Listen up

Image of a wooden duck sculpture with a green background.
Photo by Olga Serjantu on Unsplash

I recently heard relationship expert Esther Perel talk about communicating. She said that the key to great communication is being able to listen. It’s not about getting your point across, making yourself understood. It’s listening. Really hearing what the other person is saying, or trying to tell you.

Something you might not know about coaches? We’re really great listeners.

Coaching isn’t about telling someone what to do, churning out advice, sharing our great wisdom. We may make the odd suggestion, tell an anecdote, share some insight.

But a coach’s primary job is to listen to their client.

This is key to coaching.

What is, and isn’t being said.

Listen, pick up on tone, words, body language. Pick up on hesitations, stumbling, facial expressions. Notice what’s being skirted around, what isn’t being said or tackled. Spot fiddling, hand wringing, scratching of the head. Averting of eyes. Or someone lighting up.

A coach’s job is to listen to what the other person is or isn’t saying, and then to probe deeper. To ask good questions. To get to the bare bones of what a person is thinking or feeling or wants.

What a coach is aiming to do is get the client to come up with answers for themselves on what to do next. It’s providing them with a space in which to be honest. It’s giving them the time to really think hard about what they want. Pushing them to come up with a step they need to take, which is going to move them forwards. Out of feeling stuck, and into feeling great about taking action.

It’s kind of like holding their hand and giving them a nudge in the back at the same time. You won’t get away with just sitting there talking. With the coach’s help, you’ll also be making a plan, and taking action.

Change perspective.

Coaching is all about helping someone to do the things they need to do, to get them to where they want to be.

My first visit to a coach, helped me break out of this little bubble I’d been sitting in, telling myself that the only options for me where a similar job in a similar company. Which is not what I wanted. In that first session, I started to realise there were opportunities out there that I didn’t know existed.

My coach listened to me, then asked me if I’d considered X, Y, Z. It was so simple. But for someone to suggest I could do something different, based on what interested me, was mind blowing. It was a like a switch went off in my brain. She challenged the story I’d been telling myself, that I was stuck, and that there was nothing interesting out there for me.

She simply listened, and asked questions. Good questions. She guided me into discovering new possibilities for myself. I felt heard, understood, validated. And motivated.

If you’d like some 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.

It’s a plan! Why planning is so important in career change.

I’m a planner. I’m always thinking ahead, working out what needs to be done, how things will fit in, what steps are needed.

I was going to write that I love planning, but I’m not 100% sure that’s correct. Sometimes I find it quite stressful: planning trips, meals for other people, weekend plans – when it involves other people it’s not always so easy. 

But MY plans, just for me, I love. Planning something I want to do, enjoy or achieve. I love writing a big old list of all the things I need to do, then ticking them off, one by one. 

Coaching

Being a planner comes into my coaching – I love encouraging other people to make a plan too. 

I’m aware that when we try to hold too much stuff in our heads we rarely get anything done, we just end up thinking and procrastinating and finding excuses.

But getting things down on paper, ordered, with timings – that’s when things fall into place. Because now you’ve got a plan. 

When coaching clients work with me we create a solid plan for their career change. We go through an initial brainstorm and uncover what the client really wants (quite often hidden behind fears). Then it all comes down to planning, and then taking action. 

Simple.

By the end of their time working with me my clients have clearly mapped out what they need to do. They’ll have already started taking steps towards change too. 

New job, new home, new life

Take my client Sarah, who was based in London. She planned to:

  • Contact her current work and ask to cut down her hours and work remotely.
  • Apply for jobs teaching English part-time in Paris.
  • Find somewhere to live in Paris.
  • Sort out the admin involved in moving to France.

This might all sound massive and overwhelming. But Sarah was 100% sure this was what she wanted, and that it was feasible. 

She was desperate to live in Paris, it was a massive life goal. In her heart she wanted to work with young people and education. If she could work remotely in her current job, she could take it to Paris and carry on enjoying the stable income, whilst exploring other avenues.

Super focused

We broke down each big step into even smaller steps. It would take some work and effort – but it was doable. 

