Inspiration through mentorship
Much of the focus of a coach is to look at the present and how we can assist our clients to create change. In order to identify the areas that need to change, we must first be able to understand the ‘why’ and this can so often pull us to the events of the past. Compared with counselors, who spend more time focusing on historical events, and factors that have contributed to our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, coaching pauses briefly in the past before accepting and moving on to create a process for change.
One person that has inspired me to write this post is Olivia. Olivia is a bright, enthusiastic, and curious 17-year-old student from Brighton and someone who I’m very proud to say is my mentee. I’ve been involved in the mentorship program at a local college for the past year, after speaking at a careers event. Something which has been hugely rewarding and also very thought provoking. Working with Olivia has made me think about my own career path and reflect on my own experiences.
So today I wanted to share with you some insight on the last 30 years of my life, which I hope will resonate with a few, or help those starting out on their journey in working life.
Firstly, I thought it might be useful to set the scene to begin with, as many of you that have followed me through my Life Love and Me journey may not be so familiar with the other part of my life. The part that’s technically been paying the bills and putting a roof over my head, and that’s my full-time career.
I’m not going to into the ins and outs of my career, as I’m sure you can get the picture from LinkedIn, but I do want to share some insight. Not only because I think ‘work’ can sometimes be a lonely, all-consuming place, but also because it can leave little time in your life to reflect on your achievements or how far you’ve come.
30 years on
Growing up on a farm, I guess you could say I grew up with a strong work ethic. My first ever job at 14 was collecting eggs at a neighbour’s farm, then I moved on to washing dishes at a local pub. Trust me this seemed like a huge promotion at the time!
Apart from a short time whilst I was traveling and for a short time after I was made redundant about 10 years ago, I’ve always had a job. I think one summer I had 4, which was no mean feat keeping a track of where I had to be I can tell you.
So when I look back on the last 30 years of work life I wonder just what advice I’d give that 14 year old? Something to perhaps prepares her for the ups and downs, the mixed emotions, the challenges, and most importantly how to make the most of your working life, after all, we spend so much time doing it we try our best to enjoy it!
So as I reflect, here are my top tips to make the most out of work!
When I look back at what I’ve achieved, I realise a lot of it wouldn’t have been possible if I had let fear control my decisions or actions. When you start out in working life, much of the fear comes from the unknown and the lack of knowledge. This can leave you feeling overwhelmed and nervous, but it doesn’t stop there, as with each new job, presentation, or major work change, fear can once again raise its head.
One particular time this was never truer, was my interview at Chelsea Football Club. I talked so fast that I’m surprised the interview lasted as long as it did, but somehow I managed to keep fear under control. I can’t say the same for the first presentation I did about 10 years ago for my previous employer. It was an awful experience and one where my nerves were felt by everyone around the room. This was not one of my proudest moments for sure, but much can be learned from those moments. The biggest one for me was the reality of being true to myself, and not trying too hard to be someone I thought I had to be.
When you get down to the root of why we get nervous, it usually comes down to the fear of failure, and of being judged. Through my coaching experience, I have learned to reframe failure, into what I can take away from the experience. I’ve personally found that I’ve learned just as much, if not more from a situation when it’s not gone so well, as when I’ve had a slightly easier road to success.
I would always encourage anyone to take opportunities and if they don’t arise organically, then actively seek them out even when they seem scary. Whilst you’re moving forwards you’re always learning and developing and employers love to see development. If you stay still you will find yourself stagnating sooner or later.
Never stop caring
Just as in life, sometimes work can seem cruel, almost un-human like, but without people that care, there’s no passion, and for some of the best companies I’ve worked for, passion has been at the very heart of their success.
Sometimes it appears that caring too much can lead to getting hurt when appreciation for your work isn’t reciprocated or even acknowledged, but don’t let that stop you from caring. When you care for the work that’s being done, the people around you, and your own self-worth, I truly believe it will be recognised by someone. I’m so pleased that it has been on so many occasions throughout my career. Sometimes you just need to find the right company that values you, and sometimes finding that company might not be a straight road, but that’s ok, the bends are what makes life interesting!
Lastly, I just wanted to say, please don’t forget about caring for yourself. You spend a lot of time at work, and your health is the most important aspect of your life, not egos, not your commitment to the company, but your health. Care for yourself, treat others like you’d like to be treated and the winner will always prevail.
Whichever route you chose to go down, whichever career path you find yourself on, you will always come across good managers and leaders as well as ones that fall below your expectations. The trick here is to learn from all of them, even the ones that you feel have let you down. In fact, those are the ones that you will want to aspire to be less like. If you do choose, or maybe fall naturally into management, I’m sure you’ll come across many managers that lack qualities of leadership. The key thing to remember is the attributes that set the best leaders apart from those who claim to have people management, are those that lead by example. Those that inspire, engage, and listen more than talk and all whilst never losing humility and integrity in their work. The best leaders also lay off the bravado, and don’t rely on language which can so often isolate rather than educate or help others that don’t have the same knowledge.
If management isn’t for you, you will still be faced with authoritative figures, which will leave a lasting impact on you. If there’s someone that encourages you and brings out the best in your skills, ask them for support and guidance, and don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t understand. Asking a lot of questions from peers, managers, and team members have always fed me well, even when I’ve felt like the only person in the room that was lost. I’ve never pretended to understand when I don’t and I think that shows humility, an attractive quality in work when there can be so many egos at play.
We are all humans
Technology has moved on so much since I started out in work, we are moving into an age where many of the jobs that will be available in 5 years, don’t even exist now, but I think it’s so important to highlight that human skills are never more required than they are today.
Let your personality shine through, don’t be afraid to share your views, and even when challenged be clear about your ideas. Don’t let bullies push you around, help people when you see they are struggling and most of all are kind. There is no place in work for those that think they can dominate a conversation, especially when it affects employees’ ability to perform. If you see/experience unfairness in the workplace don’t be afraid to shine a light on it.
Human skills are where the real impact for good can happen, when you get the chance to share your experiences with others do so, just remember to do so with humility, authenticity, and integrity, as no one likes a show-off.
If you make a mistake, hold your hands up, even if you’re in management. A senior person in an organisation admitting they are wrong and asking for assistance can do so much for team morale.
And most importantly thank people for their work, believe me, it goes a long way!
With all the time we spend working, why not enjoy it? Being able to identify why you like or dislike a job, or perhaps parts of it is so key to finding a job that you love.
Don’t be afraid to get help if you’re stuck in a rut or have lost your passion. If you lose your way and aren’t sure which route to take, why not try a coach? Trust me, having someone totally impartial to support you really does help.
As you gain more experience in your career, the importance you place on your life values and beliefs may play more of a factor. Don’t be afraid to recognise their importance in work as well as life, as certain companies may not align with these, but trust me there are plenty that will.
Learn to recognise and try to look out for the signs of when you’re not enjoying a job anymore and make a plan to move on.
Try not to live so much in the future or the past that you forget to love the present.
Giving something back
During the next stage of my life, I want to give more back, through paid or volunteer work. I found it interesting that someone recently said to me that they thought consultants were in a privileged position, but I disagree. I think if you’ve worked hard and made specific choices so that you are in a position to help others, I think that should be celebrated.
I really enjoy the volunteer work with young people, and feel passionate that sharing experiences can have such a positive impact, not just on the world of work, but on future generations.
If you’re interested in seeing how I could help you, in either work or perhaps life, why not get in touch.