I was asked recently about the typical career path of a career coach and how my career path took me into this line of work. I think those who asked me were a little surprised by my response!
My answer to the first question is that there isn’t one. Career paths and expectations are different for everyone. The risk is that as soon as we define career paths as ‘typical’ we inevitably start to move away from our own paths and what we want to the expectations and requirements of someone else’s path (and who says they are typical!).
My answer to the second question is about to follow. As you will read, my career path is certainly not typical!
I did a music degree.
Following my degree, I studied and trained to be a lawyer and worked as family law solicitor for a few years.
I then decided to take a career break to give myself time to piece together what I wanted to do in my career as I felt there was something else. I really wanted some of my work to eventually include working with children.
During this time, I gained experience working with children as a teaching assistant as well as on other voluntary projects and completed Place2Be’s Foundation Certificate in Counselling Skills for Working with children.
Following my career break, I secured a job working as a Major Gifts Officer for Macmillan Cancer Support.
During my time at Macmillan Cancer Support, I came across the idea of career coaching through various conversations with people and the penny dropped.
I have now been a career and performance coach for over 10 years helping individuals gain confidence to achieve the best careers for them, perform well within their careers and overcome both emotional and practical difficulties. 50% of my work is with lawyers and 50% is with individuals from all professions.
While building my business, I also continued to work with children on a voluntary basis in different ways and study.
A few years ago, My Space 4 Me was created which is a part of my coaching business providing confidence coaching to primary school children to start linking my interests in psychology, counselling, education and children.
…and then in 2020, I set up and co-founded Voices for Life, a very exciting charity to inspire children to be happy and confident through music.
My path has had its ups and downs and it has sometimes been challenging working out next steps but it has been so exciting when things have come together. Some of the steps I have taken may have appeared unexpected to others but they all slot together. My music has come back into my career, my skills as a lawyer helped me to set up my business and the charity and my experience of fundraising is proving to be quite useful too! I am also using my coaching skills which include still working with lawyers.
For this all to happen, I had to create my own expectations and career path which is what I now help adults to do as well as preparing young people and children to be able to do the same.
I love seeing others become excited about what they can achieve as they create visions of what they want and move forward step by step towards these visions. It is so important to manage your own expectations and career path in line with what you want, not the ones you think are typical, and go for it.
As we approach the milestone of it being a year since we first went into lockdown, I reflect in this video on my thoughts about how a shift in thinking this year has prompted many to review what makes them happy and how the re-evaluation of career choices is becoming a large part of this review.
On the day we, in the UK, are ranked as the 18th happiest country, this video and blog seems highly appropriate! This video is all about what success and happiness means to you and what will make you smile at the end of the day and say ‘yes, that was a good day’.
This is the transcript of a podcast Tessa recorded for the International Authority of Coaching and Mentoring with one of her clients about how she works and how coaching benefitted her client, helping her client to feel excited about her career in 2021. Do have a listen to the podcast using the link above or, if easier, have a read of the transcript below.
Tessa, tell me about yourself
As you said I am an accredited career and performance coach, I specialise in all aspects of careers so redundancy, career change, confidence building, and I often help people return to work after a break. I also have personal experience of a career change. I used to be a family law solicitor. I then took a short break and pursued a career change into the charity sector where I worked as a Major Gifts Officer. I then set up my career coaching business which I have been running for over 10 years and still absolutely love doing the work that I do.
In the last year, who has your typical client been?
My clients come to me from all different backgrounds and for lots of different reasons, but I would say the underlying theme at the moment is really searching for fulfilment in their careers. I think over the last year, the pandemic has thrown lots of questions for people and this has made them question their career. Many are coming to me quite unhappy or dissatisfied in their career or current job and considering a career change or seeking help within their current role because of challenges they are experiencing. Obviously, many are coming to me who have also been on furlough for quite a few months and then are being made redundant. There are lots of things going on at the moment for individuals and it’s really my turn to start helping them find that fulfilment again and find those opportunities that will best suit them.
