Holding yourself back

My client needed to find a new job as she had been made redundant. But she had lost her confidence. It was really holding her back. In her previous job she felt she couldn’t make her own decisions or act autonomously. And she didn’t know how to be more assertive. She’d got into the habit of falling back, staying quiet.

So she was hesitant about applying for new jobs. Although she had a good idea want she wanted to move on to, she didn’t know if she’d be able to sell herself. And she was scared of ending up in the same situation, with an overbearing manager, micro-managing her every move and criticising her.

This resulted in her going for jobs which didn’t match up to her level of experience or pay expectations. She felt that staying small would make things easier for her. But then she felt huge frustration. She knew she was better than this, that she could go for roles that were bigger and better, where she could showcase her skills and experience. And she had financial goals, such as travelling and one day buying a house.

My client worked with me on improving her confidence, which meant shifting the way she saw herself and reflecting on what she had achieved. She listed times she had acted assertively or confidently. She considered other areas of her life apart from work where she was a confident person.

The aim was to shake off the skin of her previous job; let that be in the past. Her new plan was to take bold steps forward: contacting people she wouldn’t have dared of before, writing, making herself more visible.

Ultimately she found a new job where she felt she had a voice and was encouraged to use it. She had worked out what she wanted from a company and her next role, and what she could bring to it. And her she was. She knew that she could do good work and move on confidently.

If you’d like to book a coaching session with me, contact me at LinkedIn or at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by sydney Rae 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

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

Smiling at strangers. Why should we get out of our comfort zone?

Smiling at strangers. It’s sometimes used as an initiation exercise to practise getting out of your comfort zone. 

Walking along, randomly smiling at strangers. Potentially looking like a bit of a weirdo.

It’s the first step in doing something that might make you feel uncomfortable, nervous, out of your depth. 

Getting out of your comfort zone

It’s widely considered that ‘getting out of your comfort zone’ is one of the best ways to grow as a person.

If you keep on doing what you know, things that are easy and feel safe and certain, then you aren’t taking risks, and opening yourself up to new experiences. Therefore, you’re not going to do much growing.

You aren’t building your confidence by succeeding in doing things you’ve never done before, or never dreamed you could do. 

You aren’t proactively looking to change yourself for the better.

It’s daunting and cringey

Back to smiling at strangers. Some people would really struggle with it, and would find it daunting and cringey. Why would you smile at a stranger? Won’t they think I’m a bit mad? Or want something from them? Or – shock horror – about to talk to them?! Even worse, what if they then strike up a conversation?

Have a focus

It’s really hard to force yourself to do something you don’t particularly want to do. But – if you can see the benefit, and where this action might lead you, it makes it easier. You now have a focus.

You’re not just doing it for the sake of it, you’re doing it because you know you need to change. You need to shake things up a bit. You can’t keep doing what you’ve been doing, as you’re not happy with the result.

It could be that long-term you want to be better at networking. Maybe you wish you didn’t care so much what other people think.

Stand-up comedy?

I find smiling at strangers easy, I do it all the time. I’m a smiley person. But for me, being out of my comfort zone looks like public speaking, live TV, performing. Stand-up comedy? Not in a million years. 

I actually have no desire to be on TV or perform. But I’d like to not have that irrational fear of public speaking, the few times I need to do it. And I’d like to care less what other people think.

So – I sometimes have to present to groups of people, which pushes me back out of my comfort zone. I regularly give webinars, which sometimes still makes me anxious.

Caring less what others think

And I’m currently more active on social media, (well, LinkedIn), and experimenting with writing posts and video. Partly as a way to connect with more people about my coaching business and the things that are important to me. Partly as a way to care less what others think, to worry less about expressing my own opinion in public.

How about you? What do you find tricky that you know will help you long-term if you can get more comfortable doing it? What would be pushing you out of your comfort zone?

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

Photo by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash

The importance of going with your gut instinct

I remember years ago saying to a friend, “I don’t really know what I want to do but I think I’d like to be working in a sort of studio space with cool interesting people, maybe in another country, maybe France.’’ It was all very vague, but that’s what my gut instinct was saying to me.

We were ambling alongside the Thames, talking about life and the future. She was someone I could confide in, and tell my hopes and dreams. But secretly, at that time I felt a bit silly not knowing what I really wanted to do, by then probably in my late twenties or early thirties.

Fair enough knowing what kind of environment I wanted to work in and with what kind of people. But how come I didn’t know what job I wanted to do? Surely it shouldn’t be that hard?

Fast forward 10, 15 years, and here I am working from a coworking space in Spain, with different spaces for people to work in, like the studio image I had in mind. It’s full of interesting entrepreneurs, small businesses, freelancers and remote workers from around the world.

Back then, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for work, or how to get there. But I had a vague image in my mind, and a feeling of what I wanted. I knew that my current work wasn’t for me, it wasn’t making me happy, and that somehow I had to find a way out. I had to rely on my gut, my intuition.

It took me a long time to get there. It’s funny looking back. I did know in my heart what I wanted – to live abroad, to have more freedom in my work, to do work that I felt was of value. I just wasn’t clear on the details.

It took a lot of reading, ruminating, talking to people, speaking to coaches.

And, ultimately, doing stuff which moved me forwards. I left my then job, travelled a bit, freelanced a bit. Took a course in teaching English abroad, applied for a new job and got it, moved to Spain. Started coaching other people in the same situation I’d previously been in.

Listening to your gut, and then doing something about it, is hard, but worth it.

Get in touch here if you’d like to speak to me about coaching, I can help you make your career change: joaopoku@gmail.com

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash