Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Don’t give up on your career!

Have you ever felt like a failure?  You may remember an incident as if it happened yesterday. We’ve all been there!  I can certainly think of a few times in my life when I have felt like this.

Feelings of failure can be very difficult to overcome.  We often cling on to negative experiences, using them to justify beliefs that we are not good enough.  We can be very hard on ourselves.

Unfortunately, these negative beliefs can set us up to fail.  They can prevent us from doing the things we want to do achieve, especially in our careers.  They also cause low self-esteem and perfectionism, making us feel miserable.  We can miss some amazing opportunities through feeling like this.

‘Do not be afraid!’

As we prepare for Christmas, we will hear this phrase from the Nativity story a lot over the next few weeks so how about using it to help you move forward with your career journey.  It may not be quite as dramatic as the Nativity but imagine how exciting it would be to start the new year no longer being afraid to pursue your dream career. 

I know it can be difficult to overcome feelings of failure.  However, it is possible and perhaps Christmas is the best time to start challenging those feelings. 

Can you find the courage now to overcome your fear of failure?

How you answer this question is your choice. You can choose to end 2016 dwelling on past negative experiences or you can choose to challenge your feelings, learn from your past experiences and enter 2017 with a new positive vision of yourself and hope for your career. 

Taking responsibility to change your beliefs will enable you to experience all the amazing opportunities the (career) world can offer. 

Wishing you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

How I made a career change possible

Many people really struggle to see how a career change can be possible.  Perhaps they are unhappy in their job but feel they should persevere with it.  Perhaps they do not want to risk changing career for fear of failure.  Perhaps they have absolutely no idea what they want to do.  

I changed career and, although I did struggle at times to believe it could be possible, I am glad I persevered as I did eventually discover what I wanted to do.  This is how I did it.

I initially trained in law and qualified as a family law solicitor.  I was attracted to this area of law given my interest in problem solving and helping people move forward with their lives.  I enjoyed tackling the challenges my caseload provided but, after a few years, my mind started wandering. I started to become more curious about the world of careers and the options available.  I felt there was more for me to explore and that I might be better suited to something else, something that was really me. 

After a lot of thinking time, I realised that I was not going to be able to leap into my ‘dream’ job from my current role and so I made the bold decision to save some money and take a six-month career break to enable me to experience different roles of interest to me and make a better decision about my career. 

I remember one of the hardest things about making this decision was having to justify it to people.  Why would I leave the certainty of my job in law?  Perhaps many people wouldn’t leave their job but this decision was right for me and I always knew that I would regret not making this step.  If it didn’t work out, I would return to law.    

During my career break, my initial intention was to do some studying and voluntary work.  My focus was on improving the lives of adults and children within the education and charity sectors.    
Within a couple of months, I had completed a Foundation Course in Counselling Skills for Working with Children with Place2Be and was offered temporary paid experience working in a primary school.  By the end of my six months and upon completion of my work in school, I was fortunate to secure a paid full time position as a Major Gifts Officer at Macmillan Cancer Support.  

Working for Macmillan was fantastic and, through witnessing the courage of those suffering from cancer, I became even more determined to find a career I was passionate about. 

It was during this time that career coaching started to feature in my mind.  Given my experience of moving from the legal to the charity sector, several people approached me for career advice and guidance.  I was surprised by the number of people who did not enjoy their jobs and the negative impact this was having on their lives.  I started to investigate the world of career coaching and found this to be a career I wanted to do.

I established my business, Tessa Armstrong Associates, and have now been working as a career and performance coach for almost 7 years.  I am using my past and present experiences and skills to improve the lives of individuals by enabling them to discover what they want to do and support them in getting there.  I am also currently keeping in touch with my other interests (children, education and charity) in a voluntary capacity.

Finding this career path took a lot of research, planning and networking as I thought seriously about what I wanted to achieve.  It also took a lot of perseverance to overcome the challenges and uncertainty along the way but it was all worth it.  I enjoy what I do and hope my story has given you something to think about. 

