What prompted you to try coaching?
I went to an academic women’s writing workshop and Janet did some sessions at that. A few people from the workshop were offered the opportunity for a free coaching session, so I took that up and I found it really useful so I followed up with some more sessions.
Before you started, did you have any hesitations?
Not really. I am aware of what helping professions can do in terms of helping you find your way through tricky stuff.
What about if you hadn’t had the free session through the writing retreat?
I might have not had the spur to do it. It would have been something where I would have thought, ‘That might be a useful thing to do,’ and then it would have fallen off the list of things to investigate. Also, it might not have occurred to me that the struggles that I was having with doing research work would be something I could look for a coach for.
What were some of the key issues or themes that you worked on with Janet?
It was very much focused on the struggles that I have with the research part of my career. One of the really big things that came out of it for me was the demystifying of research, and some really useful insights from Janet about research really being just a conversation, and publishing being about joining in the conversation.
Talking about research in terms of a conversation was helpful for me, in that I am very comfortable sharing my ideas in a conversation. For example, I am quite comfortable talking in a conference, but I don’t like writing papers. And Janet was able to see that a conversation was a comfortable space for me, and to show that what I was struggling to do was actually something that I like doing. So that was very effective.
What progress do you feel you made on those themes during the coaching?
Maybe it’s not quite what you want in a testimonial! At the end of it all, I worked out that I can do research, but I don’t really want to. What the coaching process has given me is a bunch of clarity about what I want in my life. I hate that phrase, ‘work-life balance’, but the coaching has allowed me to open up to the fact that I want peace and tranquility in my life far more than I want professional achievements. Now I am actively trying to put in place a life that prioritises tranquillity and contentment. If that results in reduced professional achievement, so be it. So the outcome has been different from what I originally intended, but I think if it were not for the coaching I would still be banging my head against a wall.
Since the coaching finished, I have continued to make progress on writing my research article. But I have made even more progress on the broader outcome, which was working out that I want to ‘do’ life a bit differently. As an example, as a result of realising that what I want is a peaceful, tranquil life, I set up clear structures as to what were work hours and what weren’t. I created a timetable that actually has room for doing music practice. Music is my hobby, and now there is actually time in my life for doing that, and I do it. Earlier this year my partner got very sick and the new routine had to be (temporarily) compromised. I found that I really missed those boundaries, and it made me realise: I’d got to a place where I missed having boundaries on where my work ended and my home life began. If you talked to me a year ago, I couldn’t even comprehend having those boundaries. There weren’t any. Work just flowed constantly into life, and life just kept getting squeezed aside. So to me, the fact that I desperately wanted to get back to where I had been with those boundaries represents a big achievement.
Recognising that your achievements are 100% your own, do you think the coaching was helpful? What difference did it make to have Janet as a coach?
Yes, I do. It goes back to what I said earlier, that she does really well at finding out how you think about things. She was listening well enough to get where I was coming from. She had the ability to frame things in the language in which I was able to hear them.
One thing that was particularly wonderful was that Janet was willing to tailor the coaching to my needs. Our sessions happened at the time that I needed them. I don’t mean time of day or week; some were close together and some were more spread out, so it was like, we’re having a certain number of sessions and we will use them as we need for where I’m up to. That was surprising and very, very helpful, because it meant that I wasn’t ever having a session with her because that was the thing that was scheduled to happen in my diary; I was always having a session because I had got to a bit where I was stuck, or I wanted to talk something through.
If you’d be comfortable recommending Janet’s services, who would you suggest could benefit and why?
Definitely anybody who is scared of research! The reason I say that is that she demystifies it very effectively. She has walked in the world enough to be able to do that. I think there is always a benefit in the person knowing the culture that you are living in. I think she would be great at helping someone in a completely different sphere as well, because she listens really well and picks up on what you’ve got. But her ability particularly to understand what research is really about and get underneath all of that is incredibly helpful.