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

It’s ok to want something different

Your confidence can be really knocked if you work for a manager or a team that just don’t quite click with you. You start to question yourself. Why don’t you want to laugh along with them, why don’t you want to hang out with them at lunchtime? Why do you not get their in-jokes, why don’t you want to spend time with them out of work? Why do you want something different?

I worked for a boss who had a very different view to me on how to work and what are acceptable working hours. She thought it was perfectly reasonable to work all hours, and even to take your work on holiday. 

One time she had a big birthday that she celebrated with her sister abroad and they’d gone out to do something special, a boat trip down a river. In the middle of it all she took a call about some big deal she’d been working on and won.

The last thing I’d want to do on my birthday or when I’m on holiday is check work emails or take calls or think about work! Fair enough it was a big deal. But it just reminded me how little I was invested in the work, and how different our values seemed.

Square peg in a round hole

Another time I went for a drink with a couple of colleagues. They started talking about and comparing their Rolexes. I remember wondering what on earth I was doing there with them. What we found interesting, and important, seemed so different. 

It’s easy to feel like you’re the one that doesn’t fit in, you’re the square peg in the round hole. 

When working for this company, for my lunch break I’d always rush off at 1pm on the dot. I’d head to the nearest bookshop or walk around, then eat my lunch at my desk. I didn’t really want to interact that much. I didn’t want to go to lunch with colleagues or stroll around the shops together.

Now, I realise I’m a bit of an introvert. So looking back, working in a busy, open plan office with phones constantly ringing, I needed time to be on my own, to recalibrate, breathe, think, digest. 

But I felt like a bit of a weirdo, always sneaking off on my own. In my memory, I pretty much sprinted to the door every lunchtime! I was desperate to move, to get out, to feel free.

The same with after work drinks. The last thing I wanted was to hang out more with the people I’d spent all day with, as nice as most of them were (and some of them were friends). The thought of carrying on, drinking warm wine in some so-so bar, making small talk, it wasn’t for me. I didn’t have the energy.

Something different

So when I left that job and searched out a new one, I was looking for something different. This meant looking for like-minded people who had a similar outlook to me. Finding work that meant something to me. I didn’t want to be working in a big, busy, open-plan office. Where you felt judged if you weren’t at your desk at 9am, if you left on the dot at 5pm and didn’t stay late, and if you took your lunch break at any time other than between 1pm and 2pm. 

I wanted freedom and meaning.

I ended up working for a company where we all work remotely. We’re doing good work, helping children struggling with their reading. I’m genuinely interested in what my colleagues have to say about all sorts.

I still work 9-5 but I take my lunch when I want to. I go for a walk round the block or have a break when I want to. There’s no judgement when we all say a virtual bye at 5pm. I work from home or I work from a coworking space. Or when I’m back visiting my parents, from their study. It can change depending on my mood or energy levels, or what I’ve got to get done.

I can be around people when I want to, be on my own when I want to, and just get my head down and do the work. Then I’ll coach for a couple of hours after work, or first thing in the morning before work. I’ve found a way of working that suits me much better.

What do you want to change?

If what you’ve just read resonates, have a think about what your ideal working environment would be. What works for you? What would you change if you could? 

Currently, during the covid pandemic, a lot of us have time to gain perspective on our work situation, and see more clearly what is or isn’t working. Many people are trying out working remotely, from home. And some are realising that it suits them really well, they are far more productive and love not having to commute. They have more time to spend with family. 

Perhaps they are realising that this way of working (ideally without a backdrop of fear, uncertainty and doom) is something they’d like to pursue. Or at least, have the option to do so a few times a week.

Others are realising that there could be something more fulfilling out there, something that lights them up, something they’d be proud to be working on. Something different.

This could be a good opportunity to really explore – journal, read, start to build a more precise picture of what you want.

It’s definitely a time of change, in so many ways. Hopefully a large part can be really positive, including relooking at how we are working and what we want from life, and making changes accordingly.