The biggest thing I learnt was that a career change takes time.  There may be a few steps to take and decisions to make before you reach your destination.  Be patient, be brave and focus on solutions. 

If you do not enjoy your career, are thinking of a career change or struggling with your performance at work, have a look at my free resources here and start thinking about your next step.

Imagine a world where we all felt fulfilled, confident and excited about our career choices!


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Six ways to find career happiness

Do you long to be able to say ‘I LOVE MY JOB’?  

Do you want to be able to respond with passion and excitement to the frequently asked question ‘What do you do?’.

Do you want to enjoy Monday mornings and feel relaxed on Sunday evenings?

Are you so fed up at work that even answering these questions has made you feel depressed?  You actually dread Monday mornings and feel full of anxiety on Sunday evenings.

Feeling miserable at work is really tough.  It impacts your career, as you become increasingly disengaged with work, and your home life becomes a struggle too.  We don’t want to feel like this but often we do not know how to make it better.  How do we find a career that makes us happy?

Let me tell how….

You will find six action points below which will help you to find a career that makes you happy.  Please take time to go through each step. Remember, it is a process that cannot be completed overnight.  It will take time but will be worth it. 

1.       You – take time to think about you.  What do you enjoy doing and what interests you?  Think of times when you felt really motivated and fulfilled – what were you doing?  Be as specific as you can.  You want a career that takes advantage of these skills, strengths and interests.

2.       Your personality – Work out what kind of working environment would best suit you?  Do you like going to the office each day or do you prefer being out and about?  What makes you feel happy and comfortable? 

3.       Your money – We are often preoccupied with how much we are earning and make this our primary focus in a career search.  We all need money but how much do you really need to be happy?   Do not let salary solely dictate your career path.  Decide on a realistic salary band.  Remember some of the top 20 most satisfying careers are the lowest paid.

4.       Your vision - Having progressed through points 1- 3, now think about your first day in your ideal job.  What are you doing?  Who do you meet?  Where are you?  Who do you talk to? How are you feeling? What skills are you using?  Focusing on the detail will make action five easier to achieve.

5.       Your investigations – spend time researching opportunities that you believe closely match your vision.  Talk to people.  Do some work experience.  Keep asking questions and discovering what makes you happy.

6.       Your plan – Start making decisions and create an action plan to find the job you love.

These actions may require taking a step into the unknown.  However, they will give you the best chance of finding the job that you love whilst providing your work-life balance with a happy boost. 

Remember it is YOUR career - it is about YOU and what makes YOU happy.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Five ways to achieve as a perfectionist

A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new. (Albert Einstein)
Are you a perfectionist?
Do you set yourself standards so high that they are almost impossible to reach? Do you frequently feel disappointed with yourself for not being able to meet the standards you set?  Do you worry about what other people would say?  Do you view mistakes as failure? 
If you answer yes to these questions, you may be a perfectionist.
Being a perfectionist, does not lead to perfection…. 
A perfectionist sets themselves extremely high standards which are usually unattainable.  Furthermore, when they don’t achieve perfection, they can spend a large amount of time criticising their efforts leading to feelings of frustration, anxiety and exhaustion.  Their unattainable high standards rarely lead to perfection but instead lead to feelings of not being good enough and a fear of failure which can ultimately stop them from achieving what they want to achieve.
Does this sound familiar?  If so, I am sure you would admit that these experiences can be very stressful and leave you feeling really disappointed with yourself.
Now let’s turn to the good news which is that anyone can be successful without being perfect.  Let me tell you how…
Being successful without perfection.
If you find that being a perfectionist is stopping you from moving forward with your career or any other part of your life, please believe me when I say that there are ways to achieve without being perfect. 
Have a think about something you would like to achieve but have not pursued for fear of failure.  Perhaps it’s a career change, a promotion or a new hobby.  Now have a think about how you can overcome your fear of failure.  Read the following five ways which will enable you to move forward and achieve what you want to achieve:
1.       Stop thinking ‘I am not good enough’ and start thinking ‘I am good enough’.  Nobody is perfect!
2.       Be constructive and don’t worry too much about the detail.  Instead ask yourself, what is the worst that can happen? Accept that we all make mistakes and use these to help you move forward (rather than feeling rubbish about yourself).  How can you do it better next time? 
3.       Be kind to yourself and lower your standards.  You can still set high standards but make them achievable.
4.       What small step can you now take?  Allow for some imperfection! 
5.       Celebrate your achievements!  Enjoy it!
Remember, you can be excellent without being perfect!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Five simple steps towards a career change (that you can do today!)

