Career coaching exercises that the experts use

If you’re looking to move on in your career or completely change your job, you’d do well to work with a career coach. But if that isn’t a possibility right now, take the next best step and use some of the career coaching exercises that the experts swear by. 

Here are 3 of the best that are sure to help you on your journey to gaining your dream job. 

Exercise #1: Clarifying your values

Clarifying your values is a powerful way to help you find the perfect career path or position. Your values are the personal beliefs that serve as guiding principles in the actions you take in life. In a work environment, they can help you feel completely comfortable in what you’re doing and motivate you into action. 

The flipside of this is that if you haven’t clarified your values and are working in a culture that isn’t in line with what you find important, you may end up depressed and angry in your job and dreading the daily grind. 

If you’re not sure of your values, clarify them now by simply picking the top 10 that resonates with you from this list of 285 known values. Once you’ve selected 10, drill down to the five most important and rank them from 1 to 5. Those five values are the principles that guide your beliefs and behaviours. Knowing them will help you make decisions about possible career moves or work placements. 

For example, if a top value for you is “connection” or “collaboration” and you’re offered a job wherein you’re expected to work completely on your own, then this will likely not be a good fit for you. 

Similarly, if “family” is one of your five most important values and a position comes your way that involves long nights or lots of weekly overnight travel, then again, you may find yourself resenting your workload after a while. 

And don’t worry if you’re completely in the dark about the values you possess! This free Core Values Coaching Guide will help you to identify the values that drive you and that will ultimately help you to discover your dream job! 

READ NEXT: Thinking of Starting Your Own Business? Experts say Consider These 4 Things First 

Exercise #2: Write a career plan

Another great career coaching exercise is to write your own career plan. This plan spotlights short and long-term career goals along with the actions needed to achieve them. It’s a great way to guide you through the steps you need to take to get the job you really want.  

Step 1: Audit skills, talents, strengths & values

The first step in an effective career plan is to do an audit of your skills, talents, values (if you don’t know your values, check out this comprehensive list here), interests, strengths and weaknesses. 

Even if you’re 100% certain about the career you want, you need to ensure you have the skills and strengths to achieve it. For instance, it may turn out that you need some additional training or that something you perceive as a strength, such as people skills or being analytical, is not applicable in particular positions that may require you to work autonomously or push your creativity.

Step 2: Identify career options and opportunities

Once you’ve done your audit, you then use this knowledge to identify your career options. You mustn’t limit yourself to what you know. Instead, do as much research as possible in growth industries and make sure you check out the companies or organisations you fancy working for to make sure that they fit your career ambitions. 

If, for example, you know that with your level of expertise or training, you can only go for an entry-level or middle management job, but your dream is to rise higher – make sure there are opportunities for growth in the companies you’re researching. 

Step 3: Do a career SWOT

Once you have completed your audit and identified the career options and opportunities available to you, condense this information into a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats framework). This will not only help to give you great clarity but it will also help in focusing you during your next step.

Step 4: Determine the actions you need to take

Looking at your Career SWOT, ask yourself relevant questions such as –

  • Are there gaps in my skills or knowledge base that I could close with more training? 
  • What skills and talents do I have that are not applicable?
  • Should I update my C.V. to highlight the various strengths, talents and values I’ve identified? 
  • Are there growth opportunities in the career or job I want? And, if so, what must I do to access those opportunities?
  • Would a mentor or extra coaching be valuable right now?

RELATED: What are the Benefits of Working with a Coach?

Take your time doing this part of the exercise as getting the right answers to the above questions and more will help you determine what you need to do next. 

Step 5: Set SMART goals

Once you have decided on the actions that now need to be taken, it’s important to set yourself SMART goals. These are goals that are:

  • Specific – e.g. Update your C.V.
  • Measurable – Ensure all the applicable strengths, talents and values defined through the above exercises are included. 
  • Achievable – Put aside time to work on it. Be certain that whatever time you do allocate to it is sufficient to get the C.V. updated.
  • Relevant – Ensure that not only does updating your CV match your overall goal of getting a new job but that the way that you’re updating it is relevant to the companies or industry you’re attempting to get into.
  • Time-bound – Decide on a deadline date for completion.  

