Testing things out

Yesterday I was listening to someone talk about her experience of underwater diving. When she tried it for the first time, she was gobsmacked. She couldn’t believe what a wonderful world existed beneath the water. Then and there she decided that she wanted to return. She wanted to somehow work in this underwater world. She was willing to change her life for it. But she needed to test it out, and see if it was really for her. 

So she had an opportunity when she had a three week gap in between the tv production projects she was working on. She decided to go back to Thailand where she’d had that underwater experience, and see if she felt the same. Maybe this time she’d just think it was pretty and not have the same amazing life changing reaction. And that would be her guide. If she felt the same, she’d act on it. 

The rest is history. She went on to have a career spending years at sea, exploring the deep sea, which resulted in working on the production of the tv series Blue Planet II. 

It’s hard to test things out right now. We might not be planning a trip to Thailand to work out what we want from life, but being out and about can be key to career change, if your situation allows it. Meeting people, networking, exploring. Going to a workshop, doing an in-person course, visiting someone’s place of work or doing work experience or job shadowing. We don’t currently have the same freedom to be out and about or travelling around. 

But we can still go with our instincts. If some area of work is calling to you it’s easy to dismiss it as too hard to get into, too competitive, too expensive to retrain. But, there are different ways of going about things. 

Stuck at home, you can still build a clearer picture of what that work is all about. You can read about people currently doing that work. Articles, blogposts, social media posts, books. Also: podcasts. You can find people doing interesting work, and find out how they got there. Seek out how they spend their time. You can read about them, you can try contacting them and asking them more. Most people are quite flattered if you tell them you’re interested in their work and how they got there, and are happy to give a few pointers.

You can work out what you might need to do to get there. Maybe you do have the required transferable skills. Perhaps you can sign up to a free course which will give you some insight into that area of work, and new skills. You can work out how much money you would need to retrain, what do you need to start saving? 

The main thing is getting started, and not staying stuck. Research, and then start taking some kind of action.

Photo by Kris Mikael Krister on Unsplash

Don’t lose hope

A client who’d lost her job contacted me in February for some coaching just before the pandemic truly hit. She was in a difficult place, but hadn’t quite lost all hope.

Luckily she could leave London and go and live with her Mum, so rent wasn’t a worry. But it wasn’t ideal.

She needed to find a new job, and get on with her life. She had great aspirations, she wanted to buy her own place, and to travel.

And, she’d really lost her confidence. Her working environment before being made redundant hadn’t been great, then losing her job hit her hard.

So, we worked on building her confidence. I set her small tasks to do each week; honestly working out what her strengths are; noting when she’d acted in a confident manner, contacting strangers on LinkedIn and asking for advice on applying for the company they work for.

She was scared of being seen as annoying.

But she was determined, completed her tasks, and found that it was easier than she’d imagined.

People saw her for what she is, a lovely, capable, dedicated person.

She ended up with several job interviews – one a direct approach from LinkedIn.

And she found a new job in May!

With a company that seemed to share her values, who wants to hear her voice, and who are committed to employee wellbeing and happiness, with open conversations. Just what she needed.

None of this would have happened if she hadn’t taken action. As much as she was scared, feeling low, and lacking in self-esteem – she knew that she’d have to do some work in order to find a new job.

She took it step by step, was proactive, asked for help. And she persisted, even when it felt cringey, uncomfortable, risky. She didn’t’ lose hope, and it paid off.

If you’d like to try coaching with me, read more and contact me via LinkedIn, or send me an email at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Peter Boccia on Unsplash

When did boxing yourself in ever help?

I’ve been listening to an audio series on career change coaching. It’s got me thinking about how important it is to follow your own path and forget about what you think you should be doing.

It’s easy to dismiss your dreams. We’re really good at talking ourselves out of what we want in an attempt to protect ourselves from rejection or failure. We tell ourselves that success is only possible if we win the lottery, or if we were younger, more qualified, cleverer. 

Boxes

A friend was recently talking to me about how we fit ourselves into boxes. It ‘helps’ to guide us in what we can and can’t do.

I’ve never done this, I’ve never been the type of person to do that.

I’m always single, I’m always indecisive, I’m not adventurous.

The thing is, there are no boxes. It’s a construct. We dream these boxes up. Based on society, on stories we’ve been told and tell ourselves. Using examples out there in the media and in films and books about how things should be.

We think we know what we should be doing, how we should be living. We follow a similar path to our friends, family, society in general. A successful life is a job where you earn x amount of money, your home life looks like this, your relationships look like this.

It takes courage to think – screw that, it’s not for me. This is what I want MY career to look like. This is what a successful relationship looks like, to me. 

It takes courage to do an about-turn. 

It takes courage to be confident in what you want, to forget about what other people might think of it or what other people think is ‘normal’. And to go for it. 

Big changes

There’s a lot of talk right now about people making big changes in their lives, brought on by the craziness of the pandemic. People realising what’s most important to them. Realising that they really don’t want to go back to how they were working. Realising that they can no longer bear where they are living or who they are living with.

Sometimes it’s a big shake up that gets the momentum going.

