The Handbook
The Handbook

7 Questions With A Careers Expert

From Red magazine to The Times, Grazia to Marie Claire, journalist Alice Olins’ CV reads like a newsstand of some of the UK’s biggest titles. She still writes (she’s even written a book) but after launching Step Up Club in 2016 her career took a very different route. Alice now helps women find their feet in their own careers; she’s a voice for women working smarter, more confidently and nurtures them towards fulfilling their potential.

Step Up Club acts as a supportive space for working women who want to excel; it gives them access to coaching, mentoring and networking events and it’s all done without stuffy, corporate jargon and terrible branding. Alice has managed to build a cool careers space online that feels like you’re reading a magazine, it inspires women and encourages them to encourage each other – remember your don’t have to be bossy to be a boss.

So who better to ask for some careers advice than Alice herself. We sat down with her to find out how to put the spark back into your career or make the leap to land something you truly love. Here’s what she had to say…

1. A new year can be tough if you’re not happy or doing well at work. Any tips for those feeling the work-related blues?

I would advise a two pronged attack. First you need to deal with your mindset and whatever is going on in your work and life. Post-Jan, we’re all on a festive comedown, we’ve probably overspent, the mornings and evenings are dark, and things feel particularly bleak. Knowing and accepting that this is a universal feeling should liberate you from some of the misery.

Then, you need to take action. Don’t just say you are going to take some time out to think strategically about your career, put it in your diary and commit to taking some time away from your desk, with an empty notebook and the space to think.

If you want to make a big change, consider the small steppingstones that will help you get there. And if you just feel in need of a bit of a career or business pick me up, then look to others for inspiration. Consider one of your role models and ask yourself, what would she or he do now? Sometimes we need to look at our careers and lives through other people’s eyes to see where we can make positive change.

2. What advice would you give for those wanting to find a new job or career but are lacking the motivation or confidence to do so?

Well motivation and confidence are two huge and very separate entities. Both do obviously come into play when you’re looking for a new role, because taking a leap into the unknown plays to your vulnerabilities, which will naturally stir any low confidence feelings. A lack of motivation is generally an emotional response to your low self-esteem, so let’s deal with how to build confidence ready for new ventures.

I always say that you can build confidence from the inside out and from the outside in. The former plays to our internal dialogue: think about how you speak to yourself. Does that negative, naysayer voice have the volume too high? It’s normal to have a critical voice, but when it takes over, we stagnate.

3. So how best to turn the negative self-talk to a positive one?

A simple exercise that I suggest to those I’m coaching or members of my Step Up Club, is to start a Positive Belief Record. In this record I want you to note down everything positive that happens in your life; nice feedback, compliments from a friend, a work win and so on. Then, each week, spend 10 minutes re-reading the positive evidence that you’ve collected.

A human brain is hardwired to latch onto negativity, so this is a neat way of turning the tables and building confidence from the outside in. It’s about how you present yourself, the Fake It To Make It school of thought. Look the part and act the part (even if you really don’t feel the part) and you will positively alter others’ perceptions of you – and that in turn will be a confidence booster.

4. How can people stay motivated after lots of knock backs?

Learn from them. It won’t feel easy and it’s ok to allow yourself some time to wallow in your sadness, but once you’ve sat in your hurt for an hour or so, then unpick the learnings. Where could you improve your skill set so that this won’t happen again? Who could mentor you to gain more knowledge? And so on. Look at setbacks as learning opportunities and it takes the sting out of their tail.

5. How can people stay organised, prepped and motivated at work?

Eat the frog. This is a term coined by Mark Twain, and it means do the worst thing first. Eat your work frog when you arrive in the morning and you will find that for the rest of your day you will be much more efficient. Yes, it’s useful to get some lists down (I’m a fan of the three point To Do) but really, if you spend too much time planning, you’ll get even less done. So eat that frog and then relax into the rest of your tasks.

6. How can we set career goals?

Make them measurable. Dreams become goals when you give them parameters in which they can exist so include time frames and add actual salary amounts when you’re planning ahead. That way you can measure how well you’re doing, say six months down the line, plus research tells us that measurable goals are more achievable too.

7. How do you start your day to ensure you’re heading to work happy and motivated?

I need to have a relaxed start to the day for me to start work with a spring in my step. I have three children, so if I can get the school run done without too much of a frenzy then everyone starts their day of better. I try to be as organised as possible, so getting bags packed the night before, but I also find that I need to accept that some things just won’t get done until later – and that’s ok. If you leave out your cereal boxes but everyone is happy and relaxed on the way in, then that’s far better than a perfectly tidy kitchen and an unhappy family.

For more information on Alice or Step Up Club visit stepupclub.co