What are you looking for?

You can get quite stuck when going through a career transition. Perhaps you were already feeling stuck in you current role. You knew you wanted to move on, but you didn’t know where you wanted to go. So you stayed. And felt miserable.

So now you’re stuck in this halfway point, you’re SURE you want to leave your current job. You’re halfway out the door. You’re dreaming of a better life, new challenges, a jolt of energy. But – you’re feeling paralysed. What on earth are you going to move on to do?

There are a few different things that appeal, but you’re not 100% about any of them. It’s all a bit daunting and unknown. What if the job’s great on paper but the people are terrible? And if my new boss is toxic? What if it turns out I really don’t enjoy doing x all day?

Something that can be helpful when going through a career transition is to get clear on your values. What are you looking for fundamentally, forget job titles and status. If you can get your core values clear, you use that as a sort of compass to help guide you when looking for your next role.

I listened to a podcast the other day where the host was talking about whether or not a job allowed you to you ‘learn, develop and have a positive impact’. These were her base values. If she’s hitting these three then things are looking good, this is what’s most important to her.

If she were to consider a new role she could check if it meets these three criteria. Will she be learning, will she be developing herself, will her work have a positive impact?

Some of my core values are learning, freedom, sincerity. What are yours?

If you need help with your career transition, you can contact me for some sessions at joaopoku@gmail.com or LinkedIn.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Career change advice from Michelle Obama’s Becoming

I‘m currently reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. It’s taken me several attempts to get into it but now that I’m at the point where she’s finished her studies, entered the world of work and has met Barack – I’m loving it. And I’m pleased to discover that during Michelle’s pre-politics life she went through a major career change. We learn how she felt about it and how she went about making it happen.

She starts off her working life as a hot-shot lawyer, flourishing and doing really well. But over time she begins to wonder if it’s really right for her. She realises that community work might be more her thing.

“I was feeling another twinge, a quiet nudge toward what might be a whole different future from the one I’d planned for.” – Michelle Obama, Becoming

It’s amazing to see that someone like Michelle Obama might have gone through the same issues with career and identity that I and many, many others have done too. That feeling that the path you’ve chosen isn’t actually quite right for you. Wanting to do work that feels more you. In her case, work that would directly help people rather than working in some far away office doing work for work’s sake. 

She talks about how she went about finding her next career. It’s solid career change advice; rather than seeking out the next job immediately, she tries to broaden her view of what is out there. She puts herself in front of people who might be able to help her, talking to them, taking advice, gathering information:

“The point was less to find a job than to widen my understanding of what was possible and how others had gone about it. I was realizing that the next phase of my journey would not simply unfold on its own, that my fancy academic degrees weren’t going to automatically lead me to fulfilling work.” – Michelle Obama, Becoming

She spoke to people who were out there doing interesting things and enjoying their work. She asked about opportunities, asked what a lawyer could do if they didn’t want to continue with legal work. Eventually, through meeting with acquaintances and seeking and learning from them, she is offered and accepts a job at Chicago city hall, as assistant to the mayor. 

You can take career transition inspiration from anywhere. Knowing that someone else has been through a similar situation to you is comforting and can be motivating. It’s not just you. It’s not because there’s something wrong with you or that you just aren’t cut out to work. You just haven’t found the right thing yet. 

Things change, your values change, your situation changes. And so your work needs to change. 

Take inspiration from Michelle O – start talking to people, find out what they do, who they know, ask questions. You never know where it might lead you. 

If you’d like help with career change coaching, you can book a 1-hour session here: calendly.com/joannaopokulifecoaching. Or get in touch if you’d like to learn more. Find me on LinkedIn or email at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Nicola Styles on Unsplash

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 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

How to move on with a career shift

My clients are brilliant people who are feeling stuck in their careers. They aren’t happy or comfortable where they are – the work just doesn’t click, it doesn’t feel great. It’s not fulfilling them. But they have no clue how to move on – they have dreams which seem far off, impossible. Dreams they don’t even dare take seriously. 

They have an idea where they want to be – in a job where they are thriving. And they want to be full of energy, doing the work, enjoying it, using their brains, using their skills, feeling fulfilled. They want to know that they are doing good. They want to be earning good money, and feeling valued. 

Make a plan

Where do I come in? I help them make a plan.

I help them get all their ideas out of their heads, really get them to think deeply about what it is that they want.

Forget about what they’re doing now, forgot about what other people think they should do. 

Deep down, what is going to bring them energy, excitement, contentment? What do they know they could be really good at, and enjoy? Most of us have got something. Something we think sounds so cool, that we’d love to spend all our time doing.

Once they have a clear idea of what they want, I help them make a plan. How are they going to get from the situation they are in now, to where they want to be? What are the little steps they need to take which will eventually get them there?

As with any change, it’s all about moving forward with little steps, keeping going. 

Little steps

Do they need to contact someone to ask for contact details, for advice, for information? 

Would it help to find a course to test things out, or get a qualification? 

Could they find someone who works in a company that interests them, and get some insider information on what it’s like to work there, and what the hiring situation is like? 

Perhaps they need to take the time to update their LinkedIn profile, start connecting with people and building a network of contacts, start posting so that people can get to know them? 

All of this is stuff they might think of doing themselves, but then procrastinate, leave it for another day, or avoid. We most often know what needs to be done, but because it seems scary or awkward or a lot of work, we put it off. 

I help by holding my clients to account. We break down the task, make the first step super easy and small, agree when they’ll do it by.

When we next speak, they’ll be excited to tell me that they’ve done it, what the result was, and we’ll move on to the next thing. 

It’s all quite simple, and super effective. 


Clients make great progress working with me because they’re invested in making things happen. They’ve taken the time and spent money to make sure they actually make the changes they want to. 

We break it all down so that it becomes really doable. Once clients start doing things they had previously shied away from, or avoided, they grow in confidence.

And they start seeing results, a positive response, someone taking them seriously, a new opportunity comes up. They start shifting, they start to move on from their previous work persona and move towards a new one.

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 Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash