It’s a fact that coming to HBS isn’t just a two year proposition – you’re connected to the HBS community for life. This sentiment is particularly true when it comes to our Career and Professional Development Office. For as long as you wish to be gainfully employed, CPD is at your service.

CPD offers an abundance of resources to students and alumni alike. They work with 1,500 recruiting partners, host over 150 annual career development programs, and offer one-on-one career coaching. Prospective students are often surprised to hear that over 90% of our students meet with these career coaches during their time here. So what is a career coach? And why do so many students meet with them? We checked in with Scott Renner, the head of the program, to see what it’s all about.

What is a career coach?

An HBS career coach is typically an alumnus of HBS or another top MBA program. Coaches have at least 5 years post-business school work experience, and they have experience in industries that our students and alumni are targeting.  Our 50+ coaches work with students and alumni throughout the year, supporting them in all phases of their career exploration process, from the initial self-assessment (what industry/function/role is a good fit for me?) through the strategy and tactics of a successful job search. 

How do you match students with coaches?

We have our coaches reach out to students for an initial meeting in the first few weeks of their RC year, but beyond that, students (and alumni) pick their coaches based on coach bios and/or recommendations from our office.  These bios generally include information such as the industries and companies where the coach has worked, what type of coaching they tend to do (deep self-assessment or more tactical searches), and other areas of particular focus (resume/LinkedIn reviews, dual-career families, etc.)  We also encourage students and alumni to meet with more than one coach if they don’t find a good fit right away. 

Why do you think career coaching is valuable for students?

I think students and alumni really get a lot of support from our career coaches for a few reasons.

1) They’re experienced in the industries that students and alumni are targeting
2) They’re well-versed in the resources at HBS and more broadly that can be helpful
3) They’re trained by CPD in all aspects of career coaching at HBS
4) They’re committed to helping the students and alumni they work with pursue their own unique career vision

Also, when it comes right down to it, I think students and alumni find it really valuable to be able to spend 45 minutes speaking to someone about their job search on a regular basis – it can really help to add structure and focus to the process. 

What do you think career coaches find most rewarding about their work?

I really enjoy the interaction I have with HBS students and alumni.  In general they are so smart, accomplished, and interesting, but also humble, willing to take input, and appreciative of the support we give them.  I think all the coaches would say the same thing. 

Career coaching is just one of many CPD resources. What other resources should prospective students know about?

CPD has resources for every step of your job search, with more than 150 programs during the first year on campus to help students learn about new industries, prepare for, and execute the job search.  In addition, over 200 companies come to HBS to interview our students, and we have more than 1,500 recruiting partners who list positions with us, review our resume book, or otherwise engage our students and alumni.  Coordinating all of these activities are 29 staff members in CPD (in addition to the 50+ career coaches I already mentioned) who are dedicated to supporting students and alumni in their search.

Why do you think so many HBS students end up changing careers?

I think it is just where they are – many people choose to pursue an MBA in order to pivot in their career, and HBS students are no exception.  The good news is that HBS offers a wealth of support and opportunities for those who wish to change careers.