Insights Focusing on Career Change

Rachel Schofield on TesseTalks

“Working with a coach is lovely. In that space a coach can really push and prod and poke, just like the journalist would, but in a much more supportive way. You can’t think your way into a career change, because at some point you get stuck. So much is shifting. This isn’t a kind of one and you’re done. It’s not like you decide and you’re stuck forever”, says Rachel Schofield.

She continued , “I worked for the BBC as a journalist for over 20 years. I’d not worked until I trained as a coach, I hadn’t worked anywhere other than the BBC, then I decided I would like to try something different and  use my skillset in a different way. I lent into a lot of things that I could already do. So asking questions, listening, being very curious about people’s stories. And that in a roundabout way took me into coaching.”

An invitation 

As we get older, we wrestle with big questions, with often quite surprising and uplifting results.  Rachel holds up the mirror, invites curiosity and asks those incisive questions. 

“I invite people to look at what interests them.  I talk to people a lot about how you build a new network, how you access jobs through ways other than the obvious kind of apply along with a gazillion other people.” 

So much of our conversation surfaces the importance of experimentation and curiosity in our careers.

Curiosity and Exploration: Sample Questions 

What drives me?
Am I living the life that I want?
Am I working in a way that feels intentional?
Is what I am doing really fulfilling? 
Am I achieving professionally what my version of success is?
What does my work need to do for me?
Do I want my work to lean into values of collaboration or purpose or impact? Do I want fun and adventure and freedom? 
What does leadership mean to you? 
Where else in your life are you leading?

Thinking To be Done

How much do you want to earn?
Where do you want to work? 
What kind of culture do you like to work in? 
Are you a fast paced, buzzy person.
Are you a big corporate in the city? 
Are you an outdoors person? 

Legacy Questions 

“What would I like people to be saying about me? 
What's the legacy do I want to leave behind you?” 
 “At the end of your life, if I am looking back on it, what would I like to have contributed or achieved”.

Insights and Gems of Wisdom – What Helps?

Making time to think

  1. Holding space for people and creating a framework in which for them to really look at what they see. 
  2. Recognising that success shifts. As we get older, success becomes something much broader, deeper. , much rounder and more holistic in life.
  3. Starting from themes that start to emerge.
  4. Identifying people, you like collaborating with 
  5. Listing favourite projects to collaborate on 
  6. Considering what’s important about collaboration?

Success for Rachel is “seeing people take a lot more control of their career rather than just falling into it as so many of us do.”

Tips from her book, The Career Change Guide, Five Steps to Finding Your Dream Job ” are so helpful, I wish it had been around 20 years ago when I transitioned from full time employment to self-employment. 

Rachel Schofield worked for the BBC for 20 years as a journalist and news presenter before training as career and personal development coach. She has turned her journalist’s passion for asking awkward questions onto the world of work, helping individuals think creatively, embrace the discomfort of change, and figure out what fulfilling and impactful careers look like in our rapidly changing world. Through her coaching, workshops and speaking, she helps people become effective and confident drivers of their own career development, and address both the practical barriers and behavioural patterns that hold them back. Rachel’s book “The Career Change Guide: Five Steps to Finding your Dream Job” is published by Penguin. 

