Grooming Students to Think Differently

How Students Are Leveling Up Their Careers With Executive Coaching


Abraham M. Gutsioglou, PhD is a practitioner experienced in creating business transformations.  

Amanda Piccolino is a PhD student in Organizational Psychology.  

In this collaboration between Amanda Piccolino, a PhD student and executive coachee, and Abraham M. Gutsioglou, Ph.D., a business transformation agent, we highlight how student executive coaching can drive change for students.  

Part 1 provides an introduction to student executive coaching: what is it, and why are students doing it? Part 2 provides some insights on how to create the foundation for an effective coaching relationship, from the perspective of a coachee.  

Part 1: By Abraham M Gutsioglou, Ph.D. 

Executive coaching is a discipline thriving with opportunity and great momentum. It is believed that executives who work with a coach outperform their peers who do not work with a coach (Coutu, & Kaufmann, 2009). Coaching as a profession is on the rise (Underhill, 2018) and various working professionals are itching to get the opportunity to work with a coach of their own.  

Over the years, I have worn my executive coach hat across various capacities (from corporate advisor, consulting thought partner, counselor, all the way to tutoring) to help people reach their goals. As much as I have played the role of the executive coach, I have also benefited from working with an executive coach of my own. In each and every situation the main driver of success was the mutual focus to commitment. The commitment from the coach to the client in helping them establish a framework with accountabilities and the commitment from the client to believe in themselves, do the work, and to stay positive when things get tough.   

This got my thinking…what would happen if a student worked with an executive coach? Is it a common practice? If it isn’t, why not? These questions drove me to do some informal research. I reached out to some of my former students and others I have mentored along the way to get a better understanding. Here’s what I found.  

Finding 1 – students have ‘mentors’ not coaches. I found this piece very fascinating, it turns out that all of the students I spoke with said they have (or had) a mentor – someone who occasionally gave them career advice. There were some who were more fortunate and had a mentor they could rely on for the long-haul.  

Finding 2 – the main reason students did not have a coach was tied to money. It was simply too expensive for them to even think of working with a coach of their own, because the price per hour of hiring a coach was way out of their student budget. At the same time, it is also difficult for them to work with a mentor, because it is not easy to find a working professional who is willing to spend their spare time working with a student.  

Upon reflecting on these observations, I felt the student’s deflated sense of hope, so I decided to use my skills as a professional coach to help bring executive coaching within their reach.  

 It is a simple three step process.  

Step 1: Work with students who are willing to do the work and focus on getting ready for the next level of their journey.  

Step 2: Re-program their language and mindset. For instance, “student” becomes “client” and “mentoring” becomes “coaching” 

Step 3: Put the client through the coaching process and help them create accountabilities for their growth. Remind the client that they also have skills they can use to coach others (Spoiler Alert: keep an eye out for another publication on “reverse coaching”).  


Part 2: By Amanda Piccolino 

When I moved overseas for graduate school, I was hopeful that I would find a mentor who would invigorate me like the one I’d been so lucky to have in college. It turned out that while there were no shortage of great candidates, their incredibly busy schedules meant that the only direction they were ready to offer was to my student advisor’s office. Like many of my peers, my student advisor at the time was someone randomly assigned to me, as well as dozens if not hundreds of other students. While I wanted the reliability an advisor could offer, I also wanted the guidance of someone whose career I’d want to emulate, and the accountability that would come from being answerable to that person.  

Being the ‘client’ in a coaching relationship, does not absolve you from putting in effort. In fact, the only way an executive coach can add value is if you the coachee are willing to dedicate the time, and more importantly, energy, into adopting the mindset that is receptive to coaching. The best coaching relationships are ones that correspondingly transform your thinking and habituate new action. Anyone who has tried to quit smoking or start a new fitness regime knows that driving significant behavioral change requires significant discipline, as transformation can only happen outside of your comfort zone. Having recently moved to a new city without a network to rely on, I was struggling to find the social support I needed to do this, and my access to a career coach was constrained by a limited student income. Once I found the resource that worked with my budget, I wanted to make sure I would get the most out of the coaching relationship. Here are tips that I found most helpful to making sure that happened as a coachee:  

Tip #1 – have a SMART goal in mind. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Defining your goals in this way directs action and focus so that both you and your coach can assess your development over time. It enables you break down your vision of who you want to be into bite-sized pieces, so you know what you need to do in your day-to-day to actually become that person. Setting SMART goals for yourself—and having someone support your progress, is what creates meaning in the short and long-term  

Tip #2 – come prepared to every meeting with your coach. The ‘homework’ your coach assigns are the tasks and tools that facilitate progress towards the goals that you ultimately care about! Doing this work is at the essence of being able to have productive conversations with your coach and your own conscience.  

Tip #3 – give back. Coaching is a helping relationship with someone who wants the best for you-- but that helping need not only be confined only to the role of the coach. When you strengthen your resolve and help yourself, you also put yourself in a better position to help others. Extend the goodwill your coach has towards you towards others, by listening carefully and cultivating compassion in the process  

An executive coach can be an excellent engine for your development—but it does not run on its own. Be prepared to work hard, think carefully and honestly about what you want to accomplish, and pick a coach whose example inspires you to do just those things!


Coutu, D., & Kaufmann, C. (2009). HBR Research report: What can coaches do for you? Harvard Business Review, 87(1), 92.  

Underhill, B. O. (2018). Executive Coaching 2022: Future Trends, International Coaching Federation, retrieved from

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