In high school, guidance counselors helped you pick the right classes and select the right colleges. But now you’re all grown up. You have to figure out your professional development options all on your own. Sure, your boss or HR team might help, or you could hire a coach. But wouldn’t it be great if your association provided educational coaches to help you identify the webinars, courses, certificate programs, and volunteer activities to help you achieve your goals?
We’ve never heard of an association providing this type of service, but the idea came up during the recent Non-Dues-a-Palooza ideation session on St. Patrick’s Day. WBT Systems sponsored this innovative event because, in Irish style, we wanted to help associations come up with ideas for “making the green” from online education.
Imagine the possibilities for an educational coach service. You could:
• Help members (and others) identify and achieve their professional goals.
• Direct people into your association’s education and credentialing programs.
• Nudge members into the leadership pipeline.
• Strengthen member and customer ties to your association.
• Facilitate member-to-member relationships.
• Provide an additional revenue stream.
During the ideation session—an enjoyable and fruitful experience that we’ll discuss in our next post—we saw lots of potential for an educational coach service.
How do educational coaches help people?
In their initial meeting, the educational coach and the prospective learner discuss, identify, and document the learner’s values, goals, and mission statement or purpose. They might use assessment tools to evaluate the learner’s strengths, preferences, and existing competencies, and identify where their skills gaps lie.
With this information in hand, they map out a learning plan. This plan—following an established career pathway or customized for the learner—could include webinars, courses, certificate or digital badge programs, volunteer experience, and other activities.
The educational coach also helps the learner develop study habits, manage their time, and overcome obstacles to their professional growth. For example, the coach might point the learner toward sources of financial aid. The learner’s wellbeing is an essential element of the coaching journey. The coach focuses on the whole person and suggests ways to bring more balance and ease into the learner’s life.
The coach also hooks the learner up with others on the same or similar path. The social element is key for growth as it provides accountability, motivation, and community.
What does educational coaching look like?
The standard package could include monthly or quarterly meetings for six months or a year. Other services are available for an additional fee. Of course, members get a discount.
You could offer mentoring to members for free, perhaps with a fellow member who’s about five years ahead or with a senior advisor. If you run short on senior advisors, they could be available only for group mentoring.
For an additional fee, people could join a learning cohort. Again, this could be free for members. However, they would pay a fee for facilitated masterminds or Q&As with senior advisors.
Career counseling services are available for a fee, for example, resume review and sessions on interviewing skills. But you could provide these services for free or as part of a discounted package deal for young professionals or professionals in transition.
When the number of participants reaches a certain threshold, you could offer weekend retreats for different career stages and specialties. The retreat program includes personal and professional development, such as wellbeing education, coaching, and masterminds.
Who is the market for this service?
Educational coaching can help people from the entry-level to post-retirement phases of their career, for example:
• Recent graduates and young professionals.
• Executives: At this level, the service resembles executive coaching, but points to association programs when appropriate.
• Retired and semi-retired: With decades in front of them, retirees need help finding a new purpose and path.
• Unemployed professionals: These people need to upskill and find the support of peers in the same situation.
Besides promoting this valuable service via regular marketing channels, introduce the program to new members during onboarding. Give them a promo code for a deeply discounted introductory session in which they can discuss goals and possible paths.
Steal an idea from ASAE. During the ASAE Annual Meeting, attendees can schedule coaching sessions at a discount—a great lead generator for participating coaches.
How do you price the educational coaching service?
Offer standard packages (based on meeting frequency) along with upgrades for additional services. You could also offer a standard package as part of a higher-level membership tier for young professionals and regular members.
You may even consider a discounted program for young professional members—a great way to hook them on the value of membership. Because affordability is likely to be an issue for them, seek sponsors who will subsidize the participation of a “class,” much like the Detroit Metro CVB has sponsored ASAE’s DELP program.
Who are these educational coaches?
As you can see, an educational coach is part guidance counselor, part career advisor, and part life coach. They must be familiar with association programs and volunteer opportunities. They must understand traditional and innovative industry career paths, employment trends, and required competencies for industry positions.
You could start by outsourcing these services to recruiters and coaches familiar with the industry. Pay them for their time or provide a revenue share. Eventually, once the program grows, you can bring coaches onto your staff. Besides providing coaching services, they could also facilitate other services you’re offering, like mentoring, learning cohorts, and networking meetups.
Like any crazy idea, this one may seem impossible at first glance. But is it? If you see a market need for this type of program, an educational coaching service provides leads for education and credential programs, generates its own revenue, warms up membership leads, and increases member engagement. Just because no other association has offered this service before doesn’t mean your association can’t.