the strengths of my clients and help them see their own efficacy and build their confidence. I help clients see that they are capable, they are problem-solvers, that they already have the tools and capacity to accomplish what they desire. More concretely, I connect them to career pathways that speak to them, look at their short-term and long-terms goals, and dismantle whatever barriers they have. It is a co-constructive process. Clients know what they want but may need space for introspection, which I provide.
How do you earn trust of clients?
I earn the trust of clients by asking a lot of questions and actively listening. I share my own story, identities, difficulties, and experiences because that makes me more human and erases any distance that could exist. I also listen before offering any advice or suggestions. The first few meetings are usually about conversation and understanding the person to build trust, before working on anything or offering information. Sometimes people just want to talk or share a story or recent struggle and be heard, and I allow space for that.
What is the best part of your job?
My favorite days are when I get to meet with clients; I like one-on-one sessions and getting to know clients. At IIMD, I get to meet people from all over the world and Detroit and see the intersection of those communities. I like education and learning, and my job lets me learn about clients and help guide them.
Describe a recent client success:
I coordinate our CNA [Certified Nursing Assistant] training, and one of my clients completed the training and is transitioning from plumbing into the health care field. She graduated from the program with perfect attendance and will start the LPN [Licensed Practical Nurse] program in January and is currently working as a CNA in a home health setting. While she made a big job change, I helped her realize she has transferable skills and her skills in another field can be an asset. She started from a completely different field and was able to succeed in a new field.
What is advice you have for someone who could benefit from career coaching but may be skeptical?
I want people to realize coaching is a working relationship and we are both learning together. A lot of coaching is talking about the tools and strengths you already have and empowering those and growth. I’m not here to give you all the “right answers” or tell you what to do, but rather to ask questions and help you reflect to navigate your own career journey and achieve the goals you want to achieve. We have a lot of immigrants come to IIMD who may be skeptical, but we have staff fluent in multiple languages who can work with clients in their languages, which can also build trust.