Lecturer, humanities, AU
26 October 2014

When I first met Janet I’d just come back from maternity leave with my third child and I needed some support. I initially considered career counselling through my university but it was difficult to access, so I decided to organise something for myself. Around that time some colleagues, a group of academic women whom I really respect, recommended Janet. It’s not the sort of thing they normally do, so I knew they had decided she was good. So I thought, ‘I’ll take it up’.

My only reservation at the start would have been financial. Coaching is something you pay for – but I think that’s also one of the benefits. Because you pay for it, you take it really seriously and put the effort in. It is something that you are investing in, financially and also with your time. Sometimes you have more money than others, but even when I’ve had not much money I’ve still managed to pay the fee. And I get tax back on it, too, for professional development.

A major benefit of working with Janet has been working out exactly what it is I’m trying to do with my research. Janet’s been really great at helping tease apart what I really want to do versus things that I feel obliged or pressured to do. It’s not something people actually ask very often: ‘What do you want?’ Even just a simple question like that can be really powerful. And having someone affirm that what you are choosing to do is good and worthwhile, because you don’t get very much of that in a big institution.

Another really important benefit of coaching with Janet has been around time management, setting priorities, confidence building. All those things are interrelated. Knowing your priorities, being able to set goals and manage your time makes you more confident that you can get things done. I am one of those people who would look back on the year and go, ‘I haven’t done anything, I’ve got nowhere!’ It’s really good to work with someone so positive who is giving you feedback about the things you’ve achieved. It helps to modify that self-talk and realise you have actually done a lot. It’s also nice to get some affirmation that what I am doing is worthwhile, because you don’t get very much of that in a big institution.

Working with Janet has also given me permission to take time to reflect. You have so little time as a working parent, I find myself getting into a frenzy, just going, ‘I can’t waste any time at all, I just have to get onto these tasks and do them right away!’ Janet helps you take the time to look through your folder of stuff or read that book you need to read, instead of flying into something and possibly making mistakes because you are not allowing enough time to think.

One thing I really appreciate about working with Janet is that she is an expert listener. She pays attention to your language and what it says about what you are feeling, and she’ll ask you to elaborate further. She’ll say, ‘OK, what I’m hearing is….’ And it might be quite a brave thing for her to say. She’ll take a chance, but she’ll be right. So the coaching involves a sort of re-thinking of the way that you operate. It can be quite powerful even when you don’t realise it at the time.

I also like that Janet tailors her services to you as an individual. She doesn’t have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. In my case, I kind of hate having everything mapped out in advance, fully formed and watertight. Janet was very perceptive and got me to do a living plan that could change over time, and that was really great. I didn’t feel like she was getting me to do anything that would be inappropriate for the kind of research I’m doing; she was really sensitive in the way she approached it.

It’s hard to say what I like the most about Janet’s coaching because I like it all! It’s really nice working with someone who is very skilled at what they do, someone who is perceptive but also quite playful. It’s not all serious – it’s often quite funny. So the process itself has been enjoyable. She’s given me quite a few techniques and I’ve actually used those techniques with my students, which has been great too. So I get the coaching and then I pass it on.

I would absolutely recommend Janet’s services to anyone who is returning to work after a break. You come back and you are not fully engaged all these expectations are placed on you. It’s been really great to have a coach to help negotiate those hurdles.