Have you been saying for months or even years that you are not happy with your job and want a career change?   Do you struggle to know where to start?  Do you fear change and so have ended up remaining in a role you dislike, despite your motivation decreasing daily?

You are not alone!  Many individuals remain in their current role despite knowing their career aspirations are likely to be found elsewhere.  They remain in these roles due to the common mistaken belief that a career change requires a big life change and therefore involves taking a big step to achieve it.  This step is simply too big, unachievable and scary and so excuses are made to delay any change. 
‘It is not the right time.’

‘The market isn’t good right now.’

‘It is too risky.’      

You remain disappointed and unhappy, continually waiting for the right time to make this big step.

This is so frustrating for you.  However, it doesn’t have to be.  Let me use a quote from Lao Tzu to explain to you how to make your dream career change manageable and achievable.   

‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ (Lao Tzu)

All that is required of you is to take the first single step towards your career change now.  Yes, it really is that easy. 

Think about it, everything in life requires a first step.  Why should this be any different?  To get to work each day, requires you to get out of bed.  To eat your meals at home, requires the purchase of food.  To arrange a night out with friends, requires communication with your friends.  Without these first steps, you wouldn’t get to work, eat or see your friends.   

The five steps towards a career change

Let me summarise this in five simple steps: 

1.       Accept that a career change does not necessarily involve one great big step. 

2.       Use the above words of Lao Tzu, to frame your thoughts.  

‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’

3.       Decide on your first single step and do it!

4.       Once you have taken the first step, you will have the knowledge and confidence to work out the next step.

5.       Keep taking small steps until you succeed in reaching your desired career. 

This journey may take months.  However, you will always be moving forward and it is far easier to achieve a small first step, followed by lots of little steps, than a great big jump into the unknown. Often taking lots of small steps gets you to your goal more quickly than going for one big, difficult leap and the one that counts the most is the first single step. 

‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’

Tuesday, 28 June 2016


Brexit has triggered an explosion of emotions over the past week.  On Friday 24th June it was announced that 52% of the UK had voted to leave the European Union.  This meant that 48% did not want to leave and it is these 48% who are feeling shocked, angry and confused. 

This result has triggered a reaction that has exposed us all to an intense build-up of negative emotion.  It is surrounding us in everyday conversation and on the news.  My Facebook thread has been dominated by unhappy and angry posts written by family and friends who feel really passionate about our country and care about what happens to our future.  Through no choice of their own, the change and uncertainty which lies ahead has caused them, as well as millions of others, to feel fearful.

However, it is this fear that makes individuals feel even more out of control and anxious about their future.  It is this fear that stops individuals from achieving the things they want to achieve. It is this fear that causes unhappiness. 

I have already seen the impact this is having on some individuals and feel really sad about this. This is why I was so relieved to read Dr Rebecca Edwards’ recent post on Facebook.  Rebecca is a very good friend of mine and extremely committed to her political views.  This is her request:

‘If today you are feeling outraged, harness that energy and get involved in politics.  There is great political uncertainty ahead, with changes in leadership in our political parties certain and a general election in Autumn most likely.  We need people to step up and act as our representatives and for many more voices to be heard.  Join a political party (even if it needs changing from within), write an informed blog piece, take part in a protest, deliver some leaflets or talk to a neighbour about why your viewpoint matters.  Let’s take politics back.’

