Colin’s Case Book 02: Happiness at Work

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TAKEAWAY: Use simple questions to stimulate your client’s imagination and so reveal talents that may have been previously unrecognised.

METHOD: Telephone coaching – Three one-hour sessions at monthly intervals.

I achieved all that we agreed, but it has not delivered happiness at work”

I had enjoyed coaching this young lady a year earlier when we worked together on some relationship and her self-belief issues. So I was really surprised when she asked if I could help again.

My client had achieved recent promotion in what she thought was her ideal position as a consultant for a major cosmetics company. She still saw herself as a ‘people person’, regularly exceeded her sales targets and enjoyed the glamour cachet of the products. She told me, ‘I sometimes feel I am treated as a slightly overpaid shop assistant and I can’t seem to shake this off’.

I asked her to imagine what she would be doing a year from now. ‘More of the same, maybe in a bigger store’ she said. I asked how this would feel? She couldn’t answer and found it impossible to look two or three years ahead because she would rather not even think about that.

Women imagining her business future

It was time for one of the oldest questions in the life coaching arsenal. ‘What would you do for a living if there was absolutely no chance of failure?’ After a long pause she revealed that she really enjoyed working with the photographers, journalists and PR professionals who visited the store to create campaigns for new product launches.

During the rest of this session she told me that she was a keen amateur photographer and was quite good at writing articles for her employer’s house magazine. When it was time for homework I invited her to set a new goal of becoming a full time, professional, freelance photo-journalist. Before our next session a month later she agreed to find out what steps she could take to prepare for this career change. She should talk to her contacts in the business, check out the potential fees on-line and identify several papers, magazines and television companies that could be prospective clients.
Above all, she was to imagine to the best of her ability, how it would feel to say, ‘I am a freelance photo-journalist’ and repeat this fake it to make it mantra every morning and evening.

She sounded much brighter at our next conversation and said that she’d really enjoyed this research and even made a new girlfriend who was a photographers’ agent. This session was the one where we agreed a new set of secondary goals, all aimed at bringing her new career closer with its realisation a year ahead. Our strategy was for her to continue with her present employment and to spend the time formerly devoted to dusting shelves with her mind in neutral, to imagine seeing her name on lucrative contracts, her articles and name in print and her pictures winning awards. She would report back to me on her progress a month later.

Woman hand showing PR dream job symbol

That month stretched to seven weeks for the best of all possible reasons. She had won a commission to write a feature for an in-flight magazine which paid a fee and included a complimentary week in Malta. Then she learned that her area manager had told head office about this new interest and they were so impressed with her enthusiasm that they would create an in-house PR contract for her.

That was three years ago when she didn’t want to look this far ahead. Now. With a staff of four and she can tell people who ask, ‘I am a freelance photo-journalist and PR consultant’. This time, she is telling the truth.

There is no such thing as a ‘want to be’ photographer, artist, sculptor, writer or performer. You either are one, working at becoming ever better – or you are not. There is no other option.

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Colin Edwards

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