Where do you start?
This year the focus in my coaching has slightly changed. As you know, Covid-19 has not been easy for anyone and there is certainly a much stronger focus in my programmes on wellbeing and helping people overcome many more negative beliefs that have arisen over the last year.
Prior to lock down, my focus initially in a career coaching programme would always be on wellbeing to help increase confidence, productivity, and ability to overcome challenges which then forms a good foundation for leading me to a more detailed focus on careers. I get clients to score the five recognised areas of wellbeing (being active and health, contribution, relationships, learning and relaxation) out of 10 for how satisfied they are with each area. With low scores, we would work together to put some goals in place to help raise these scores.
Since lock down, I have noticed that these scores have become exceptionally low and there have been many more negative beliefs due to the continued restrictions we are all experiencing. A client referred to this as ‘mental overload’ and I think she is right. Many are suffering and so a stronger focus on wellbeing has been needed to maintain a steady rise in those wellbeing scores to ease this mental overload and ensure motivation and good health are maintained.
When people have scored themselves, as a coach where do you take them next?
When they score themselves, we then prioritise the areas that have the lowest scores, work out what is going on for them now in terms of those scores and start putting in place small changes to help raise those scores. For example, someone I am working with at the moment is working such long hours at home and doesn’t even go outside and so a very small change to put in place is a 10-minute walk. These little changes will then make more significant changes later and help these individuals to think about what career they could do in the future because they are feeling better about themselves.
How to you bridge the gap between what’s needed now and what’s needed in the future? Do you set a vision for them to achieve or do you start very much in the moment and see where that takes them?
It’s actually a bit of both. The initial focus is on the present. As I said before about the wellbeing areas, what’s going on for then now and encouraging them to make those small positive changes so that they feel more positive. Alongside that it will also be a matter of helping them with changing any negative beliefs, discussing the triggers for those and going through a belief change process and encouraging a more positive way of thinking. Once I know that is underway and being established and, from the language of my client, they are becoming more positive, we build in the future. Their mind will be in a better place to visualise their future and work out what will be the best for them.
As coaches working with clients, in 2021, what other tips have got to help people thrive this year?
Again I think it’s about the present, then looking to the future. Firstly, it’s being really aware of the impact the pandemic may have had on your clients and be ready to help them address negative thoughts arising from this and genuine concerns about health and family members which are ongoing. I have particularly noticed the affects of remote working and isolation on work relationships. This will have an ongoing impact on individuals. Building rapport has been tricky this year or even getting hold of colleagues or managers to ask a quick question to clarify an issue – that reassurance is not so readily available anymore. This can lead to a questioning of abilities for many individuals. It’s really being aware of all these different things that clients are going through and ensuring you address those.
It is then about looking to the future. It is really important at this stage to free up their imagination. I always carry out a fantasy exercise with my clients where they have to imagine their typical day in their dream job. We cover all details including what they are wearing for this job! This exercise is so important because the inability to imagine an ideal scenario can be a real block to working out the future. I was taking a client through this exercise a couple of weeks ago and we were halfway through it and she said, ‘This is where my imagination is going to fail me’. I paused the exercise, and we discussed this statement and there were underlying thought patterns ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘I won’t be able to do another job’ or ‘I don’t have the skills’. Through a belief change exercise, she developed a positive way of thinking which in turn freed up her imagination. This was such a breakthrough for her that she cried. The freedom to imagine enabled her to admit for the first time that she did know what she really wanted to do but was too afraid to admit it. Again, it’s the combination of now and the future and giving clients the space to work through any issues and then freeing up their imagination to visualise what 2021 could be like for them.
When you are working with a client and have a set amount of sessions and then they go off to fulfil their dreams, how do you make sure that they spend time looking back and reviewing their progress to make sure they keep on track and keep flourishing?
During the coaching programme, I provide a number of exercises and templates and in the last session, for example, we revisit the wellbeing scores to ensure that they have all been raised slightly or a lot and then they can use that process to enable them to revisit it again in the future and keep track of that. We also, in line with the career side of things, develop a career vision which is set out on an A4 sheet of paper setting out their ambitions, the skills they are going to be using and an action plan so again they have something else to refer to when perhaps they are thinking things aren’t going quite right again. I also make sure clients go away with a thorough action plan to enable them to meet their goal and the career aspiration we have come up with. This is also something they are able to revisit and adapt if necessary.
Is there anything else you would like to add at the moment?
At the moment, it is about being focused on short-term and long-term planning. There are two issues going on at the moment for many people who have been on furlough for many months and have perhaps now been made redundant. There is therefore an element of short-term planning to recover that loss of income and to start earning again as well as the long-term planning of meeting their career aspirations. There is definitely more of a focus on the two and trying to get the two in line with each other.
Tell me about working with Jenny
It’s been a pleasure working with Jenny. She has a fantastic sense of humour and great determination. As you mentioned earlier, she was made redundant due to the pandemic following 7 months of furlough. Together, we recognised current barriers and broke them down to help her overcome them. We worked on building structure and positivity back into her days focusing on the 5 areas of wellbeing to inspire and motivate her. It was very simple and very effective. Her determination enabled her to explore career options for the future. Her willingness to change and work with me helped her in just 4 sessions to develop a concise and inspirational career vision and plan for 2021. She has already started progressing with this and it is very exciting!
Let’s flip over the coin now and speak to Jenny. Tell us more about yourself.
Up until November I was a regional fundraising manager for Help for Heroes and worked for them for a couple of years, although 7 months of that was on furlough so I was not doing anything. Before that I worked in hospitality and events. I was head of events for the British museum and that was my last events role and I was looking to change direction and get a better work-life balance which was why I moved to Help for Heroes. As Tessa said, the sessions I have had with her have really helped me to come up with a vision with what I want to do now given fundraising and events aren’t really in demand in the middle of a pandemic so it is a really good time for me to change direction and think about what else I might want to do.
Please can you give some insight into what tools and techniques she used with you that you found helpful for you at this time in your life.
From the first conversation we had I was at a low point and I don’t think I had realised that was the case. When she took me through the five areas and looking at my wellbeing, I scored quite low in quite a few of the areas. Because I had been stuck in the limbo of furlough, I hadn’t realised that was the case. I am usually quite a positive and determined person and I ended up in a slump without realising I had got there. Finding that was the case was really helpful and spurred me on to try and take in everything I could from the coaching and make some changes. We got to the third session which was a breakthrough. I was fixed on what I had always done and not opening myself to thinking about other possibilities. We went through an exercise where I came up with what careers I could possibly want to do if there were no restrictions. We scored these against the areas of interest and things I enjoyed doing. We came up with a career that fitted every one of my goals, my skills and my interests that I really hadn’t ever considered as an option. That is the plan I am working on at the moment. Without Tessa I would never have found that.
How are you going to keep yourself moving forward and motivated?
As Tessa said, I like structure and I like planning, so we did a lot of work around how I structure my days given I am not working at the moment. I essentially do I what do at work. I write myself a to do list and structure in around my day when I am going to do it. I make sure I am hitting every goal on the action plan I have been working on so I have an action plan, that will take me through to this time next year, of things I want to do to start my own business and where I need to get to. That’s what will keep me on track.
How do you feel about 2021 now compared to how you felt about it six months ago?
Six months ago was dread for the next year of my life. I was not going anywhere or doing anything, like most of us. I really didn’t have any idea of where I wanted to get to. Working with Tessa has really helped me to structure what I want to do next. As I said, the activity around making an action plan, goal setting and a vision has really helped me understand where it is I want to get to and the path to get there. That is what I am working on at the moment. I feel really positive about 2021. I am excited about what’s in store for me, what’s ahead and what I am able to do.
‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.’ (Barack Obama)
There has been a lot of waiting during this pandemic. Waiting for lockdown to end. Waiting for the next announcement from the Government. Waiting for announcements at work.
However, it is not just the pandemic that has caused us to wait. Apparently, the average person in Britain spends almost seven years waiting around. We wait 17 months of our life for food being cooked and, this is my favourite, we wait 4 months of our life for the kettle to boil!
Waiting takes up a huge part of our lives. We are often waiting for certain things to things to happen.
I wonder how much time we spend waiting for something to happen in our careers. Perhaps waiting for an ideal job opportunity or for things to change for the better at work. We often find ourselves waiting for things to improve.
I know there are a lot of people waiting in their careers right now. Covid-19 has not been easy for anyone. Many are waiting to come off furlough or for a forthcoming redundancy. Many are waiting to pursue a career change or to tackle challenging issues in their current role.
How is all this waiting making you feel?
Since the beginning of lockdown, I have witnessed a gradual decrease in general morale, productivity, and confidence levels in individuals over the past few months. The structure of people’s days has started to deteriorate, and many are struggling to stay motivated. The challenges of ongoing restrictions and the constant wait for things to change is tough and is gradually taking its toll on many people.
Let’s help bring back some positivity into your life as we prepare for 2021. If you are struggling, it may be time to change your focus from waiting to doing.
Make some small positive changes to your life. If you are finding your days are starting to drift, set out a simple schedule for each day. If you are spending a lot of time sat at your desk at home, ensure you leave the house for some short walks. Each small positive change will make you feel better and help you look to the future.
Allow yourself the freedom to imagine what 2021 could look like for you. Imagine your ideal job and what this would be like. The inability to imagine an ideal scenario can be a real block to working out the future. Imagining the future can really help to inspire and encourage you to look at different opportunities. Recently, a client of mine had a breakthrough when describing her ideal job. She said the exercise had enabled her to admit for the first time that she did know what she really wanted to do but had been too afraid to admit it. What an amazing discovery!
Carry out both long and short-term planning. This will enable you to prepare short-term goals to prepare for any current loss of income and long-term goals to meet your career aspirations.
Give yourself time to think. Recently, a client referred to the impact of the pandemic as ‘mental overload’ and I think she is right. There has been a lot to process over the last couple of months. Spend time looking after yourself.
There are still lots of things you can change to make you feel better and able to focus on the next steps in your career. Remember, you can take some control back, this is possible.
‘Don’t confuse having a career with having a life.’ (Hilary Clinton)
Do you agree with Hilary Clinton?
Are you constantly balancing work and life?
It is unsurprising that I have never coached someone who doesn’t want to achieve a ‘work-life balance’. It is a well-known fact that a good work-life balance prevents stress and burnout, reduces anxiety, and creates healthy and happy lifestyles.
However, I am sometimes challenged by people about whether a work-life balance is possible and this has occasionally made me wonder whether these individuals are right. Perhaps it is unrealistic. Perhaps this is a term that will fade in popularity when we move on to the next ‘in’ phrase. However, whatever name we associate with it, I do believe it is possible. Over 10 years of coaching individuals who are unhappy in their career has taught me that ‘work-life balance’ does impact lives and I know that when I work with someone on improving their work-life balance, they always become happier and are able to give more thought to making their career more fulfilling.
Unfortunately, Coronavirus and the ongoing changes to our lifestyle and work arrangements has made maintaining a work-life balance tricky for many people. One minute we can see friends and relatives, the next minute we can’t. Many are now facing redundancy or were about to come off furlough, only for it to be extended again. Many went back to work, now to be told to work from home again. Plans have been made and cancelled. Keeping up with changes we have no control over can be mentally exhausting and can impact the control we have over maintaining a good work-life balance leading too stress, fatigue, and a decrease in work performance.
How is your work-life balance at the moment?