My request is similar.  I now challenge you to decide what your positive beliefs are in reaction to Brexit and to start acting on these beliefs to move you forward towards an inspiring future.  It may be a change to your personal life, it may be a career move or it may be, as Rebecca suggests, a political move. No matter how big or small, start making positive changes.

Some of you may now be thinking I am being unrealistic and there is nothing you can do anyway.    Yes, it probably feels like everyone is being unrealistic at the moment and there is not much happening to spur us on.  However, isn’t the negative climate we are currently living in an even bigger reason to be driving yourself forward?

Being positive is the foundation for making good decisions, taking action and becoming top of your game.  Please take action and create a fulfilling life for yourself.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Could a portfolio career be right for you?

Imagine a career which has a purpose and uses your skills and interests.

Imagine fulfilling your desire to become self-employed, alongside part-time employment to reduce the risk of going it alone.

Imagine being able to build a career around your family life.

The portfolio career

The way we work is changing. A job is no longer for life.  The increase in choice and variety in the job market together with the increase of part time and contract roles allows for individuals to be more creative and flexible when designing their career path.  

We are starting to recognise that each individual has a variety of skills and interests that can suit more than one role.  We are also starting to accept that an individual may have more than one job and move between jobs more frequently to enable them to rise up the career ladder, earn more money as well as to find a career that suits them and makes them happy.

The portfolio career fits into this new way of working really well.  It has many parts to it and involves an individual having two or more jobs at any one time.  The advantage of creating a portfolio career is that it can enable you to form a career to suit you.  You will be available for opportunities to fulfil different skills and interests whilst being in control of how your career balances with your lifestyle.

Is a portfolio career for you?

Since mentioning how a portfolio career could be an option for Mums returning to work in my blog ‘Mums returning to work – ‘how to achieve your desired career’, I have received numerous enquiries from those who are intrigued to find out how this could work for them.  To assist your thinking, here is an example of a portfolio career:

Jane is self-employed as a private tutor, having previously worked as a full time teacher.  She also works in an employed position as a garden guide to fulfil her love of the outdoors and interest in sharing knowledge with others using skills developed whilst teaching.  In her spare time, she is starting to write a book on garden design, something she has always wanted to do but has never found the time.

Is your mind now buzzing with ideas of what you would like to achieve?

What would a portfolio career be like for you?

If you wish to explore this further, start putting together your ideas of what a portfolio career would look like for you.  Understand your finances so that you know what you can afford to do.  Talk to people and find out what opportunities are available and to help you confirm that this is the right route for you. To maintain a portfolio career, it is important that you are able to talk to people and network. Finally, put your plan together to make it all happen and plan your time wisely so that you take on a manageable amount of work!

 If a career with purpose and flexibility sounds appealing, then perhaps the portfolio career is for you. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

How to spend less time working

We would all like to work less, wouldn’t we?  No one approaches me for help because they would like to work more.  Most people are wanting to work less because they are feeling tired and stressed and are not enjoying life.  They are often working more than their contracted hours simply to 'get the job done'.

The question is, how many hours should we be working each week? 

Recent research in Australia has suggested that those who work about 25 hours per week had the best cognitive function and for those working more than 40 hours per week there is a rapid decline.  The research was only carried out on over-40s but perhaps there is a possibility it could apply to all workers? 

However, even if you had the option to work less, would you take a pay cut for it?  That is a tricky one.  Not many people are in a position to take a pay cut so how about focusing instead on making the hours you do work more productive so you can spend less time working overtime and more time enjoying life.
It is all about achieving the best work-life balance for you and the best place to start is by taking small steps to help shorten your working day.

Can you delegate or ask for help more often? Can you turn off your work phone outside of work?  How often do you ask for help?  Can you manage your day in a more productive way? 

These are just a few things to think about to help you achieve the work-life balance you desire.  I know it can be difficult but some small alterations to your working day may make all the difference and enable you to leave work on time.

For more ways to achieve a work-life balance, have a read of my factsheet here.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Mums returning to work – How to achieve your desired career

Prior to starting a family, you had control of your career.  You could work long hours if required.  You could apply for the perfect job that suited you.  You could go out after work without a thought.  You could even go home and flop on the sofa after a bad day at work!

You then became a Mum….

A new bundle of joy entered your life and, as you settled into maternity leave, work became a distant thought as you used the time instead to start adapting to your new life. 

However, as the end of maternity leave approaches, the reality starts to sink in as you begin to think about returning to work.  Things are different now.  Priorities have changed and there is a little person now controlling your time. 

How will you be able to control your career when you have your family to think about as well?  Who will be doing childcare drop off and pick up?  Who will be available if your child is unwell?  Who is going to do the cooking, cleaning, shopping and feeding?  
It can all be quite daunting for many Mums who also want to continue working and achieve the career they always wished for. 

So, how can you achieve your desired career and dedicate time to your family?

My advice is to sit down with a cup of tea (and a large slice of cake), and start preparing your 10-year career plan.

10 year goal – What do you want to be doing in 10 years? Your child will be starting secondary school so you will have much more time to dedicate to your career. 

4 to 5 year goal – What can you do that helps you work towards your 10-year goal?  Your child will be starting primary school so you will have more time available.     

1 to 2 year goal – What can you realistically achieve around your childcare options?  Perhaps you can start building a portfolio career to help you progress towards your 10 year plan?  (see my portfolio career factsheet here)

Now – What can you do to start preparing the way for your career path?  Networking?  Voluntary work?  Self-employment? Do you want to start/continue part or full time work? 

It is possible to create the career you desire around your family commitments.  It just may take a little more time and planning than you expected so make sure you always keep your end goal in sight. 

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Lawyers – Are you fed up with stressful days and sleepless nights?

The obsession with billable hours…

Many lawyers tell me they are becoming increasingly stressed at work.  They do not enjoy their job and have no work/life balance.  They are feeling really fed up and see no way out.

When I hear lawyers talking like this, I can usually predict the cause of this kind of stress and it normally comes down to targets and billable hours.

Each day a lawyer is faced with a battle against the clock of chargeable hours.  Some days they win this battle and achieve their target hours and some days they do not.  On the days they do not, they leave the office feeling drained and demotivated.  After all, lawyers like to win!

When the days of winning become less frequent, the obsession with dividing the day into 6 minute units commences.

How have I only charged 6 hours when I have been sat at my desk for 12 hours?  How can I stop writing off time?  How can I ask for more work? Do I have time to waste a unit by making a cup of tea? How quickly can I run to the toilet?! 

Slowly, the lawyer loses all perspective on life.

If you feel your stress levels are rising due to unachievable targets, please take some time to stop and review matters before you start counting how many units it takes to make a cup of tea. There may be changes you can make to your case load and working day that will make all the difference.

For example, if the hours you record are not a true reflection of the number of hours you have been sat at your desk, start making a detailed note of what you are doing during non-changeable time. Whilst doing this, have a think about the following questions:  

1.       Do you need more work? If so, arrange a meeting with your boss to discuss your workload.

2.      How do you structure your day? Are you working in a productive manner or do you find yourself flitting between different tasks?  It is very difficult to focus and record time accurately when flitting between tasks.  Ensure you allocate specific times of the day to answer emails, make phone calls and review your post.  When concentrating on one task, do not allow yourself to get distracted by the phone, your email or anyone else. 

3.     Do you write off time?  If you feel a piece of work has taken longer than it should have, perhaps check with your boss before choosing to write off time.  It may be a piece of work that required you to take a long time.

As you become more productive, your billable time will increase and you will be able to enjoy life out of work again.

As an alternative, should we all be thinking about scrapping billable hours and target hours?  According to Roll on Friday’s firm of the year,  this is one of the reasons Slaughter and May usually rates higher in the work/life category than other Magic Circle firms.  Perhaps this is the way forward?!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Is it time to stop blaming other people?