Maybe now is the perfect time to start thinking about what you really want from life. To be honest with yourself. And to start making a plan. It’s true – with the uncertainty bought on by the pandemic, it’s seems like a difficult time to make any changes, to physically get out there and do stuff. To take any risks.

But, I like the softly softly approach. Start talking small steps, regularly. It doesn’t have to be a big jump. Find out about someone else’s career. Speak to a career coach. Sign up for an online course.

You can make a plan, full of teeny tiny achievable steps – and get going.

If you’ d like to try a career change coaching session with me, contact me on LinkedIn, or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com

Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.

Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

Get obsessed with getting inspired

Let’s talk about Inspiration

I’ve just signed up for a new monthly newsletter, full of career inspiration. It promises to enlighten its readers about different career options and unexpected careers, and feature people who’ve started their own businesses. I’m SO excited to read it and for others to discover it too. Because it’s exactly the kind of thing you need when you’re feeling stuck and uninspired in your job and generally a bit meh.

You need ideas, inspiration, something to add a bit of oomph to your day. What cool, interesting, fulfilling jobs and careers are actually out there? Things you’ve never heard of or thought of. Things you didn’t know existed as a career.

Boring

When I wanted to leave my job in magazine sales I joined a few recruitment companies. Of course they just sent me job specs for jobs EXACTLY like the one I was desperate to get away from. And probably even less interesting.

It was so disheartening. I was so desperate for a change, but what they offered me didn’t appeal in the slightest.

It felt like my only option was to move into something that looked pretty much the same, maybe with a higher salary. How depressing. A higher salary is great, but it doesn’t make up for a not so happy day-to-day.

What I didn’t know is that there were a whole world of other jobs out there that I could do. I didn’t realise how many options I had. I was stuck, with blinkers on. 

Delight in other people’s stories

The reason the idea of this email delights me so is because when I started out on my career change journey, what kept me going was hearing stories of other people’s career changes; learning about their lifestyle and work. In short, I was looking for inspiration.

The more I read the more I realised just how many people go through the same thing, a career transition. And also how many people manage to make a change for the better. 

These people left a job they didn’t thrive in, and found something that suited them way better.  A job that played to their strengths, that suited their personality, that sat better with their values. That fit in with how they wanted to live their lives. 

I read the weekly Careershifters newsletter, which each week features  a real career change story. (Read my interview here).

I found huge inspiration in This Year Will Be Different by Monika Kanokova. It features interviews with women travelling around the world or living in different countries, working freelance or setting up their own small businesses.

And many more books, articles and blogposts.

Working out what you want

And it all little by little changed my perspective. I started to shift from feeling stuck and unfulfilled and frustrated, to feeling inspired and excited. I realised there’s so much cool stuff out there to do! And that I could decide how I wanted to live my life, and try to find something to suit that.

For example I liked the idea of being able to work from home from time to time. Of not be in a big noisy open plan office where I couldn’t hear myself think. Where I had to talk on the phone in front of people, one of my pet hates. 

I wanted…

  • To work for a smaller, more intimate company. 
  • I dreamed of doing my own thing, have my own business, with my own clients. 
  • To be able to travel from time to time, and speak other languages was important to me.
  • I also wanted to feel like I was doing work that mattered, work that would have a positive effect. 

Once you start to take ideas and inspiration from others and put a bit of proper thought into it, you start to form a sort of blueprint for what you want.  And that acts as a guide. That helps you sort out what to say no to and what to explore.

Rather than flailing around screaming I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANT TO DO WITH MY LIFE you’ve got few role models, a few examples of what might be a cool job and lifestyle. 

Role models (who I got obsessed with)

I had a few…

  • A Brazilian girl who had planned for the next year to spend 3 months at a time living in 4 different cities, working as a freelance translator. Working in cafes, cowork spaces, meeting new people, speaking different languages. 
  • A lady who’d packed up a financial career to set up  a wellbeing retreat in the Dorset countryside.
  • A friend of a friend who’d given up a career in book publishing to live in Ibiza. She went on to edit holiday guides as a freelancer.
  • My friend Vix, who was living in Barcelona working freelance and remotely as a translation project manager, who spends time every other month or so working and having fun in Menorca.

My inspirations were all leading me to a job where I could work remotely, maybe in another country, maybe for myself, and have a bit more freedom in my day to day. 

Result?

And that’s where I’ve ended up. Living in Valencia, working as a career change coach on the side of a day job, where I work remotely for an online education company. 

It took me a long time to work out what I wanted. But it was such a great experience peeling back the layers and eventually uncovering work that interested me. And I doubt I’d have managed it without all the amazing inspirational stories that changed my perspective and boosted my motivation.

So search out things that make your heart sing, that excite you. Find case studies of people who have changed career or who have jobs that sound interesting. (I love Stylist magazine’s Work/Life column for this).

Try and pick out the bits that appeal – is it their working environment, the actual work they are doing, the freedom they have? This will help you to work out what you want, I promise. It will plant little seeds in your brain that will influence your next steps.

If you’d like to have coaching sessions with me, find me here on LinkedIn, or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash


Failure – or just a pivot?

