Career Coaching

Helen Sanders provides coaching and advice to people considering career changes. We asked Helen to share some of her tips and experiences.

Tell us a little about your work in career coaching and what you most enjoy about this.....

Photo courtsey of Eric Rolph at English WikipediaI enjoy talking to people about finding just the right job for them. Most people spend more time in their job than they do at home so it is really important to do so something that is right for you. I initially started off working in recruitment and I met so many people who were at a crossroads in their career and were working out what to do next. You know when you meet someone and you can tell they are not happy in their work and you know there is something else inside them that they are waiting to discover? Often, it just takes someone else to help them to find a route through to that.

Sometimes, it is easier for someone else to spot the signals and that's where coaching can help.

Could you share an example?

I worked with one man who was in his late 20s. He had graduated really well and gone to work for a bank in London. His job was in IT and he told me that he wanted to get out completely. We worked at his CV, interview practice, how he could make the career move, etcetera, and during this process he looked at lots of options. He actually ended up staying in IT in banking - as he realised it wasn't the banking world he wanted to leave, but rather the specific bank he worked for. It would have been such a shame if he had given it all up. That's about 8 years ago now and he is now still working for a different bank as their Head of IT. It's not always about coaching someone out of what they are doing. Sometimes, it is about coaxing out of them some information about the bits they like and don't like.

Now he is doing really well and he is really happy and loving his life.

What are your top tips for someone who is interested in changing their career?

The main question to ask yourself is, "What is your 'Why'"? I was working with someone who was working as a social worker and told me she just wasn't happy. She told me she loved doing arts and crafts work with children and that was an area of work she was considering.

I asked her about why she was doing her current job and this helped to challenge her assumptions. A lot of times it is not about the money for someone - it is about feeling important and feeling you are making a difference. The social worker example is an illustration of this - she loved the arts side of things and was so creative. She had got to that crossroads in her career and was bold enough to make the change.  She kept asking herself the why question and it helped her to identify what she really wanted to do.

If you're not happy at work, ask yourself why this is. Is it the environment or is it your boss? Is it the person you sit next to? Is it the money? Interestingly, money often comes a long way down people's lists once you start to examine the why.

I often ask someone to look at their ideal job. I'll ask them what they would do if they could wave a magic wand.  When I asked the social worker, she told me she imagined herself providing arts classes for home education or for special needs. When I asked her what the job would look like, her voice changed and she could describe it vividly. It clearly made her happier to chat about this than her life as a social worker.

If you are considering a change, write down what your ideal day looks like. When she considered hers it was totally different to what she was currently doing.

It's important to stand back sometimes and think about what you offer and the value of your skills. We don't often take time to do this. In my role, it is about listening to someone describing their passion and helping them to see what they have to offer, and then helping them to see that it could be a viable option for them.

What would you say to someone who wanted to make a career change but felt they lacked confidence to do so?

Everyone is different. Some people need to take things very slowly. Other people need to act right now. Do what is right for you.  Take a step back if you need to and focus on the positives that you want to achieve.  Take the pressure off yourself and look at small steps that are achievable. Set yourself some goals that work for you. Imagine it was someone else asking you for advice and think about what you would advise them.

How would you recommend that someone goes about finding out if a prospective career move is right for them?

Look at your immediate circle - your friends, neighbours and your family. Ask yourself who you know who is doing what you want to do. If they are already doing the job you want to do they will know about the best entry routes. If you don't know anyone in your circle of influence who works in the area you are interested in, ask your circle about who they know. Always ask for help - people like to help but we're not very good at asking for it. It is about connecting people together and widening your circle.

Outside of that, take a look at the LinkedIn website too.  Look at your connections on LinkedIn and see who they might be able to put you in touch with.

Photo Courtesy of Helen SandersHow do you think someone can make the most of the career they currently have?

Firstly, decide that you want to make the most out of it. Make a conscious decision about it and think about where you want to get to. Lots of people don't have a 5 year plan or 1 year plan or even a plan for next week! Don't worry about your 5 year plan. Just think about the area you might want   to move into, improve your current job or opportunities, or how you can do more of what makes you happy. Think about who you can you speak to.

Talk to your manager and if there is anything you can do to help you in your career. This will pay dividends in the long run. If you want to nurture your career, say yes to everything. This will create a positive impression and will give you the chance to try new things, meet new people and have new conversations.

Whose career do you most admire and why?

I actually really admire Gary Lineker. I like the fact that he was a very good footballer and then managed to change his career and make a real success of that too. He was thrown in at the deep end at the BBC as a presenter and he wasn't good at first. He could easily have stopped and given up at that point - lots of footballers do.

Instead, he took every single tip and hint from everyone. He did his homework and he is now one of the best football presenters around. He is as good as any other seasoned TV presenter. To be at the top of your game in two very different careers is brilliant. He demonstrated tenacity and patience and stuck close to his values.

That values element is so important. I'd lost touch with my own why aspect a few months ago. When I came back to look at it, I realised everything I cared about was at the opposite end of the spectrum to what I was currently doing so I had to sort that.

I am now much happier. Everything I am doing now is clearly connected to why I'm doing it.  

Never forget the value of that one question!

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