It always seems to be someone else’s fault

I am sure you all know someone who always blames someone else when things go wrong. If they had a bad appraisal, it was the fault of their boss.  If they had an argument at home, it was the fault of their partner.   If they were late for an appointment, someone else had delayed them.  It is never their fault.

Sometimes other people or organisations are to blame when things go wrong but here I am talking about day to day problems.  Those problems that can be dealt with quickly by blaming someone else and avoiding having to do anything about it.

I attract dramas everywhere I go!

People who deal with problems this way are often surrounded by dramas.  Everywhere they go, something happens for them to moan about.  They do not take responsibility for their own actions and therefore nothing changes and they simply move on to the next crisis creating a life of drama for themselves.

Gradually, their life becomes increasingly stressful and their view of other people becomes extremely negative. Negativity and stress prevent us from moving forward and creating the life that we desire.

I want to create a stress free life!

What can you do to limit the dramas you experience in your life?

Next time you experience a problem, take a deep breath and stop yourself from immediately looking for someone else to blame.  Instead, have a think about how your actions may have affected the outcome.  Were you entirely blameless?!

Now think about what you can do to prevent or overcome these problems from happening again in the future.  Take control of the situation.

Perhaps the actions of others were partly to blame but can you control this? No, probably not. If you rely solely on other people to rectify mistakes, change may never happen and you may be making life harder than it needs to be.

It is all about taking control, and giving yourself the power to make your life better. (You can also then take the credit for when things go right!)  

When you take responsibility for your actions and control of the outcome, you will limit the dramas you experience and improve your life for the better.   


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Coping with redundancy

How you can focus on the future to help you find a great job

If you have been made redundant, it is unlikely to have been your choice.  It can be a shock when it happens and make you feel angry, guilty and depressed.  You may even feel like a failure.  At this time, life can seem really unfair.

These are all real feelings and it is always important to allow yourself time to get used to the idea of being made redundant.  Your job is likely to have been a big part of your life and you are now facing some changes ahead. 

Although it all seems unfair, it is also really important to gain control of these feelings so that you can return to work as quickly as you want to. 


·         Many people go through redundancy more than once – it’s tough but you are not alone.

·         Don’t take it personally.  The job role has been made redundant, not you.

·         Redundancy can allow you to reassess your career and make new choices (remember many people change career direction 3 or 4 times).

Taking action

Now use your family and friends (and colleagues, if appropriate), to help you move forward.  Get your finances in order, attend courses and use all available job search resources (see my blog on how to improve your career search for further help).  Be patient and spend time tailoring each job application. When you tell prospective employers you were made redundant, remain positive and keep doing the best you can.  Remember you are now in control.

For further help, please have a look at my factsheet, 10 tips on what to do if you are made redundant, for further guidance

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Overcoming the uncertainty of changing career

How can you overcome the inevitable challenges of changing career?

Would you like to change career?  If so, you are not alone and likely to be using the New Year as an opportunity to review your career path.  In fact, according to research from the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF), 47% of all workers in the UK (66% of people aged 18-34) would like to change career (read more here).   These are extremely high percentages.

However, despite these high numbers, many people who wish to change career make the decision to stay in their current job.  The LSBF research identified that 29% would not move because of the lack of financial security in changing career, 20% did not know what new career path to choose and 15% had a fear of failure.

There are so many unanswered questions for those who want to change career and this uncertainty can be a huge obstacle in making any career move.  I see it all the time in my coaching business and always think it is such a shame that, although my clients are doing something about it, there are still many people who are not and remaining unhappy at work, an unhappiness which will affect your personal life too.

If you would like to consider a career change, what can you do to overcome the obstacles you face?

What I suggest at this stage is that if you are unhappy at work and considering a career change, take action and do one thing today towards achieving this change.  You could prepare a financial budget, ask friends and family to help you, arrange some work experience or talk to someone in a job of interest and find out about their career. 

You may have already done a lot of analysis on what you don’t like about your current role and what you want from your future career.  However, there is a time when you need to move forward from your analysis and take action to enable you to find out more.

Taking action will help you to test ideas and find out what career would suit you.