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Frances Cushway

Career Coaching



5 tips to take away from the new academic year and apply to your career today.

Posted by [email protected] on September 6, 2018 at 9:50 AM

Despite leaving education over 20 years ago, the legacy of the new school year starting in September means I still see it as an exciting month of change and new possibilities (and a new notepad and pencil case!). For a few years this feeling was a bit out of place as when I was employed it was just another month on the treadmill of work. After starting my own business, and having worked reduced hours over the summer to spend time with my daughters, the start of a new school year means that September is once again a month of new opportunities when I can put fresh plans and ideas into place.

Whether you are employed or running your own business, it is healthy and productive to have a regular sense of new beginnings. From a business point of view, this is normally linked to the financial year and budget setting, and individually this is translated into an annual performance review. On a personal level some people use the beginning of a new calendar year to set themselves challenges or make the changes they would like to see in their personal life.


For children returning to school this week, there is a very clear sense of time moving on as they move up a year, that is not present once you leave education. Their end of year report highlighted what they learned the previous year and this week they will be finding out what the next year has instore for them. The school will be reminding them of the school values and ethos and what their expectations are of them for the next year. And like many parents, as I dropped my girls off this morning, I reminded them of our own expectations - to try their hardest at everything and to be kind, look for the people they can help from their teacher to someone sitting on the friendship bench because they can’t find anyone to play with.

Without the regularity of new beginnings academia brings, working years can quickly rush by. A common observation I hear from clients is that they fell into their current role, and before they knew it they had been in it for 5, 8, 10 years… They come to me because they want to force a new beginning and take back control of their career and learn to manage it better going forward.

So what can we take from the start of another academic year and apply to our own careers? Here are my top 5 suggestions:

1) When will your ‘new year’ start?

Whether you are employed, self employed or on a career break, I encourage you to make time in your year to create your own new beginning. We all have a favourite time of the year when we feel more energised so why not choose then. Whether it’s a new calendar year, the beginning of spring or like me, the start of a new academic year. Take some time out to stop and think about what you have achieved this last year and what you would like to achieve in the next 12 months.


2) Plan your year

Create your own personal development plan. Start by stating your goals. Where would you like to be in 12 months time and what skills and experiences will you need to get you there? Can these be developed within your current role or do you need to look outside your department or business to take on a project to stretch you? Outside your business, volunteering is a great way to develop new skills and experience. The site can get you started here as can the NCVO website Don’t forget to include non-work related goals in your plan such as a hobby you would like to take up or a holiday you really want to go on. How will you feel in a year’s time to have achieved them? What needs to change this year for these to happen?

3) Do your homework!

Once you have your plan, set aside a time each week to revisit your plan and check your progress. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What actions have you taken towards your goals this week?
  • What was your biggest achievement this week?
  • Are there any blocks currently holding you back? How can you navigate around them?
  • What will you do differently next week?

4) Live your values

Remind yourself of your own values. Are your values in line with those where you work? Does the work you do at the moment allow you to live them every day? Aside from being more likely to reach your potential when your values match those where you work, you are also more likely to be happier, less stressed, less easily irritated and more resilient to the tough times. If there is a disconnect, then maybe it is time to think of a move.

5) Who can you help?

Let’s face it, we can all do with help from time to time and an article on the Mental Health Foundation site highlights the benefits of helping others quite simply - ‘doing good does you good’. From small acts of kindness to volunteering or putting two people you know in contact with each other as their businesses have a lot of natural synergy. Look for opportunities to connect and help people you know. You’ll feel good, they’ll feel good - it’s a win win!

Once you have a good career management plan in place, keep it going and you’re less likely in the future to wonder where the last five years have gone. If you would like some support creating your career management plan, do get in touch [email protected]

CDI Career Development Awards Career Coach of the Year

Posted by [email protected] on February 9, 2018 at 5:40 AM

I'm delighted to share that I have been shortlisted for the CDI Career Development Awards Career Coach of the Year.

The Career Development Awards celebrate and show case the very best UK-wide practice in career development.

The aims of the UK Career Development Awards are:

  • to identify and promote excellence in career development
  • to celebrate and generate a sense of pride in the career development profession and our partners
  • to raise the profile of career development and the CDI

I have been shortlisted for the work I have been doing with mothers returning to work after maternity leave.

Having personally experienced how hard it is to return to work after having a family, I am particularly passionate about helping women returners in my local area and work with many motherslooking to find more flexible work to fit in with their family life. I found that it was hard for new(ish) mothers to access career coaching due to financial issues and having babies and small children in tow. I decided to take my services to new mothers at groups and classes they are attending anyway and offer some quick tips and help for free, with hand outs and signposting for further services or information should they need it. In a relaxed environment, mothers find it easier to talk about their work issues while they hold / nurse or rock their baby. Having had two daughters myself I know how important it is for my mothers to feel relaxed and not judged while talking, and sometimes we walk and talk if it suits the baby better!

I offered a “Career Surgery” format to local groups. At a “Career Surgery”, a mother can book a free 20-minute consultation to discuss her work or career issues. I have discovered that at this stage, most mothers are feeling really unsure about their return to work so I help by sharing information, such as how to request flexible working, helping them come up with a plan of work that will fit with their family or exploring whether they would like a career change. Very often mothers like to practice their “back to work conversations” they need to have with their line manager, and one of the most frequent outcomes is that they realise they can go and talk to their HR teams about their issues.

For the vast majority of mothers 20 minutes is all they need to help with their issues, together with signposting to useful information. And it is just the right amount of time for babies and toddlers before they get restles! I now volunteer regularly as a Career Coach with local groups to help them.

I have had wonderful feedback from the mothers who have come to my Career Surgeries, saying how they haven’t felt they had anyone else to talk to about their issues, how they aren’t sure where to look for information they need and how it has been a useful transition to get back into work mode again. Very often they hadn’t ever thought about Career Coaching, and are now aware of what help is available should they need it.

With so many mothers being the main ‘breadwinner’ and feeling torn between wanting to be at home with their baby or children and the financial pressure of needing to earn, they find it useful to talk through these emotions.

I am extremely proud of the work I do with local mothers and being recognised for this by the CDI is the icing on the cake.

Is the word 'should' weighing you down?

Posted by [email protected] on February 1, 2017 at 9:55 AM

How often in the day do you find yourself saying ‘I should...’? I should eat a salad for lunch rather than a fry up. I should do more exercise. I should have a job where I am earning more.

Should is so engrained in our language that we use it without thinking. But for a small word it packs a mighty big punch as to how we see ourselves and whether we are likely to do something. The implication of saying ‘should’ is that what we are doing is not enough or isn’t acceptable. We aren’t doing what we are supposed to. But in whose eyes?

The role of ‘should’ in careers

From the point of view of Career Coaching when I hear a client use the word ‘should’ it sets off some pretty big alarm bells. It implies that the client feels that something should be different in their career, not because they necessarily want it to be but because of some external pressure for it to be different.

‘I should be earning more money by now, at my age.’

‘My children are at school now so I should get a proper job again.’

‘My best subject at school is English so I guess I should do that at University.’

‘I should go to university if I want to get a good job.’

‘I’ve got a degree in Maths so I should do something that involves numbers or data.’

‘I’ve worked in this field for so long I should stick with it, otherwise it would be a waste of all those years I’ve put in.’

‘I’m working in the job I’ve always dreamed of, so I should be happy.’

How ‘should’ affects your emotions and behaviour

The word ‘should’ in all these examples conjures up some pretty negative emotions – disappointment, guilt, unhappiness, frustration, anxiety, stress and a feeling that you have or are letting yourself down in some way. It can make you resent the decisions you have made and feel obliged to do things you don’t want to do. You feel like you have no control over what you choose to do. Feeling that you should have done something differently or something else doesn’t give you any credit for what you have done. And for the rebellious among us, the word ‘should’ is like a red rag to stop you from doing it!

These ‘shoulds’ can come about for a variety of reasons. Comparing yourself with your peers, who are on a different career path, can make you feel that you are not doing as well as them. Comparing yourself with society’s image of the perfect mother can make you feel that you aren’t doing enough for your family. Making decisions based on time or financial investment to date rather than doing what you enjoy means that you are removing your autonomy or free will.

How can you turn ‘should’ into something more positive?

As a Career Coach, my first step is to investigate where the word ‘should’ is coming from. Why does a client feel that they should be doing something? Who says that they should? What happens if they don’t do it? It’s a pretty challenging question and often uncovers some deeply ingrained thoughts and beliefs that can stem from a clients upbringing, family philosophies and societal stereotyping.

Once we have got to the bottom of where the ‘should’ is coming from, the next step is working through whether this is something the client actually wants and if so, to reframe the statement to elicit more positive emotions around it. Using ‘want’, ‘can’, ‘could’ or ‘would like’ all lead to more positive feelings around the client’s goals or aims. They can make a client feel more motivated to do what’s needed to achieve their goal and feel like they have control again.

Top tips to stop your ‘shoulds’ from weighing you down

  1. Stop and think about why you feel you should do something. Using one of the examples above, why do you feel that now your children are at school you should have a ‘proper job’ again? Is this for society expectations, peer pressure, parental pressure? (Note I do not include financial reasons here as in that case it would be a ‘need’ rather than ‘should’.)

  2. Once you understand a bit more about the ‘why’ you can then start to think about whether it will benefit you. If so, by reframing the ‘should’ into something that elicits positive feelings or emotions, you are more likely to do it and be successful. ‘Now the children are at school I would like to find some work that gets me out of the house but also fits in with my family life.’

  3. If you feel that it won’t benefit you, you can then start to generate some ideas about what you would ‘like’ to do instead. ‘I would like to take some time to get fit and find some time to have a breather before I find a job. That way I will have more energy and enthusiasm to take on extra work.’


Are you struggling with any ‘shoulds’ in your career right now? If my top tips don’t help, do get in touch to see whether career coaching can help you turn your ‘shoulds’ to ‘coulds’.


Practical Career Planning

Posted by [email protected] on November 4, 2015 at 6:50 AM

In Autumn 2015 I added a new package to my Career Coaching services, which I called Practical Career Planning. It was inspired by clients who have a definite idea about what they want to do next, but who are struggling to make the move.

I am often approached by clients who would like me to review their CV as they feel that it may be holding them back in their job search. Once we start chatting about their job search, they often reveal other issues they are facing in their job hunt such as:

"I know what kind of job I want, but I don't know how to find it."

"I have a LinkedIn profile, but I'm not sure how this will help me or how to make the best of it."

"I know that I need to start networking a bit more but how? Where?"

"I'm not sure how to sell myself or what I have to offer."

"I'm so busy at the moment it's hard to find time to do anything about my job hunt, and when I do find some time I'm a bit overwhelmed about where to start - there's so much to do."

"I am looking to move into a completely new industry, how can I compete with people with more experience than me?"

My Practical Career Planning package is aimed at helping my clients answer these types of questions or issues and put together their own comprehensive action plan to continue the momentum after our session.

If you feel that you would benefit from this type of Career Coaching session, do get in touch for a free initial consultation.

Happy job hunting!

Are you harbouring a secret fantasy....job?

Posted by [email protected] on March 17, 2014 at 4:00 PM

As often seems to happen with me, the minute I start cleaning the floor I think of something I’d like to write about. Today this also managed to coincide with my youngest being asleep and my oldest being preoccupied with her new magic colouring book. Without getting too excited about my perfect storm I sat down to see if I could actually finish writing something.

So today I’m thinking about ‘fantasy jobs’. I think the sunny weekend spent playing with my girls in the garden probably inspired this as fantasy jobs are often rooted in your childhood. They may be what you most wanted to be as a child. I say ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ as fantasy jobs often involve a whole persona; they can define you. Other fantasy jobs may be sparked by someone you have met or something you have seen, for example in a film. I always remember around the time Daniel Craig’s first Bond film came out there was a piece on BBC News about MI5/6 seeing a surge in applications to join them. Of course it was most likely Bond’s persona that was attractive rather than the reality of being a spy.

These fantasy jobs are normally left behind with our childhood or adolescence, but sometimes they can persist into adulthood. Where’s the harm in that you may ask? Well the problem is that these fantasy jobs may hold you back from moving forward with a productive and fulfilling career. These ideas may be held openly and consciously, in that someone pursues a job that they aren’t qualified or suited for. However if the fantasy job is held subconsciously, this can cause you to feel generally dissatisfied in your role or chosen career. This discomfort arises as a result of ‘cognitive dissonance’ - there is a mismatch between the job you wish you could do and the contradictory job you actually have.

This is one of the areas that is vital for career coaches to explore with clients, particularly if a client feels ‘stuck’ in their career. Exploring these fantasy jobs to see whether they have any ‘legs’, any basis in reality or are achievable is really key to helping a client find a role or career they will find fulfilling. For example, going back to the spy fantasy job, it might be the idea of a job that involves a lot of travel that really appeals to someone and this is something we can work with.

So are you harbouring a secret fantasy job? Do you day dream about being a writer? An artist? A vintner? A trapeze artist? A fighter pilot? (These have all been secret fantasy jobs of mine over the years!) If you feel stuck in your current job or career, while I’m not saying jack it all in and follow your fantasy job, it may actually help you find what you really want to do.