Indiana launches free virtual career coaching


Indiana is developing career coaching as a critical service to help residents find and prepare for family-sustaining jobs in the state. And Ivy Tech Community College is a key partner in that effort.

The Indiana Governor’s Workforce Cabinet and Ivy Tech — the state’s community college system with 19 campuses — on Monday launched a new statewide career coaching program open to any state resident, including those displaced during the pandemic. Eligible individuals can receive free, virtual one-on-one career coaching sessions for up to four months. The nonprofit InsideTrack, which Ivy Tech has worked with on coaching since 2014, is also a partner, providing coaching services.

Individuals can enroll in the coaching service, which begins with a brief online form and questionnaire to pair them with a coach. Participants will work with their coaches to navigate employment opportunities and identify the education and training needed to advance in their careers.

Individuals can connect in several ways with their coaches — phone, email and text — that fit their preference and availability, said Caroline Dowd-Higgins, vice president of Career Coaching and Employer Connections at Ivy Tech. The coaching sessions work in developing stages, starting with coaches learning about participants’ career goals and then on developing resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles and more. Subsequent sessions provide an opportunity for participants to reflect on their skills and interests, what the local job market looks like and more, she said.

“People who are seeking jobs often lack confidence,” Dowd-Higgins said. “A coach can help them find that self-confidence, [they] can be a guide, a safe space. It’s not like an advisor who tells you what to do, but it is someone who is navigating that journey with you and empowering you.”

Reaching everyone

The goal of the program, which is funded by a federal CARES Act grant to the college, is to serve unemployed and under-employed residents, which includes individuals at jobs that don’t provide family-sustaining wages, healthcare and other benefits, Dowd-Higgins said.

“They are doing everything they can to make ends meet, but they really don’t have a career; they have a job,” she said.

The state and Ivy Tech officials hope to “build a culture” around career coaching, where individuals are familiar and comfortable with seeking the services, Dowd-Higgins added.

To ensure that the program reaches all residents — including individuals who may not have access to technology or are perhaps intimidated by the process — Ivy Tech is tapping its relationships with community-based organizations, including faith-based groups. Leaders of places of worship, for example, may encourage reluctant individuals to seek assistance and even provide them with access to technology for the coaching, as could libraries and organizations such as Goodwill Industries, Dowd-Higgins said.

“Collaboration is an incredibly important word in this whole endeavor because we are pointing the individuals in need toward the resources available in our state,” she said.

Coaching students

Career coaching is not new at Ivy Tech. And about a year ago the college expanded it, which included hiring Dowd-Higgins to lead the Office of Career Coaching and Employer Connections. The venture focuses on career coaching with learners and works with employers in the state to better link supply and demand. Each of Ivy Tech’s 19 campuses has a Career Coaching and Employer Connections team, which includes career coaches.

“We are very much invested in the career-coaching philosophy, and we are working with all of our learners at Ivy tech in that way,” Dowd-Higgins said.

The college is rolling out the coaching services incrementally across all its campuses, starting with six campuses. The initial results are promising, though it is still too early to release results. But Ivy Tech is following key metrics such as how many students meet with a career coach, the number of students who complete milestones, and how many of them land jobs within a year of completing a credential.

Ivy Tech aims to eventually require all of its students to participate in career coaching over the next year. However, Dowd-Higgins said the college views it more as “part of the Ivy Tech experience,” wrapping it into its overall services to help students succeed.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.