Career Conversations – A guest post by Allana Holmes

Allana reflects on our conversations over coffee

I had come to a point where I had been in the same role for eight years and I loved it. However, I felt I needed something more from my career but I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant. I just knew I was ready for a change.

I’d been back at work from maternity leave for a year and I had got my head around a work/life balance I felt I was happy with. I wasn’t sure how that newly found balance would be impacted if I looked for a job and I hadn’t had any interview practice for so many years!

I had previously worked within the finance industry, which I had loved at the time, but I went back to the fashion industry after redundancy and had stayed there. I wasn’t sure if that meant I was going to be pigeon-holed into staying in that industry or I could explore alternatives. I had so many questions and I spent a long time looking aimlessly at jobs not really knowing exactly what it was I wanted.

I decided to get in touch with Tony, someone I had worked with previously, for a general catch up. I also wanted to pick his brains about the finance sector and I thought this might help steer me into making some form of decision about what I was going to do. I was a slave to my own thought process and because I have a family now, everything felt like it was a big risk!

I met up with Tony and this started what was to be a series of conversations which helped me shape my next move, build my confidence and be 100% sure about what it was I wanted.

Perhaps more importantly the conversations helped me see what I didn’t want from my career. We looked at things as a whole-life picture, family life included, as this is the balance I was sure I didn’t want to get wrong. He unpicked my thoughts and ideas that spilled out over coffee and helped me put them together into a logical plan.

It turns out I actually did know what I was looking for, I just couldn’t put it all together into a hard and fast plan by myself and I was overcomplicating things.  Tony helped me realise that I had strong views about things I didn’t want to compromise on and that this was ok. At the same time I realised there might be some other things I would have to compromise on.

I saw that my skills were completely transferable when I didn’t think about them in so much detail. I was the one trying to pigeon-hole myself, no one else was.

From these conversations, I had a clear outlook and this made way for me to focus clearly on interviews with confidence. I was now feeling strong, clear and motivated.

I cannot thank Tony enough, I’m happily settled in a new role which ticks all the boxes.

A response from Tony

Thanks for the post Allana and glad to see you are settled in your role.

It’s interesting that, without guidance or prompting from me, you haven’t referred to this being a mentoring or coaching relationship. I like this!

For some time I have been looking for ways to describe the conversations we find ourselves in that can be really useful, sometimes transformational, but that we haven’t contracted as a formal intervention. For me, the natural process of entering into relationship, inquiring into what is going on for us and then exploring options, can become awkward through contracting and the introduction of process.

It’s for this reason I started to refer to these conversations as “useful conversations” and prompted me to write about my experiences.

This relabelling doesn’t in any way deny the existence of coaching, mentoring or any other form of structured inquiry skills. What it does is recognise the existence and benefit of a more loosely structured form of interaction that might or might not call on these skills during what is then experienced as a more natural flow of conversation.

Another benefit I really like, of course, is that this usefulness runs both ways. I also got a lot out of our conversations as they allowed me space to reflect on my own career and the choices I was wrestling with.

I very much look forward to our next useful conversation when I think it will be your turn to get the coffee.

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