Suddenly, rather than dreaming and procrastinating and hating her current situation, Sarah was clear on what she had to do. She became highly focused and proactive. It was easier to bat away the feelings of resistance, because her goal felt real and achievable.

Things started to ‘fall into place’, because she was making it happen. She had her plan, and she was acting on it.

She’s now doing exactly what she’d dreamed of, in Paris. She made it all happen.

If you need helping making a plan, and you’d like to try coaching with me, send me a message for more details. Connect with me on LinkedIn to find out more, or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

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

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

What to do when your dream career seems inaccessible

Clients who are stuck in their careers will often be adamant that they don’t know what they want to do with their life.

They’re scared to voice their dreams. I have no idea. I’m lost. Nothing interests me. I’ve had such bad luck, such bad experiences. Nothing appeals. More times than not they do have a secret fantasy dream career, but it seems inaccessible to them.

They know for sure that they are not happy where they are, in their current situation. But they’re scared to delve much deeper than that.

And then, as I keep unpeeling the layers, there’s always a throwaway remark along the lines of, “well I’ve always been obsessed with fashion, but…”.

Or, “my absolute dream would be to work with children who’ve been kicked out of school but….

Or, “ideally I’d love to go back to Australia and work on a retreat where people go to recuperate but…”.

An inaccessible dream

They tell themselves that their dream is unrealistic, that it will be a struggle to get there. It’s out of their reach.

They decide that for now they just need to find a job that’s ok…then if they work hard enough somehow they might get to the dream place. They feel that they’d need to earn it. To have more experience, more luck, better skills. In fact, to have a totally different life.

And they tend to think that such jobs are for other people, not them. 

The fact that they see other people out there doing the job isn’t enough to encourage them to go for it. They see it as a deterrent – these people must be so skilled and so talented and must have a zillion skills that they don’t have. 

Break it down to make it achievable

The reality is that this job probably isn’t perfect and probably won’t satisfy every desire they might have. But, if on the whole it fits in with their values, suits their way of working, and makes good use of their skills, then that’s pretty great.

If they can break it down in this way, they can start to see it as something which is achievable. 

How can they gain any missing skills? Do they need to retrain, and accept that they may need to save up for it, and it may take time? How can they start to get a bit of experience in the area? Would trying out a similar role be possible? Job shadowing? Can they speak to a few people doing a similar role and find out a bit more about their reality? 

Maybe they can pull it down a little from this pedestal in the sky, and build a more 3D picture. What’s actually stopping them? Is there something concrete they can work on, or do they need to face some invisible obstacles usually known as fear, lack of confidence, procrastination?

Making it a reality

I had a client who dreamed of living in Paris, working with underprivileged kids, of being able to work flexibly and sometimes from home. When we started talking she was working 9-5 in an office in London. Now, she’s living her dream. And it’s not perfect. But it’s way more in line with what she wanted from her life.

Another client dreamed of working as an entrepreneur, writing, consulting. He was working for a very traditional institution. Now, he has his own travel consultancy website and writes a blog on business innovation. 

They both started off feeling that their dream career seemed inaccessible. Then by progressing along step-by-step they started to see that if you pinpoint what you want, and explore along the way – talking to this person, applying for that, discovering something else – gradually you can reach a place you’ve only dreamed of.

If you’d like to work with me on some coaching sessions, find me on LinkedIn and send me a message, or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

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

Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

Building confidence: career change success story

I had a client recently who was really struggling. She’d been made redundant and was grieving the death of a family member. She had clashed with an unsympathetic, difficult manager in her previous job, and had totally lost her confidence. We agreed that she needed help with building her confidence and some gentle pushing in the right direction.

My client knew she had a lot of experience and that she was good at her work. But she felt easily intimidated and was scared to use her voice. She felt frustrated because she saw that this was happening but didn’t know how to deal with it. 

A disconnect between what she wanted, and what she was doing.