I know many people have been reassessing their lives and priorities over the last few months during the pandemic. Discarding things that previously made them stressed and bringing new elements in that make them happier. If you have managed to do this, fantastic! However, if you haven’t please don’t worry, it is not easy. I really mean that. It is not easy at the best of times, let alone when there is a pandemic and the rules keep changing. When a client said to me last week that they feel like they have lost control of their work-life balance, I knew they wouldn’t be the only person who currently felt this way.
If you feel this way, why not spend a bit of time doing a little review of your life. Simply follow these points to help you:
1. Consider the following five areas of your life and grade each area on a scale of 1 to 10 as they are for you now; 1 being poor or you are unhappy with what you are doing in this area and 10 being you are fully satisfied or you happy with this area.
Being active/health (e.g. Diet, physical activity, fitness)
(If you would like to go into more detail, work out how many hours you spend on these categories in a typical week. A typical week is approximately 98 hours, allowing for seven days each of fourteen hours.)
2. For scores below 9, spend time thinking about what you can do to improve your score in that category. Think about changes you can make to your life to increase the lowest scores. Remember, you do not need to make big changes. Focus on one category at a time and take small steps towards improving your score.
Remember, once you have started the process of restoring the balance, you will start to feel happier and have more energy to eventually raise all the scores.
Whether or not it is the correct term to use, having a ‘work-life balance’ and keeping it at the forefront of our minds is really important for developing a happy and fulfilling life and career.
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”
We are all now starting to look to the future in a post-coronavirus world. Some of you may already be putting plans in place for your careers, others may still consider it too early to make any decisions or are unsure what to do next. How do you prepare to make changes in your career in a post-coronavirus world?
I am finding that career change, flexible working and wellbeing are some of the main areas of change being reviewed by individuals at the moment as they consider the future of their working lives. These are the areas that are often considered when deciding on best-suited career paths.
According to recent research by the Adecco Group UK and Ireland, 29% of the UK’s workforce is considering a significant career change. One of the reasons being that many individuals (nearly one in five) felt they were not being treated well by their employer during the pandemic. There are also many people who, before the time of coronavirus were considering a career change, and still want to pursue this.
Working patterns have changed over the last few months allowing for more flexibility and working from home arrangements. This has prompted thoughts on how our working lives can benefit from this flexibility. Is there more scope for portfolio careers? Can our working lives work around our family and home life in a more beneficial manner?
In recent months, we have also had lots of time to think about our wellbeing. Spending more time at home has enabled us to spend time discovering what really makes us happy and feel good about ourselves. There will be changes many individuals will want to make to their lives now and in the future.
Since March, I have published a series of blogs, articles, and videos to assist you in navigating the impact coronavirus is having on the world of jobs and careers. These are all summarised below – I hope they will be helpful for you as you start to make decisions about what the future holds for your career as we emerge from the affects coronavirus has had on our lives.
My book provides a structured process to help you move forward in your career. I had had over 700 downloads over lockdown so I’m hoping it is currently helping lots of individuals with their careers!
Whatever your circumstances, this may be the right time for change no matter how big or small. If you need some assistance do have a look at my website where you can browse through lots of free career resources.
2020 has brought an unexpected change to all our lives, a change that will be with us for the foreseeable future and remember forever. The cause was the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak which, on 11th March, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
Stress, confusion, and uncertainty started to fill our lives as we faced an uncertain time of illness, loss of income, job insecurity, isolation and change to all aspects of our daily lives.
Schools, shops, restaurants and many businesses closed and working from home systems and methods of online learning were quickly put in place. Parents became teachers, individuals were furloughed, the risk of future redundancy increased for many, some experienced big pay cuts and others were categorised in the newly evolving definition of the ‘Keyworker’.
Home took on a different meaning in our lives becoming our place of work, our children’s school and our place of relaxation. We couldn’t see friends or family and relied on video calls for contact with the outside world. We couldn’t go on outings and had to create our own home entertainment.
