What prompted you to try coaching?
I have had some coaching in the past. This time around, I had made some quite significant changes in my work and life situation and was feeling quite wobbly about what my future looked like. Should I be doing what I was doing? How could I make a fairly unhappy work situation more tolerable? What might be my options? So I set out hoping that I could find some more satisfaction in my work and a bit more direction, and some clarity about where to now and later.
What would your main hesitation have been before you started the engagement?
My chief hesitation before I started was that I was in quite a low spot. I was feeling quite demoralised and I think I felt quite ashamed of feeling the way I felt about the job I was in, and what my prospects might be. I was wondering whether at my age it was worth putting in the effort, and whether anyone would want to listen to me! So I was in quite a bad space, which was silly because that has changed considerably since talking to Janet. And I guess I was also quite uncertain about what the point of coaching would be, you know – how helpful could this really be, under the circumstances?
What would you say to a prospective client who might have the same concerns?
I would say that while those concerns feel real at the time – and they are real – Janet is the sort of person who does nothing but exude respect and interest. She is very positive. I have already been recommending her to other people. I guess in some ways the fact that I was feeling so bad meant this was a good place to be starting from, so I would say to anyone else who feels uncertain in that way: that’s a cue that this would be a helpful thing to do.
What were the key issues or themes you worked on with Janet?
We worked on things about what I should do, how I felt about work, what my own values were, how much I was being driven by my own values and how much I was feeling responsible for things that were other people’s issues. We looked a lot at ways of reframing, rethinking about the situation that I’m in, and about future possibilities. So, it was about current survival and future possibilities.
What progress did you see on those themes over the engagement?
I feel much more certain about my place in my work life, and about work in my life. – Because those two things are not quite the same. I am stronger about putting some boundaries around things I don’t want to do at work. I feel more confident about doing the things I feel I need to do, both in terms of making work tolerable at the moment and also looking for a way out, which I am doing. Janet’s helped me reprioritise things, think about how to handle things, take charge for myself, see that there are possibilities. It has absolutely improved my self-confidence in general.
What difference did it make to have the coaching?
I think coaching is a wonderful thing. I imagine that if I were to have a coach I didn’t relate easily to, it would be possible for that not to work well. But Janet and I hit it off really well, right from the start. She is a woman who is affirmative, respectful, funny, clever. She gave me resources. She suggested ways of thinking about things. She picked up very quickly on some of the ways that I think about the world: I often use metaphors in the way I talk about things and we played a lot with metaphors, which was helpful. I felt that I was able to drive things, but Janet would pick up on ways to help, ways through. And I can’t underline enough how respectful and kind she always was.
What was it like to have Janet as your coach? Was there anything uncomfortable, surprising, unique…?
One of the things that was really helpful for me, and it would be for other people in academic positions, is that she thoroughly understands the academic environment. She knows about the challenges of writing and research. I felt that I was talking to someone who knew the broad context, so I didn’t have to translate things or explain how peculiar the university is. Obviously I could talk about individual instances, but the general context was something she already understood. And I think if there is another academic looking for coaching, that is a huge plus. Janet understands what the world is that we live in – because it isn’t a world that is well known to people outside it. I’ve even met someone who works at a university who is starting up as a coach but she has not been an academic. I think only someone who has been an academic can have a really good understanding of what academic life is.
If you would be comfortable recommending Janet’s services, who would you recommend them to and why?
I absolutely would be comfortable recommending her services. Who and why? Well, I can’t imagine that there will be anyone that Janet couldn’t relate to. Obviously the fact that she knows the academic world and the things that go on there means she is an ideal coach for somebody in academia. Whether they are a new academic, or like me at the end of their career, or somewhere in the middle – I know people in all of those categories to whom I would recommend her. But I would imagine her skills are broad enough that she can step outside that domain; I know she’s got other life experiences. So – anybody who’s got intelligence, some humour and a reasonable degree of will to succeed would work well with her. I would imagine that she could work with people outside academia just as well.
Anything to add?
One of the things that Janet said to me was that she had not previously been very used to working with people in my age group – I’m 65 – although she had several clients nearing retirement when we worked together. It is not an easy thing for somebody my age to ask for help from someone considerably younger. But I never felt at any stage that was uncomfortable, that she judged me for anything. I never felt anything but respect and understanding. And I just really want to compliment her on that. I’m sure she would be exactly the same with someone much younger. It is a real talent to be able to work across the whole range of ages, stages, steps in people’s careers and so on. So I hope I can recommend her to other people who will find it helpful.