RELATED: Why Don’t We Achieve our Goals?

Step 6: Write your plan

Now that you’ve identified your career path and goals it’s time to write a plan. It’s not enough to know what strengths you have, what job you’d like, where you might need to upskill and the other actions you need to take. You now have to put that information into a plan. Not doing so will likely lead to a failure to achieve your career goals. 

But make your plan simple. Look at what your priorities are now. It could be further training, networking, or looking afresh at your CV and researching who you’ll send it to.

Once you’ve written your career plan, look at it regularly and revise it as necessary. Some actions taken may lead to further steps or your goals may shift. It doesn’t matter; It’s your plan. The point is to ensure you follow it. 

Exercise #3: Ideal job description

The Ideal Job Description exercise is a meaningful activity to do when you know that there’s a wonderful career or job opportunity out there for you … but you don’t have a clue what it is! 

By focusing in on the key characteristics and qualities you’d like to see in a future job for you, you’ll be able to uncover what matters and motivates you most when it comes to forging a career. 

READ NEXT: 5 Ways to Discover What You Were Born to Do

Most job descriptions are split into various sections such as:

– The company or organisation 

– The position 

– The job requirements

– Job benefits 

So, for this exercise, take those four sections as headlines and fill out the applicable details underneath. Go big but be honest. Remember, this is your ideal job in your ideal company – so ask yourself what exactly would that entail?

The company/organisation 

Is this a big, small or well-known company? Is it a start-up? Maybe an NGO or a charity? Is the organisation’s work based indoors, outdoors, overseas, close to home? What’s the work environment like – is there a corporate culture or something very different? What is the company’s mission? What values do they have that are a great match for your own?

The position

What role will you have within this company or organisation? On a day-to-day basis, what tasks will you have to undertake? What would your ideal work-week look like? Who will you work with and where will you work? Can you work from home or will you have your own office or workspace?

The job requirements

What competencies are needed for this job? Are social skills important? What about technical abilities? Are there any particular exciting experiences that you have that are specifically necessary for this position and how would this job allow you to build on them? What other requirements will make you feel really comfortable and motivated in this particular post? 

Job benefits

What benefits are necessary for you to love this job and do it well? Perhaps you’ll want medical and dental insurance, retirement benefits, free gym membership or paid time off. 

There may also be other less tangible benefits that this ideal job has such as an emphasis on work-life balance, the opportunity for career advancement, more autonomy and less micromanagement, or fluid work hours. Make a note of all of the benefits that will truly make your work a dream job or just a job you dream about. 

Once you have these four areas written out, step away from the job description for an hour or two and then come back to tighten it up even more. 

The point of this exercise is not to create an imaginary position. For instance, if your ideal role is Santa’s Lead Elf in the North Pole Company then chances are you’re in for some future disappointment! 

Instead, the aim is to create an ideal job description that will help you see the work and the work environment you truly want to be part of. 

Going forward, you might not find a job exactly like this (or you might – who knows!) But you’ll likely now know the sector or type of company you want to work in. Critically, you will be much more aware of what your requirements and non-negotiables are when it comes to accepting a job. 

And after all, a job is not just about what you can bring to a company or organisation. That’s important but just as significant as what it can bring to you. 

Because how can you do your best work if the job you have does not reflect the competencies you have or the person you are? And how can you be your best self if the role you’re in doesn’t allow you to show up and shine?

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov

Gabrielle Collard
Verified Coach
Verified for professional standards and commitment to clients. Read more Close

I’m a business and marketing coach from London with a passion for personal growth. If you're looking for support in developing a business, email me at

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