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 Emily Morter on Unsplash

Impress yourself with how slow you can be

This week I was introduced to a poem. It was a reminder to slow down, and it felt like a massive hug:

In the bleak and uncertainty, in the mundane and in the worry, in the misplacing of days and the miscommunication of rules, in the pasta for breakfast and in the cereal for tea, be soft and be gentle, let yourself impress yourself with how slow you can be. – Charly Cox

I love any excuse to be reminded to just sit quietly, read, have a cup of tea. Do things slowly. Isn’t it amazing that we need a reminder?

And even more important perhaps, a reminder to be gentle with ourselves.

How often do we actually do what’s best for us rather than what we think we should be doing? Do we ever listen to our intuition? 

Show mercy

Coincidentally the same morning I listened to an interview with the writer Elizabeth Gilbert. Her message was pretty similar, that you have to be able to be nice to yourself before you’re able to have compassion for the rest of the world. Show yourself mercy. We’re so relentless and merciless on ourselves. We beat ourselves up.

And we should listen to our intuition. As she points out, your body knows what you need, but we’ve got used to listening to our rational minds over our bodies. We think we should do this, we tell ourselves we have to do that, so we do it. Then we maybe regret it, because we weren’t listening to what we truly needed. 

I think it’s something we could all practice more. It’s not always easy. But maybe we can just aim to sneak a bit of intuitive thinking in?

Sometimes it’s as simple as listening to our bodies and having a rest when we’re tired. An actual rest, not just scrolling through whatever online for a hit. A real ‘I need to lie down and close my eyes for a moment’ proper rest.

I did this the other evening. When I finished work my eyes were tired from staring at a screen all day. What I really wanted was to just lie down and close my eyes for a bit. Which I did, and nearly fell asleep.

Then I felt I had the energy to lie on the sofa and watch a bit of tv. Which I did and it felt so good, with not a scrap of guilt that I could be doing something more productive. I felt refreshed afterwards and took myself off to start cooking.

So simple, so obvious, but so often we push ourselves to do the more ‘noble’ thing, the more sensible thing, the more productive thing. But, particularly during this period of the pandemic, I do think the best thing we can do for ourselves is be kind, be gentle, be slow.

If you’d like to have a life coaching session with me, sign up here on LinkedIn. Or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

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

Photo by Alexandre Chambon on Unsplash

An ode to podcasts

Boy have I missed listening to podcasts.

For a long, long time now I’ve been obsessed with listening to podcasts while walking along. Any trip outside, any excuse, in go the headphones and off I go.

I haven’t been able to do it recently due to the lockdown, and I’ve felt it. I’ll sometimes listen whilst cooking or getting ready for bed, but prime podcast listening time is when pounding the streets. Listening to podcasts at home just isn’t the same – you can’t get into the flow in the same way.

We’ve been living under a strict lockdown here in Spain. But, as from the past weekend, we’re now allowed out for walks and exercise during specific hours. Finally, finally, I can delve into the pile of podcast episodes I’ve had clogging up my phone.

And I realise just how much I’ve missed the simple activity of walking along wherever I want, for however long, listening to a podcast.

Mood booster

It is such a simple, free, absolute joy. It makes me feel so good. I’m entertained, moved, informed, inspired. I walk along chuckling to myself, making a mental note to look something up when I get back home. Or I feel inspired, having discovered something about the world or about myself, my response and feelings.

I pick episodes depending on my mood – do I want light and funny? Something informative about health and lifestyle? Do I want to submerge myself into something deep and moving?

It’s such an important part of my routine. Something magical happens as I start walking and listening.  I feel better physically and mentally.

And actually, I think it’s the mental part that I notice the most. There’s something about twinning movement with the listening experience. I guess it’s the same as dancing to music, feeling the beat. I feel lighter, happier. My mood lifts with every step.

This pandemic is likely to teach as all a thing or two, some deep dark truths, some lighter realisations. One thing it’s done is allow me to rediscover a great joy, and a very literal feeling of freedom.

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

Photo by Malte Wingen on Unsplash