The definition of coaching, so to speak, is to “partner with another person in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” (International Coaching Federation). That sounds cool. But what does it mean?
As an Unbound student-turned-coach, I have not only had the opportunity to experience coaching but also how to walk alongside someone else and help them reach success.
When you come alongside another person, you help them achieve more than they could do on their own. Everyone has their own definition of success. Coaching helps you understand what your definition is and then helps you achieve it.
Let me illustrate with my own coaching experience.
My experience being coached
When I was enrolled in Unbound, my coach and I worked together for about 3 years. Through our time together, we built a life-long friendship that has continued to this day.
Each call started with my coach asking about me and my life. She wanted to know how things were going—both the good and the bad. Even though our calls were focused on school, she would still check in with my life, which helped build our friendship. After the initial “life update,” she would check in with my academic goals—had I accomplished what I needed to in my studies?
When I accomplished my goals, my coach always celebrated with me. When I didn’t, she never condemned me. Instead, we would simply focus on the obstacles standing in my way and eliminate them. Her outside perspective helped me see a way around obstacles that I never could have seen alone which, in turn, made me more successful at reaching my goals the next time around.
After the “goal update,” we would dive into a topic of my choice. This is when I would bring up any idea or challenge I’d like her help with, such as managing my time, balancing my studies with other life activities, and strategies for getting ahead on my assignments. My coach would listen intently as I spoke and asked me questions that prodded more thoughts and new ideas to spill from my mouth.
When I reached the halfway mark of my degree, I learned of a job position opening up that I wanted to apply for. The problem: it required a degree, and I didn’t have one yet. This meant I had to earn 60 credits in eight months.
My coach helped me create a plan to accomplish this goal by setting deadline dates for each of the courses. Then, because I had to juggle multiple courses at once, we created a system to help me stay on top of the assignment deadlines.
We discovered that I needed to write out the assignments in order of their due date on a piece of paper, and then I would work down the list. She also helped me figure out how to make progress on my courses that didn’t have due dates by adding them to the list of assignments and setting my own due dates.
I graduated 10 months later months later, in June of 2014.
Because of our careful planning, I didn’t give up the things that I enjoyed either, like playing on the worship band at church or participating in NaNoWriMo. Nor did I have to quit my part-time job! My coach not only taught me how to build a system and use time management skills, she kept me accountable and walked alongside me. Because of this, I was able to accomplish my goal and I was proud that I finished in June.
My experience as a coach
Now that I am a coach, I have the unique opportunity to be on the other side of that process.
Each student has their own passions and dreams and is pursuing something completely their own. They have their own goals for graduation, and I am excited to have the opportunity to walk alongside them and help them achieve success.
As a student, I left my coaching calls feeling like my coach cared for me and my success. I always felt encouraged to keep pushing through even though my studies were hard.
As a coach, the exhilaration is tenfold. I’m genuinely excited for my students and what they accomplish especially because they can accomplish so much more than they realize.
In a brick-and-mortar school, professors and advisors are focused on your class or your transcripts. Coaches focus on both of those and more. Your dreams are an important part of who you are and why you are pursuing school. As a coach, I want to embrace and celebrate that with you.
Coaching is personal. A coach is someone who walks alongside you the entire time you are working through your courses. They are there to encourage you, support you, and help you pick yourself back up after you stumble.
The biggest value I see in coaching is exploration. Not just exploring what the obstacles are but why. What is the motivating factor behind the obstacle you’re facing? Why is it a struggle? How can you eliminate that as a struggle? This is something a college advisor could never help you with.
Coaches are trained—and quite good—at asking probing questions that inspire a deeper level of thought about your goals and how to successfully achieve them. Your coach’s outside perspective allows them to ask questions from an objective point of view and then give you, the student, space to answer and ultimately come up with a solution to the problem.
I love getting to be that personal form of contact for students. I love speaking into my students’ lives and celebrating their achievements, helping them discover their own answers, and empowering them to push forward and achieve their goals.
That’s why I love coaching!
Cassie Porath is a Lumerit graduate who plans to further her education with a Master’s in Creative Writing. She enjoys dancing, crocheting, and knitting and hopes to publish a novel someday!Read more by Cassie