When she first started talking to me my client was in the process of searching and applying for jobs. But she found herself going for positions that were below her experience level and salary requirements. She was too intimidated to go for more senior positions. She didn’t feel confident enough. Deep down she wanted to maybe branch out into a different sector, earn more money, live more comfortably, but her wishes and her actions weren’t tallying.

Confidence building.

We worked together on some confidence building activities. We started by listing her abilities and skills, such as communication and presentation skills. Next, we assessed her use of them. Then, I got her to step back and actually look at the reality. Was she indeed ‘mediocre’ or ‘not very good’ at something? Or, was it that she didn’t have the motivation, satisfaction or support in that environment? Could it be that she was being too harsh on herself, and was way more capable than she was giving herself credit for?

Another task to help build her confidence was to start contacting people in companies she’d like to work for, to ask for advice. Find out if they knew of any job opportunities, or if they could advise her on the application process, anything that felt appropriate. She used LinkedIn for this, finding people within her network who seemed approachable, to ask for help.

Turnaround.

At first she was quite hesitant, she wasn’t used to ‘putting herself out there’ and felt that people would see her as a nuisance. She was very concerned with bothering people. My response to this was – most people like to help, and the worst someone would probably do is ignore your request. What’s there to lose? 

Thanks to her willingness to get out of her comfort zone and be brave, she went for it, and asked people for tips. She ended up getting a job interview with a company she had previously set her sights on. Even better, she was then offered an interview with another company which was even more appealing, and she accepted a job offer.

Ready for change.

My client was so ready for a change, and so determined, that she turned things around. She felt vulnerable, worried and unconfident. But she knew that she had to be proactive and that she couldn’t wait for a new job to appear. She had to make it happen. 

Not long ago I saw that my client had posted a very open, vulnerable blogpost on social media, sharing her experience. A post that would likely help a lot of people struggling in the same way. Something my client would never in a million years have thought of doing when we first spoke. A sure sign her confidence has grown.

If you need help with planning your career change, sign up for a session with me here on LinkedIn. Or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

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

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

Trouble Networking?

What do you do when you know you need to get out there – networking, contacting people, asking for help, meeting people – but you’re too scared? It can be a real issue when you’re trying to change career but are overwhelmed at the thought of all the people you’re going to have to contact.

Case study

I had a client who struggled with networking, Andrea. She didn’t have loads of friends, she found socialising tricky, and her confidence was low. She was well aware that her mindset could be quite negative.

Andrea’s dream was to work for a start-up, and write articles about entrepreneurship on the side. The thought of having to get in touch with people who she knew could help with her career change, was crippling her.

She’d have to apply for jobs. She could try to speak to people in the start-up industry who could give her some pointers or advise her about opportunities, maybe ask them for a phone chat or to meet for a coffee. In terms of the articles, she needed people to interview. She would have to make the first move in getting them involved.

Building up to it

Andrea knew that being more comfortable contacting people would be a massive step for her. It was important to her being able to move forwards.

So together we agreed that building up to networking was going to be challenging. But it would help both in progressing career wise and in building her confidence.

Breaking it down

But Andrea had lots of excuses! There was always a reason why she couldn’t do something, always a barrier. So we broke it down. What would doing each task actually look like, how could she prepare? Could she prepare questions, set a time limit on how long the call or coffee would be? Maybe it would help to create a list of contacts and tick them off one by one? We had a think about what was the worst that would happen, was it someone saying ‘no’? Could she cope with that?

Once we’d broken things down into small, easy steps, and prepared for the worst case scenario, Andrea felt calmer about networking. Slowly she followed the steps we’d set out, and things became easier for her. She realised how great it felt having a positive interaction, and saw that people responded well to her.

Do it your way

Andrea is coming on in leaps and bounds. She goes for things and doesn’t feel the same fear around contacting people for help. She made it into the start- up world by starting her own online travel advisory company on the side of her day-to-day job. She’s also completed various courses including and incubator training programme to learn more about the industry she’s interested in.

Networking doesn’t have to be roaming around ‘events’ desperately finding people to talk to. It can be about focusing on what you need, slowly and quietly doing things in your own way. And getting the results you need.

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

Photo by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash