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The Process and Course of an Academic Coaching Session

The reading time for this article is about 10 / 15 minutes. I cover things in depth and detail.
Of course, your immediate interest is to have an answer that is quick to read and simple to understand, which is often the case when doing Internet research.
You are usually afraid of coming across an uninteresting article that pushes open doors, of not learning anything and of not having an answer to your questions.
So, let's be honest, there is a lot of text in this article but you are not wasting your time, quite the contrary.
You probably also want to know if this could suit your expectations, answer some of your questions. Without ambiguity, be sure that the title of the article corresponds to its content, you have a small menu on the right of the text that allows you to access the sections. But don't go directly to the section that interests you first, you need to read everything to understand and grasp the process of a coaching session!
If you want this research and reading to be fully beneficial to you, you ideally need points of comparison and some knowledge in order to understand that the content of a coaching session will depend on your problem, but also on the actual coach or service you have chosen or that has been proposed to you. I sincerely invite you to spend 10 minutes more than planned before going directly to an example of a coaching session at the end of the article, but also to read my articles; how to choose a coach and how to choose a guidance service, you may have the impression that you already know enough or that you have read it elsewhere, but I assure you that if you have not read my articles, it will not be useless...
For those of you who are not going to read these articles, it is necessary first of all to define what we are talking about, in order to understand what we are comparing coaching to, and thus to have a more precise appreciation and evaluation of the course of a coaching session, which will be detailed later. I would first like to explain to you that in order to be able to judge the relevance of a method, it is important to have a clear and objective vision of its particularities and of what it allows, but also of the degree of influence it has on your choices. As you know, you are influenced on a daily basis by your environment and have been influenced by your education, your learning, social norms and rules. Moreover, recent studies in psychology show that in some cases we are not able to make rational choices (I invite you to do further research on cognitive biases). It is therefore better to avoid combining this difficulty in making choices rationally with a method that does not seek to control its influence on you very precisely nor to reduce its previous effect by questioning your ideas, your beliefs, your desires, etc.
It is essential that I give you a very succinct account of the nature and process of guidance tests and assessments, because these tests are a prerequisite for many of the nebulous guidance coaching offers found on the Internet. To put it more clearly, if in the coaching offer that is proposed to you, you are asked to do a career test, it is because the accompaniment will be based on it and therefore it is not coaching, but a career assessment or career advice re-branded as "coaching" to make it more salesy.

The usual preliminary to fake career coaching: the problem of career tests and questionnaires

As I have said many times before, and unfortunately I cannot provide an explanation and argument that would be more than 20 pages long each time I say it, guidance tests are personality tests that have been diverted from their original purpose. They are not orientation tests, they do not exist. You will find more details on this subject in my article "How to choose a guidance service".

They are actually personality tests like the RIASEC that are supposed to tell you your overall dominant personality type at work, nothing more. Moreover, these tests have a hard time doing it accurately and taking into account all the facets of your personality (the RIASEC does not take into account aggressiveness, for example, but I invite you to do some personal research on the matter). A personality test is not intended to, and cannot in any way, tell you what you WANT to do in life and allow you to find a turnkey career plan! That said, it is convenient to use a test, most people like them and find them regularly in their favorite magazine or on the Internet. Then, the result is provided by the computer and all you have to do is offer an oral transcript. This has shaped the guidance market. This is typically the consumer market concept, it is very easy and profitable and can be implemented by anyone! You give the customer what they want and what they will buy, even if it is bad for them, not what they need. The issue of what is at stake is secondary. This model of personality assessment, even if it is used by all, is widely criticized, and from many different angles (I will let you explore this further).

It seems unthinkable to consider being able to choose a job without investing oneself, without being involved, an actor and a decision-maker, without really thinking about it, without projecting oneself... This is however the concept of this type of offer, but the other problem is even more complex, more insidious.

An ambiguous matter of terminology and concept, the "what you are made for"

Terminology allows us to play on the imagination, on vagueness, to pass off something as something else.

These guidance services will suggest one or more occupations for which "you are suited". The fact that there is a "counselling" part does not help because of the influence inherent in this type of help.
This seemingly insignificant formulation is in fact fraught with consequences. The problem is transposed. Since with tests they can't tell you what you WANT, they play on the wording.


"A job I'm made for" = it's fate (who decides), you rely on something else than yourself.

"A job I want to do" = it's you (who decides), you make a thoughtful and reasoned choice.


We are on connotations of lack of free will referring to the principles of clairvoyance or imagined destiny, they will reveal to you what you are made for. But if common sense kicks in, you should realize that they are supposed to help you make YOUR choice in a thoughtful and rational way.
I always use these examples, is one made to be a butcher or a cab driver and what conditioned it? Do you need a particular personality?
Now that we have studied "on the surface", and very briefly, the absurd nature and the process of orientation tests, without mentioning the question of influence, orientation by grades, the importance of taking into account the personality, to name but a few, because that would have taken us too far away from the subject, I will present you the organization and the process of orientation coaching as I practice it. However, if you wish to go into more detail on these questions and to deepen the analysis of guidance methods, I refer you once again to my book: "Career Guidance or the art of not failing", which you can find on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo and Google Play.
It is essential to ask yourself very precisely about the guidance service you are going to choose, because without even thinking about the "Goliaths" of the sector who do a fair for students every year, you have to ask yourself if you can take the risk of basing yourself only on a reputation to define if they offer you a quality service.
Before we get into the actual process, we need to quickly address the issue of setting, which can be influential. A coaching session ideally takes place in the office, where the coach is received, or by video conference. I think it is preferable, in order to put clients at ease, to receive them in environments that guarantee professional secrecy, but also anonymity. Receiving a client in a place without soundproofing and/or multiple offices are stuck together and/or everyone can see the clients coming and going does not seem to me to promote serenity. It's not about being zen, but it's about the client feeling comfortable in the environment. This is also one of the advantages of videoconferencing.
The coach must ensure that professional secrecy is respected and therefore cannot decently propose to do the coaching sessions in a public place or within an establishment that does not provide a room or an office that is well soundproofed and away from others.
Having said that, let's move on to the process of a session.

Structure and process of an Academic Coaching

Here is a structural example of how a coaching session would unfold, here is what to keep in mind in the main lines:
  • Between 3 to 6 sessions over 2 to 3 months / depending on the student's investment
  • During the sessions: I question and test the student's argumentation to make him/her think and move towards his/her objective which is to specify what he/she wants to do in order to make a choice, especially within the framework of orientation coaching
  • The first session allows us to take stock of the situation, to define the objective and to begin the work
  • The definition phase lasts 1 to 3 sessions (information gathering / solution finding / reflection / definition)
  • The validation phase lasts 1 to 3 sessions (clarification and validation of final solutions)

Academic Coaching : How the first appointment goes...

The first session is with the student only, but a parent can be present for the first few minutes if necessary. This is often a problem in videoconferencing, as concerned or vigilant parents want to be in the room during the whole session, unfortunately this biases the work and is counterproductive. The student inevitably feels listened to and will not be able to speak freely, especially if the reality of the situation requires him to specify the influence or attitude of his parents. This will affect the evaluation of the first session by the parent or student.

During this session, we will discuss the situation in detail as well as all the external elements that may influence it, so that I can get as precise an idea as possible of your personal and professional situation.
In a second step, we will define together the most appropriate periodicity for the accompaniment, which can vary as we go along.

The purpose of this first session is to agree on your request for support, if this has not been previously specified by telephone, and to define

1) the objective on which we will work,
2) how and in how much time.

Of course, this is likely to be a little different depending on the issues.

Then, we will directly start the work so that you can already start to progress on your side by the second session.

It is very important for the student to take responsibility and that is why I always prefer that they report directly to their parents about the work we are doing, especially since I am bound by professional secrecy. A progress report on the objectives can be made, I can, when I consider it essential or at the request of a parent, and with the agreement of the student, give a feedback on the work accomplished.

I will address the question of how a coaching session unfolds on two different levels: how does a session unfold and more globally, how does a coaching session unfold?
How does an orientation coaching session take place when the student is looking for something he or she likes/is looking for?

Let's take a concrete example with the case of an orientation coaching, whether your request defining your objective is :

- The choice of a profession, the definition of a clear professional project

Or :

- Making a choice between two professions (which implies that you have already made a thorough reflection on your side).

Whatever your objective or your request, the example below will give you a concrete idea of the type of exchange we could have on the deepening of a point of detail of what seems important to you at first sight.

Here is an extract of the type of exchange between us, when we have already started the work of reflection in the definition of a job.


  • Me: What aspect in your work is important to you?
  • LStudent: I would really like to be independent, to have a nice boss who guides me when necessary, but who is not always behind me.
  • Me: Well, why is that important to you?
  • Student: Well, it's important for me to feel good.
  • Me: Okay, but how does this aspect help you refine your profession?
  • Student: Uh, what do you mean?
  • Me: Well yeah, is that something that relates to the business or something else, do you think you have control over it?
  • Student: It's more about the atmosphere, but it's important.
  • Me: OK, but then this aspect is not specific to one trade, so how does it help you narrow down YOUR trade?
    and it goes on, until we are at the core.

    I have deliberately chosen a rather focused questioning, but usual for this example, in order to keep it simple and brief and to give you a good idea of the nature of the exchanges, of the way it happens and the way to advance in the reflection, by reformulation and deepening, on the subject at hand.

How does an academic coaching is done (goes)?

I am now going to detail as much as possible to allow you to visualize the possible steps of a career coaching. In order to facilitate the representation and understanding, I have decided to divide the coaching into several typical phases. I insist on the fact that this is only an example to give you an idea of the process, but the interest of coaching is precisely to be able to adapt to the priorities, to the changes of objectives, to the personality, to the way of functioning and to the situation of each person as well as to its evolution during the coaching!

My example is an orientation coaching, whose objective is the choice of a profession, for a student in high school with many desires and possibilities.

Here are the different typical steps:

The 1st meeting

The first session to define your coaching request:
As explained above, this session is essentially used to "put on the table" all the elements of the problem. It allows both the coach and the student to become aware of the situation. It is not necessary to expect a real breakthrough; sometimes the awareness it brings about can even leave the student in a state of limbo. This impression of not being any further ahead is quite logical in this case and can extend over the first two working sessions of the definition, information gathering and reflection phase, presented below.

Definition phase - 1 to 3 information gathering, reflection/precision sessions

Since coaching is personalized, it is not very easy to not have a concrete case to rely on and to have to remain general and to make it meaningful and understandable.

These sessions, by questioning, putting things into perspective and projecting them in the long term, can allow you to make a quick and summary sorting out of your ideas and desires, to confront them with reality and to refine the different options of orientation that are beginning to emerge and on which we could focus more precisely later on. It will be necessary to determine together the work to be done on your side to continue to advance or to validate certain points in order to make choices, during the intersessions.

In this face of definition, it will be necessary to explore your history, your dreams, your desires, the influence undergone and to question them to ensure the relevance of your representations. We have so many preconceived ideas, there will surely be things to unravel, while drawing the structure and the main pillars of your future choices.

This is how it works for the above mentioned items and others:

I think I want this > am I sure? I think I want this > am I sure? > why? > why is this important to me? > final status and basis for reflection

It is important that the student takes an active approach and that he/she is involved in this reflection also outside the sessions. This creates continuity and generates productive involvement. This phase is somewhat costly in terms of personal resources, but it is essential.

Validation phase - 1 to 3 sessions to clarify the professional project

These sessions can be used to deepen the reflection on the different career choices that may have already been identified during the definition phase.
For example, it could be a question of deepening the reflection on certain elements that have been temporarily put aside, such as the implications of each profession in terms of daily life. Above all, it is important to validate that what has emerged from our work is what is most important to the student and corresponds to his or her expectations.