Whatever your circumstances, we have all been affected by Covid-19 in some shape or form and are all reacting to the unpredictable disruption to our lives in our own way.
Will life go back to the normal we used to know, or have we now got to get used to the inevitable ‘new normal’ that will lead us into 2021 and beyond?
The questions now facing us are profound:
How do we develop ways to get through the hard times?
When can we start making decisions again about our future?
How will the way we spend our time and energy change?
Will there be an escalation in working from home?
What will our commutes to work look like in the future and will we reconsider long distance travel for meetings?
Is this the time to be reinventing our lives and our careers considering options such as a career change?
Will people consider portfolio careers as a safer option against aligning themselves to a single employer?
Over the next few months, I will be publishing a series of blogs to help you start piecing together the answers to these questions. I admit I do not know all the answers, if only I did! However, what I can provide is help based on my many years of experience in career, confidence and performance coaching combined with what I am currently witnessing in the world of careers. As we continue to face disruption in our personal and working lives, I hope I will be able to provide you with some consistency, calmness, and support to help reduce anxiety and stress, raise positivity and encourage aspirations, enabling you to discover ways to move forward happily and confidently into your ‘new normal’.
In the meantime, think about the best next step for you to take that will help you adapt to any concerns you currently face, focusing on the things that are in your control now as you start to gradually see and experience the world outside your home again. Start reintroducing feasible aspects of your life that you enjoyed before and can enjoy again, no matter how small. It may be a walk with a friend or trip beyond your home and surrounding area. Think of new ways to look after yourself.
Lockdown can be an opportunity for us all to reset, rethink and re-establish our lives as we emerge into the new world of careers.
How many times have you heard, read, or been told that you should use this time of lockdown or social distancing to your advantage? It is time to let your creative juices flow and create an amazing business idea or go full steam ahead with developing a career change idea that you have been mulling over for the last two years. It would make sense, wouldn’t it? Many of us suddenly have some spare time on our hands and should be using it to our advantage to create and finish projects.
So why are many of us struggling to do this? Why do many people find the days drifting? Why are all those projects you were going to get on with still waiting for completion? We are finding ourselves doing the bare minimum required to get through the day.
I was talking to someone recently about this and they mentioned the Allostatic Load. I had not heard of this so immediately researched it and, yes, it all made sense. It is all about the wear and tear on our bodies over time caused by repeated exposure to stress and we are certainly experiencing a lot of exposure to stress at the moment. The list is endless: illness, family concerns, demands of being a keyworker, home schooling, furlough, redundancy, working from home, closed businesses and financial concerns. The stress accumulates and we move into fight or flight mode. No matter what your circumstances, every day you are being exposed to some stress caused by the uncertainty of life at the moment.
In uncertain times, it is important to be kind to yourself and do whatever is needed to make you feel a little better. Your mind is having to cope with a lot of uncertainty and so it may not have the capacity to be coming up with amazing ideas for the future in your life and your career.
Instead, focus a little on the five areas of well-being. Although, these can be a challenge to fulfil at the moment given social distancing measures, it may be worth having a think about them again when you feel able and finding small ways to fulfil them:
Be active – going for walks will keep you active and give you some headspace.
Mindfulness – can you allocate a part of the day either during a walk or otherwise to notice what is going on around you? It may be simply looking up at the clouds or the stars. You may prefer to listen to music.
Learning – you may struggle to think about learning at the moment. However, learning can simply involve reading a short article, a book or talking to someone and finding out more about them.
Contribution – Could you take 5 minutes to message someone and ask how they are?
Connections – Social distancing has changed the way we currently connect with people. We are using videos which can be overwhelming. If the visual is too much, simply write a letter or message to someone. Perhaps get in touch with a friend who you haven’t spoken to for years.
It is all about little steps at the moment. Manage your expectations and give your mind and body time to process what is going on in the world around us.