Additional Resources

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00:00:00 Paula: Welcome to “TesseTalks” with your host, Tesse Akpeki, and co host me, Paula Okonneh, where we share with you top leadership and management strategies. This continues to be a journey of discovery. We are learning that leadership is personal and professional, and we hope you will walk with us in this adventure. Our guest today is Rachel Schofield, and the theme for today’s show is “Insights Focusing on Career Change”. Rachel will be sharing what helps and what hinders. But before we start, I have to tell you about Rachel. She’s so impressive. Rachel worked for the BBC for 20 years as a journalist and news presenter before training as a career and personal development coach. She has turned her journalist passion for asking awkward questions onto the world of work. Helping individuals think creatively, embrace the discomfort of change, and figure out what fulfilling and impactful careers would look like in our rapidly changing world. Wow. She recently wrote a book called “The Career Change Guide, Five Steps to Finding Your Dream Job”, which is published by Penguin. And she can be connected on her website where she offers a free worksheet. With that, I want to welcome you to “TesseTalks”, Rachel. Thanks for saying yes.
00:01:33 Rachel: My pleasure. Great to see you, Paula and Tesse.
00:01:37 Tesse: Hi, Rachel. Now, I’m unashamed to say that I have followed you for years and followed you on radio. Not stalking, I have to say. It’s actually a warm, passionate embrace. And when I saw you on the platform for the Coaching Academy, I thought, what a better person to get in to talk about career change, to talk about navigating the world of uncertainty on the unknown. And guess what, your blog, it just has me in stitches most of the time. So I think wordsmith, humor, passion for change, and being a fantastic journalist. What’s there not to like, Rachel?
00:02:11 Rachel: Oh, that’s so kind .
00:02:14 Tesse: I am in awe. And so, you know, this time I’m going to ask you my first question, which is about, what do you consider success as, and why?
00:02:27 Rachel: Oh, I love that question. Do you know, isn’t that funny? I ask my clients that so often. I have a whole session I do with people on what is success to you? Because obviously we all need to lean into that, don’t we? And it’s different for everyone, but I don’t ask myself enough. Now, look what you’ve done, you’ve put me on the spot. I think for me, it’s recognizing that success shifts. And so for me, what counts as success now at the age of 47 with two teenage girls who are kind of nearly 20, nearly 17. It’s probably quite different to what success looked like when I was starting out in the world of work at 21, 22. And I think for me, and I think for a lot of people as they get older, success becomes something much broader and deeper, much less about the obvious signs of success about how much am I earning. You know, am I doing really well? Am I at the top? Am I progressing at the same rate as everybody else? And much more about, am I living the life that I want? And of course, there are elements of privilege we need to think about with that. Not everybody gets to make these choices exactly how they want, but I do think there’s something for all of us about, you know, being able to say success for me is, you know, feeling fulfilled or success is having enough, but it’s also having the time I want with my kids or whatever it is. There’s no right answer. But for me, it’s definitely about, do I feel that what I’m doing has some meaning? Do I feel like it also gives me a sense of making an impact? Do I feel that it’s fun and enjoyable that I meet interesting people like you guys? Yes. All of those things. So I think for me, success has become something much rounder and more holistic in life.
00:04:14 Tesse: I totally love it. And I tell you why, because often when people are talking about success, it’s usually about commercial success and being financially rich. And I’m sure financial wealth is a good thing, but life is much more deep than that. Life is more meaningful than that. So you saying what you say, what it means to you, you can actually enable other people to connect with their success, which may be beyond commercial success. Love it. Paula, what are your thoughts?
00:04:44 Paula: Yeah, you know, you just asked Rachel what does success look like for her? And she said, Ooh, that’s a question that she asked her clients on many occasions. And so I’m still very curious. So what led you down that niche of, you know, career change? As Tesse said, most times you think about it from a commercial point of view, but this is more than that. So I’m curious about that.
00:05:07 Rachel: Yeah, I think, so as your kind introduction said, I worked for the BBC as a journalist for over 20 years. I’ve not worked until I trained as a coach, I hadn’t worked anywhere other than the BBC. So it was really kind of, you know, in my veins. I always feel like if you cut me open, you’d find BBC sort of written inside me somewhere. But I did what a lot of people do. And I got to that stage in my kind of late thirties, early forties and started to think, is this what I want for the next 20, 30 years? We’re all living longer, working longer, and it wasn’t that I didn’t like it, there were elements of it that I still really enjoyed. But somehow something had shifted and I thought I’d like to try something different. I’d like to use my skillset in a different way. So I lent into a lot of things that I could already do. So asking questions, listening, being very curious about people’s stories. And that in a roundabout way took me into coaching. But the journey towards career coaching was perhaps a slower burn. A lot of people work as coaches and they don’t know quite where am I going to take this? What kind of people am I going to work? Am I going to be a health coach or an executive coach or a, you know, relationship coach? But for me, my starting point, it was very much around women and work. So when I was training as a coach, you have to clock up a certain number of hours, practice hours to show that you’re competent. And inevitably, because you ask your mates and your friends and your friends of your friends, I coach you and practice on you. I worked with a lot of mums, particularly whose kids were growing up, and perhaps mums who had taken some time out of formal work to raise their kids and we’re looking to re enter the workforce. So I started working with a lot of women returners who were hit by all kinds of challenges, both practical and also kind of mindset about, oh my gosh, I’ve stepped out of formal work. Who’s going to take me seriously? The workplace isn’t geared up for flexible working. I’ve lost my comfort. What can I do? Shall I still be a, an accountant or would I like to do something different? So that was my starting point. And that has then somehow spread, because when I started working with women in that space around careers and particularly career change, because a lot of people later in life decide to make a shift. I realized, oh my word, there are so many people out there, and I think COVID has only exacerbated this, who are thinking, maybe I want something different. Now that I’ve started a family, or now that I’ve turned 30 or turned 50 ,or my kids are leaving home. They realize that something has shifted. They’re in a different stage of their life. And we’re all realizing that maybe our job isn’t for life. Maybe there’s still headroom to try something else, whether that’s radical or not. People do want to make space to think, am I working in a way that feels intentional? Am I achieving professionally what my version of success is? And holding that space for people and creating a framework in which for them to really look at that rather than let it just kind of wake them up on a Sunday night before work on Monday. Is really fulfilling and seeing people take a lot more control of their career rather than just falling into it as so many of us do.
00:08:13 Tesse: Oh, I so love this. When you talk about holding space, I think coaching and facilitation meets at a junction when you can hold the space for somebody as they explore their inner world and externalize that in what they want to do. And Paula did mention your worksheet, which I would recommend to anybody, “Seven Ways to Explore Your Passions”. I love it, because it kind of exploring your passions and it’s different for different people. But, you know, linking that with your wonderful book, and I would say, wonderful. Anybody who hasn’t actually looked at that book is missing out on a trick. “The Career Change Guide, Five Steps To Finding Your Dream Job”. I thought, where was this when I needed it 20 years ago? It was not written yet. But for people who haven’t actually had the opportunity of looking at this wealth of information, tips, strategies, and so on, what would you say are the key messages that emerge from this brilliant piece of work?
00:09:17 Rachel: Oh, thank you. I think any kind of career shift, and when I use that, I use it loosely, because sometimes people imagine every career change is kind of, you know, I used to be a bus driver and now I’m a zookeeper. It’s not always that radical. But any look at our careers is a kind of two pronged thing, I think, and my book walks people through this. But the key things that you want to start getting curious about, or doing some reflection. So asking yourself some of these questions about what does my ideal work look like? And a great starting point for that, and I take people through this through a series of exercises in the book, is to look at the different elements of what makes up fulfilling work. That’s often around, you know, what am I really good at? Where does my skillset lie? And of those things that I’m good at, which really do I enjoy that? I want to do more of that energize me. So getting clear about that, getting clear about your values, going back to the idea of success, you know, what motivates you at work? When I say values, that’s things like, do I want my work to lean into values of collaboration or purpose or impact? Or do I want fun and adventure and freedom? Or do I want, you know, wealth and status? Again, no right answer, but what drives you? I invite people to look at what interests them. So that worksheet that I give people to do about finding your passion it’s almost a tease that because often finding your passion is the wrong thing. And people can take a look at the worksheet to see what I mean. But at least getting curious about what you’re interested in and whether that holds any ideas for you professionally. And then a piece of the puzzle about, you know, at a practical level, what does your work need to do for you? How much do you want to earn? Where do you want to work? What kind of culture do you like to work in? You know, you are fast paced, buzzy person. Are you a big corporate in the city? Are you outdoors? You know, all that kind of stuff. So there’s some thinking to be done. And working with a coach is lovely in that space because they can really push and prod and poke, just like the journalist would, but in a much more supportive way. And then alongside that becomes the action taking, because so many people get stuck in the thinking. It’s valuable, but you can end up just going around in circles, because ultimately you can’t think your way into a career change, because at some point you get stuck. You sort of like, I’ve thought of everything and I’ve got some ideas, but, you know, oh, but would they be better than what I’m doing now? I’m not sure. Well, would I be able to, and all the little mind gremlins come in, you can’t do that. That’s not possible. Who’s going to take you seriously? You know, and you start to think, well, would I really enjoy it? Is that other idea I’ve got really what I think it is. So at that point, and another key part of the book is all about taking those ideas that you have, however loose, however wild, however obvious, however, you know, wherever they sit on that spectrum and thinking, what does that actually look like? This idea I have that I’d like to, you know, own a cafe or that I’d like to be a psychotherapist, or I’d like to run my own business as a consultant. Let me go and see what that actually looks like, tastes like, smells like, you know. Let me take all of the little hypotheses I have about would I like it? How would I find clients? What skills would I need? And go and test them, you know, and go and get out there and have conversations with people who are doing the sort of work that you want. Go along to events and book launches or conferences and just dip a little toe in the water. You know, if you’ve got an ambition to be a florist, you know, before you sign up for a two year floristry course at great expense, just offer to do your mate’s wedding flowers and see if you love it. Or if you think, oh my gosh, that was the most stressful, hideous nightmare I can ever imagine. Yeah. So the book takes you through some of those ways to explore your ideas, to really test whether they have legs. And then it talks you through, you know, some of the practical things as a career shifter around CVs, LinkedIn, job applications. But also the really important thing, which is so important for career shifters of using the hidden job market. So often going through the formal process of applications and LinkedIn job ads can be a difficult place if you’re a career shifter because you don’t really make sense on paper. Because you used to be one thing and now you’re something else and people don’t get you. So I talk to people a lot about how you build a new network, how you access jobs through ways other than the obvious kind of apply along with a gazillion other people. So lots of really practical stuff as well. And some case studies in the book about who’s done it and how they did it and what you can learn from them.
00:13:53 Tesse: Yeah, this is excellent stuff. I mean, for me, what struck out was the templates, you know, and the questions that you were asking. And I thought, fantastic. But then I was spoilt because I was able to get your blog alongside the book and I can tell you, your blogs are funny. They are on point and it made me really curious. So one of the blogs you wrote using the “D” word, by which is not doing but death. I kind of, Paula, I kind of welcome Paula to say what she thought. But I kind of segued into an area of, wow, never quite looked at death in this way. But how it links into your book and stuff and career change, is that having experience and you get to an age where you experience a lot of loss, a lot of death, a lot of transitions and trauma, it actually can change the career pathway. So for me, for instance, when I kind of encountered a lot of losses, I found that I wanted to find meaning and purpose in a different way from what I was doing before. And so things like podcasting, which is what Paula and I do here, took on a different meaning. It wasn’t just about putting out a broadcast, it was connecting to people with experiences, their voices and, you know, so many things. So I welcome your views in terms of career change and grief and loss and trauma, which can impact unintentionally in a way, but you can’t do anything. The choices that you make because of a pathway you never expected to have.
00:15:32 Rachel: Yeah, I think you’re really onto something there. I, there’s a common coaching exercise and it feels a bit morbid in a way, but it ties into what you’re saying. Which is an exercise where you invite your client to, to visualize the day that they die or the day that they have their funeral, and picture all the people standing around in that room remembering them and saying, you know, what what would you like people to be saying? What’s the legacy you want to leave behind you? And it’s meant to be a very uplifting exercise, because I think it you know when we experience loss in our lives or when we contemplate our own mortality It really focuses the mind as to what is important. What do I care about? What am I even here for? And that doesn’t have to be in the, you know, the most deep existential way. But it does really make people think, well, you know, nobody gets on their deathbed and says, I wish I’d been in the office more. You know, we hear that, don’t we? A lot, that sort of throwaway line, but it’s so true, you know. And I think it’s a great way of saying, you know, at the end of your life, if you’re looking back on it, what would you like to have contributed or achieved in whatever sense you want to interpret that word? It doesn’t have to be something, you know, massive. It might be within your own community or your own family. But what are you actually doing and how are you spending your time? And what do you want to have left behind at the end of it? And rarely do people say, oh, I’m really glad that I’ve got a picture of the corner office or, people do start using much more words like purpose, impact, meaning, legacy. So yeah, it’s a big question, but one that I think as we get older we wrestle with often quite surprising and uplifting results.
00:17:09 Tesse: That’s lovely. Paula, I’ve hugged Rachel for so long. I’m going to be generous. Come on.
00:17:18 Paula: I am listening to Rachel and, you know, everything she says, you know, it resonates with me, because being a mom and, you know, as you say, some stage of life, you sometimes look back and say, you know, I had to give up X, Y, Z for my children. And now they are at a stage where they don’t need me as much what’s next for me. But with that goes so many other things, you know, I’m thinking about change comes at all time. And I’m thinking in the same line with children and change. A lot of millennials now are looking for, you know, work life balance. And for them career change seems to happen more quickly than it did for us in our generation. So, I’m going to take this back because I know our audience is, it’s very broad. We have not teenagers, but we have young adults listening to up to more matured adults. So what would the younger Rachel say to the older Rachel now? We talk about career change. You’ve changed, you know. And I talk about millennials and Gen Z’s who are looking at us and say, hmm, their lives are different. We can end in that. What will that younger or the older, what is the older one going to say to the younger one?
00:18:27 Rachel: I think there’s something really important here and it’s a word I use a lot in the book as well around experimentation and curiosity in our careers. I think young people will get this much more. We as a generation, and as I say I’m 47. You know, we’re brought up with the very linear career structure. You know, you can’t decide pretty much when you finish school or you come out of college or university and you’re sort of on a pathway and you’re sort of stuck on it and you move your way up the ladder. And then you, you know, when you hit 70, you retire and they give you a bowl of fruit and a nice clock, you know. And we could expect that, and so perhaps it was considered a bit weird if you suddenly went off and had a sort of midlife crisis and decided you wanted to become a yoga teacher. Whereas I think, thankfully, partly because of the way technology and industry have moved on, jobs aren’t jobs for life anymore. So much is shifting and that, in a way, that’s scary and it means young people have a lot on their plate, a lot of choice and a lot of perhaps uncertainty about what jobs will look like. But the good thing about that is that they have the chance to keep experimenting, to keep evolving, and to realize that what they decide at 21 doesn’t lock them in until they’re 50, which is why I think so many of our generation have got very disillusioned with work at the midpoint. Because they’re like, gosh, I’ve been doing this so long, it hasn’t really changed, and It’s going to be the same for the next 20 years. Actually, if we can think, let’s evolve, let’s see careers as a much more living, breathing thing that we can continue to play with and move in different directions that we can, we’re not stuck on a linear pathway anymore. So I think it’s about not fearing that you need to decide too early. I’ve got, I mean, so my older daughter is at university. She’s nearly 20. And I had a lovely chat with some of her friends recently about what am I going to do when I graduate? And I need to have it all mapped out. And the one thing I wanted to say to them and not to belittle those fears, because obviously they want to feel they’ve got a direction of travel. But is that in those early years, that’s the chance you’ve got to kind of go out and play. And I don’t say that frivolously, obviously you’ve got to earn money and you need to live somewhere. But don’t feel like I’m making the decision for my career, I’ve got one go at it. Actually, now’s the moment to go and like, try some things on for size. Try this, if that doesn’t suit you, you can pivot, you can change, you can, you can upscale, you can change direction. And I think that’s the exciting bit of coming into the workplace now. And that I would love us oldies to embrace as well. And I know it’s harder and it comes with a lot of mindset challenges and some practical challenges as well. But always thinking, this isn’t a kind of one and you’re done. It’s not like you decide and you’re stuck forever. That, okay, you may not be able to go and, you know, become the prime minister, or you may have left it a bit late. But there are lots of other things you can go and do, or even small changes that you can make that will have quite a big ripple effect on your enjoyment of work and the feelings you have about your career going forward.
00:21:36 Paula: Wow. I love that. I mean, there’s hope for all of us. The young ones, no, you’re not stuck. And we, more short seasoned ones say, the world is still an oyster, you know. In the States, we have a president who is going to be 81 if he isn’t already. Who says I can’t become president?
00:21:54 Rachel: My gosh, never too late.
00:21:57 Paula: Never too late. I love it. I love it.
00:22:01 Tesse: Oh, it’s life, isn’t there? I mean, in the book, Rachel, you mentioned personality, you know, kind of profiles and stuff like that. And at the moment I’m actually involved in the discernment ministry, the church of England. It happened by chance. It wasn’t planned. But actually, when I looked at an old Birkman test that I took, because I don’t throw anything away, which is a bit of a problem. But it was a benefit this time, because I looked at it and the Birkman said, “discernment is a strength you have”. But at the time, I think I wasn’t ready to read it. So I didn’t read, I saw it, but I didn’t read it. Personality profiles, I mean, from your experience in career choices and change and navigation, any thoughts on how they can be useful in helping the navigation of career discussions, explorations, discoveries?
00:22:55 Rachel: Yeah, I invite people to try them and there’s a whole range. You can get sort of a lot of free things online, like “”, “” do a lot of free online personality tests generally based on the Myers Briggs model. Also things that you do pay for like “Clifton Strengths Finder”. They’ve got various versions upwards of about 20 pounds. I find them interesting. I always say to people, but hold them lightly. I think the only danger with personality profiles or some of these career, sort of you plug stuff in and expect it to spit out a magic answer, is that yes, we should not treat them as diagnostic. They’re not going to like tell you the magic thing. That’s the bad news in our careers is there is no magic answer. I think that’s the worry is people think if I just put enough information into this system or into another person, into my best friend and tell them everything about me, they will say, well, it’s clear that you should be an astronaut, you know. There are millions of jobs out there. So it’s not going to do that. But what I think it gives you is a starting point, because it throws out some themes. And I think often with career work and with career change, you want to start from those themes that start to emerge that you suddenly realize this personality profile, or my own recollections of my own reflections on my work, keep throwing up something about creativity. And it’s not that you therefore, oh, I’m a creative person, clearly I should have been an artist or, you know. It’s like, okay, so you’ve got some new language here. You’ve found out that you’re creative. You found out that you love leadership positions. So what are you seeing? What do you want to do with that realization? But again, think creatively, excuse the same word. But you know, it’s like, it doesn’t necessarily mean, you know, you like leading people therefore you must become the managing director of something. It’s like, well, tell me more about that. You know, get interested. What does leadership mean to you? Where else in your life are you leading? Because sometimes people go, actually, I don’t want to be a leader at work, but I love being a leader, you know, in my local youth group. Or I love leading because I run my local choir, or my local hockey team, actually, that makes sense because I want to be captain, because I love doing something around bringing everyone together and getting everyone behind the shared goal or whatever it is. So I think it gives you some starting points and really kind of meaty words. But what your job then do is to get them under the microscope, because knowing that you are somebody who is very organized is too big. It’s like, so what you could do a gazillion. So I always say to my clients, when we’ve got words like that, when they say to me, you know, my skillset is that I’m very collaborative. I’m like, okay. So tell me, what kind of people do you like collaborating with? What kind of projects are your favourite to collaborate on? What’s important to you about collaboration? So you’ve got to kind of take these themes and really kind of juice them, for something a little bit more linked to a career idea or a job role that can move you forwards and give you something more to investigate.
00:26:04 Paula: Thank you so much, Rachel. That was really very helpful and educational and so informative. And now to our amazing audience. I know you just enjoyed what you just heard. I know we did. And so We’d love for you to head over to “Apple Podcasts”, “Google Podcasts”, “Spotify”, or anywhere else that you listen to podcasts, and please click subscribe. If you have any questions or topics you’d love us to cover related to leadership or governance, we ask that you send us a note. And if you’d like to be a guest on our show, please reach out to us on our website, which is “” to apply. Thank you, Rachel. This has been very, very, very helpful.
00:26:54 Rachel: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
00:26:56 Tesse: Rachel, it’s such a joy. You’re just a gift that just kept on giving. Take care.
00:27:02 Rachel: I talked too much, but you know, we had fun.
00:27:05 Tesse: You know, it was just about right, wasn’t it, Paula?
00:27:08 Paula: It was. It was. It continues to be good. Thank you.