We will also make sure to ensure the continuity of the precision work undertaken. It is a phase of validation of the different elements of reflection and research implemented to make an assessment and define the conclusions that can be made, so to speak.

The objective of this phase would be to finalize your choice of orientation with full knowledge of the facts, so that you are fully aware of the elements that have guided you towards this choice and the elements that have eliminated other possibilities, taking into account the reality, the feasibility and the viability of the project.

Beyond this imposed structure to clarify the work in this presentation, many elements are addressed and treated at the appropriate times.

During the two phases, the student must be made aware of his or her skills in order to carry out the project, validate ideas or desires, confront the imaginary with the real, and consider the different stages that he or she should negotiate and reflect upon in order to choose his or her different possible specializations.

It is always interesting, once the profession has been identified, to define a guideline for building coherence in one's experiences and in one's student career path in order to complete one's career path and thus strengthen one's qualifications.

Of course, the questioning, the regular questioning and your reflection between sessions will lead to the coaching being fed with new elements that will be integrated and possibly modify the work axis.

The coaching can be finalized by one or two sessions in order to ensure the continuity of the validation work undertaken.

Finally, the process will aim to develop autonomy with regard to the reflection on one's orientation, but also with regard to the coach.

It sometimes happens that when one does not do enough research on a profession and its training (during the coaching or afterwards) one realizes afterwards that it does not (or no longer) correspond totally to one's priorities. Or you may be so excited and euphoric to have "found" your career at the time that you are not sufficiently lucid on the other elements of this career to be taken into account or on your own priorities. Sometimes, it can also be the thinking or the priorities that change in a few weeks. The coach has to make sure that the client gets to the bottom of things, but sometimes this is not necessarily the case and you can never be sure of a new element that changes everything.

Although desires or priorities change, the student is autonomous and can take the reflection on his own, allowing him to reach the goal.

You should now have a slightly clearer idea of the potential content of coaching and what can be worked on.

However, I repeat, it is the specific problematic of each student and his different choices and decisions during the coaching that will inevitably orient the work. It is by making choices that we move forward. The coach questions, questions, can bring additional elements of reflection in all neutrality, but must not influence the student in his choices and decisions.

To better understand the work of the coach and the principles that govern the practice of his profession, it is very important to take the time to read and understand his code of ethics.


The process as it is presented depends on the coach, do not consider it as universal

Coaching is a process, it's as you go along!
When you decide to undertake a coaching, think of a global approach.

Contrary to some websites offering similar coaching services, I do not propose any systematic method, any preliminary orientation tests or any specific tools supposed to give you confidence, to propose a reading grid and to lead to standard results. I sincerely believe that applying such methods too automatically is not a guarantee of success and individual development and can easily lead to missing an essential point for the student.

Furthermore, even if we can catalog the problems, the ways to remedy them are usually very different from one individual to another.

To reiterate an important aspect discussed on the home page of the site, carefully examine the coaching offers that are made to you everywhere, and especially the profile of the coach, whether it is coaching, guidance counselling or some other name, whether it is standardized or not.
Is it wise to choose a school coach from a company without any professional experience in the student world, without any training or diploma in psychology, educational science, training, teaching or in helping relationships?

Certain personal blocks or problems can sometimes slow down or limit the effectiveness of the coaching process, and it is essential that the coach has the background to identify them and adjust the coaching.

Furthermore, it can be questionable to work on the concept of performance and motivation too early, often with tools or methods imported from other techniques or theories or simply from the coaches' own experience in the company. Academic success is important, but we must be vigilant about the means used to promote or generate it. I think that in order to guide and motivate well, it is necessary to promote an awareness of future stakes, it is necessary that the desire and the enthusiasm are born thanks to a deep personal reflection which will make that the pupil or the student will work by blooming and by accomplishing the objective which it is fixed itself! And he will be more motivated and therefore more efficient...


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