I was inspired the other day listening to the author Bernadine Evaristo chatting on the podcast How to Fail with Elizabeth Day. She’s led such an interesting, inspiring life. Her attitude is that a failure isn’t really a failure, as each one teaches you something and moves you forwards. 

It got me to thinking about failures I’ve had, and what I’ve taken from them. Is there really something to learn from every single one of them?

Two failures that spring to mind which definitely changed my trajectory were failing a business French module at university, and the failure to get a diploma in translation many years after having left university. 

Failed at…Business French

I failed business French because I DID NOT HAVE A CLUE what it was all about. The lectures passed by in a blur of boredom. This was the final term of my second year of studies, and my French wasn’t far past A-level.

I was always pretty good at French at school, but not great. I’d never studied anything to do with business, so even if I had understood a word the lecturers were saying, it would have gone totally over my head. 

No surprises then that I have vague recollection of seeing the exam paper and just thinking ‘what the…’. I’ve always been good in exam situations, one of those people that quite enjoys them. But I’d never experienced anything like this. Zero comprehension. So the end result was a big fat fail. 

Which meant that in my fourth and final year of studies, having spent the third year living in France and (ahem) perfecting my French, I had to add on an extra module to make up for this failure. Thanks second year me.

But actually, yes, thanks second year me. Because one of the options I had was to learn a new language, completing a beginners course. I chose Spanish – a language lots of girls at my school had chosen over German because it was considered ‘easy’ – I’d chosen German probably because that’s what my older sister had studied and I mainly copied her.

I figured Spanish would be a nice easy option, the fact that I spoke French and Italian would surely help. And I was right. It was super easy. All I really remember taking from that one module was being able to say ‘in the morning I get up at 9 o’clock. I passed with flying colours. Who needs business French when you can learn beginner’s Spanish?

So failure number 1 = a success. It resulted in a decent degree and (basic) knowledge of a brand new language. 

Failed at…Diploma in Translation

Fast forward around 5 years. I had spent two years after university living in Paris, finally perfecting that French…then returned to London, working for an international magazine company. 

At first I’d enjoyed my job, but after a while felt something was missing. I’d always thought working as a translator would be a fantastic job, so I decided to do a diploma in French to English translation. Maybe it would result in a career move, if nothing else I’d get to study more of my beloved French and get really, really good. 

Once a week I’d attend a 2-hour class after work – submitting translations on all sorts of topics and then going through them together. It was brutal – ‘good enough’ didn’t really cut it. You had to really really understand the French to convey the meaning correctly, and sometimes it just seemed impossible. 

However, I was confident. I enjoyed the classes and thought that working hard might be enough. The course leader warned us that the exam was extremely tough, that the pass rate was minuscule (30% maybe?), and gave us the pricing for retaking it a year later. 

Well – no big surprise, I failed. It was disappointing, there’s always the hope you’ll be one of the lucky ones. But, I’d always known failure was likely, and therefore considered retaking in a year’s time. 

I remember speaking to my parents about it, about the expense and whether or not it was worth it. And my Dad said to me, ‘what about concentrating on learning another language instead, what about your Spanish?’

Reader, my Dad’s a clever man. 

Funnily enough, this all tied in with the break-up of a short-lived relationship with an illustrator I quite liked, who boasted that he’d learned Spanish at a local adult education centre for free, and that he could rap Do The Bartman in Spanish. I’d always been jealous, not of the rap, but of the fact he’d learned enough Spanish to impress someone with.

And I’ve always thought the best thing to do after a break-up is to throw yourself into making yourself even more fabulous, that’ll show him (even if you know you’ll never see him again).

So the thought of improving my Spanish, in maybe getting really good, as good as my French, was a very appealing idea. And I’m a bit of a swot, I love studying. Nothing much makes me happier than going to an adult education class. 

Didn’t fail…GCSE Spanish

So I signed up for a course in GCSE Spanish at an adult education centre in Holborn. I loved it. The first lesson I wondered what the hell I was doing. Our lovely teacher was Venezuelan with a strong accent, and I don’t think I understood one thing she said. From all the nervous tittering from my classmates, I knew we were in the same boat. 

Over time we started to understand her, and improve. By the end of the course not only had I had a fling with a bad boy French dude, but I’d got an A* in GCSE Spanish.

So there we go, two failures, which resulted in me obtaining a GCSE in Spanish, and very mediocre fluency. Is this really a success story, you might well ask? 

Well – fast forward maybe 10 more years, and here I am living in Valencia. I finally left the magazine company, did some translation work on the side anyway (take that, failed diploma). I got a new job working remotely, started up a coaching business, and moved to Valencia. I’d always wanted to live abroad again after Paris, and something magical drew me to Valencia. My Spanish is in no way perfect, but it’s getting pretty fluent.

Failing a business French module and a diploma in translation are of course, small pieces in a bigger overall puzzle of how things have turned out. But no doubt, the opportunity to learn Spanish played a part in shaping my decisions and future. And that’s something I’m grateful for.

If you’d like to try a coaching session with me, send me a message on LinkedIn or at joaopoku@gmail.com for more info and details.

Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash