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How to choose a second career in your 40s and 50s

How to choose a second career in your 40s and 50s

How do you want to spend the rest of your life?

If you’re like me and most other people, you probably choose or fell into your first career when you were too young to know beans about your options or yourself.

For entertainment, here’s how my story went.

I graduated with a degree in Media Arts.


I’m still in the dark today about what that really was.

To make myself marginally more appealing to employers, I did a three-month course at my local college of further education to learn how to use a computer and touch type.

I landed my first job as an admin assistant.

Three minutes later I was so bored with admin that I started volunteering to help with any work that distracted me from the tedium.

By pure chance, that additional work was communications related.

Four months later I wrote my own job description and got the company to make me their communications co-ordinator (what I lacked in experience I appear to have made up for in sheer front!)

After 18 months I applied for every media job in The Guardian, flooding the market with my CV until I landed a job in PR.

Side note: I had absolutely no idea what PR was.

Fast forward 16 years and I’d had a successful climb up the communications ladder to the heady heights of Vice President and Deputy MD Europe for a global digital marcoms agency.

I can hear the oooohs.

Now there was just one problem.

The career that I had worked relentlessly to build to that point was most definitely not the one I wanted to work at for the rest of my days.

The truth was that communications had chosen me, not I it.

There was no conscious selection based on my passion for the field or my most intrinsic personal drivers.

I’d had no idea at 21 what those things were.

Which meant that at 37 I was in a quandary.

I was craving something very different.

Something more meaningful, purposeful and fulfilling.

Something that allowed for a life with more space, time and peace.

But what? How was I going to choose the right path to pursue?

When I got over the ill-fated idea of using my CV to guide my choice, I faced a different problem.

The possibilities were endless!

Should I start my own business?

Should I work for a charity or non-profit?

Maybe I should try a company in an adjacent field?

What about going back to school to train for a career in something else?

Perhaps I should turn a hobby into a job?

After floundering for what felt like an eternity, jumping from one idea to the next but never feeling confident enough to settle on one definite thing, I hired a coach to help me deal with some separate personal issues.

And then it happened.

Unintentionally, the questions my coach asked me helped me narrow down what I really wanted from my second career and corresponding lifestyle.

They provided some thought-provoking guidelines that stopped me peering down the wrong avenues and helped me investigate the right ones.

So if you’re struggling to identify your own ideal career path from all the options available, write down your answers to these five questions and see what the combined result tells you.

  1. What activity, type of work or support have you gravitated towards and undertaken in your professional or personal life, even when it wasn’t in your job description or expected of you?
  1. Would you be happier living somewhere else?
  1. When did you stop doing what you loved?
  1. If you could write a book to help the world, that was guaranteed to be a best seller, what would the title be and what would it be about?
  1. If it was guaranteed that you couldn’t fail, what would you do?

Like me, your answers might just direct your thinking and your ultimate second act 😊

P.S. If you’d like some structured help coming to a clear conclusion on your second career, which takes into account your ideal life criteria, check out Work Wonderland.

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How to identify what you are passionate about

How to identify what you are passionate about

A few years ago I was struggling.

The idea of staying in the same career forever was about as appealing as a routine colonoscopy, but I had absolutely no clue what I might do instead.

I kept waiting for that Eureka! moment where I’d suddenly see my life’s purpose in glorious technicolour, but it’s stubborn refusal to appear meant I kept crawling back to Plan A.

Stop complaining, get back to the real world and get on with it.

Why didn’t I know what I was passionate about so that I could forge a new path?

Why was it that every time I sat down to think about alternative options, I couldn’t pinpoint what would actually make me happy?

Instead all I could think about were the realistic parameters surrounding any choice I might make, which basically told me I was dreaming when it came to making a feel-good change.

But why?

Well, there are three reasons we typically struggle to identify and pursue our dreams.

The first is that well-used term, “The Real World”.

Many of us at some stage in our early or teenage lives hear repeated, heavy-duty messages about growing up.

We are taught that being an adult requires a serious approach and a realistic filter.

We come to understand that these two things are the key to building and maintaining security.

There’s no room for child’s play so we pack up our passions, put them in a metaphorical box and consign them to the shelf at the back of our mind because it’s time to live in the real world now.

We learn that our passions are unsuited to our adult work lives and so we leave them behind.

The second reason has to do with Permission.

Whether related to the messages we’ve grown up with or our own internal dialogue, or both, many of us don’t believe we have the right to indulge in what makes us happy.

Who am I to think I can have it all?

What makes me so special?

What have I ever done to earn the right?

Self-doubt and a lack of self-esteem can often remove the permission-slip for actively seeking anything we might find fun, interesting or engaging.

The third reason relates to Judgement.

A healthy dose of fear about what others will think and how they will judge us is a great deterrent for humouring and acting on our passions.

How will I be perceived?

What will people say?

What if people think I’m irresponsible, frivolous, indulgent, selfish, unrealistic, crazy or weird?

Thoughts of this nature are a sure-fire way to keep us separated from the things that deliver the feel-good factor.

For me, it was a mix of one and three.

I’d consigned my passions to the annals of my childhood and I thought I couldn’t possibly ditch a sensible 16-year career that was killing me for something else. That would be financially reckless and people would think I’d lost the plot.

Now if any of these explanations resonate with you, I have some good news.

You can absolutely re-connect with your passions and rediscover the things that make you happy so you can plan a career and life around them.

Thank heavens for that!

It might involve ditching a few unhelpful layers of conditioning, reconnecting with your younger self to identify unexplored ideas, or starting small and noticing the tiny things that light you up.

If you’re up for a bit of passion spotting, check out this super quick video which explains an exercise called The Happy Box to get you started.

It’s a really simple system for drawing out the things that feel good, motivate and interest you, so see what you learn from it.

P.S. The Happy Box exercise gives you a flavour of the types of exercises that make up my Work Wonderland career coaching course and web application.

If you’d like to identify your ideal career in the context of your ideal life and action it, take a look and see how it works.

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How to achieve your greatest thing

How to achieve your greatest thing

A while back I wrote a blog about a question that leaves 99% of us feeling sure the answer is Not Yet!

The question?

Have you done your greatest thing yet?

Now this query isn’t intended to deflate or berate us. It’s not a stick to beat ourselves with.

Rather it’s a door opener to our imagination and gut instinct.

It has the power to ignite our excitement and interest.

If we allow it, it’s a call to action.

It prods us to consider the inspiring, purpose-filled possibilities that lie before us.

So quite an impact for a short question!

But it occurs to me that after giving this question some serious thought, it’s important to write about what comes after.

After you’ve allowed yourself to dream.

After you’ve admitted, even if just to yourself, what it is you really want to do or achieve.

Because let’s be honest, the dreaming bit is the easy part.

Once you have an idea that sets your heart of fire; one that you feel mentally and emotionally connected to, there are usually two stages that follow, each one more difficult than the last.

These stages are worth talking about as they have the power to act as huge deterrents, getting in the way or stopping you making progress altogether.

So I’m calling them out. Here goes.

Stage one might seem fairly simple, but for many the exact opposite is in fact true.

It involves sharing.

Horror of horrors, that means saying it out loud.

The minute you share your idea or long-term intention with at least one other person, mentally you’re connecting with it in a way that tells your brain this isn’t just a fanciful dream.

It’s something you want to make a reality.

It might feel far-fetched, and you might feel thoroughly uncomfortable voicing your improbable goal, but each time you say it you reinforce your intention to move towards it.

Importantly, sharing also creates accountability.

Again, this will probably feel pretty uncomfortable!

Once your ultimate goal is out in the wild, friends or family members are likely to ask you about it on a regular basis and enquire about your progress.

While discomfiting, their genuine interest will act as a healthy incentive, prompting you to take action, however small the steps might be.

Then comes stage two.

This is the mother of all challenges.

It involves taking a massive leap of faith.

That means taking some action towards your goal when you have no guarantee that it will work and no clear path to the end result.

Wait, what?

Yes, unfortunately you read that right.

The painful truth is that no matter how clear your intention, it’s highly unlikely there will be a neat breadcrumb trail that leads you directly, efficiently and successfully to its achievement.

I know. Nightmare.

Because of this, you’ll face two major risks in your quest to do your greatest thing:

Risk 1: You’ll fail.

Risk 2: You’ll look stupid (which for many people is almost worse than Risk 1).

Now I’m laying the risks bare because there’s no getting away from them.

For most, facing these and taking action steps anyway will feel like walking through a metaphorical ring of fire.

It’s no surprise that they stop a great swathe of people from chasing their dreams and reaching their highest potential.

But to take a stab at our greatest thing we have to face them up.

We have to find our way around them.

This often involves using coping mechanisms that give us the mental and emotional strength we need to keep going despite any knock-backs and failures we experience.

Before I give you a list of the things that I’ve found work for me, let me tell you that I have recently been walking through that ring of fire myself!

After announcing in my previous blog that I wholeheartedly hadn’t done my greatest thing yet, and saying out loud what my greatest idea was, I’ve been dancing around very uncomfortably in stage two.

What does that look like for me?

At first, great excitement!

In November an amazing friend and I scoped out a new joint venture.

In December and January we worked to produce our website:

In February we started work with an awesome 14-year-old who has never focused on himself his whole life.

In that time we hit two minor road bumps.

Registering our company and setting up a bank account took a ridiculous amount of time.

Then came a much bigger one.

We started to realise just how much work was required to run a 1:1 programme for kids, and how much time this was going to take to realistically get off the ground.

And then the whopper.

The grants and funding pots we are targeting are all prioritising digital solutions (which in hindsight is obvious, but in our excitement we hadn’t given much credence to).

You may picture me cringing hugely as I wrote that last sentence.

These learnings have meant we’ve had to rethink our strategy and priorities completely.


So now we have a new plan.

One that doesn’t perfectly match our website yet.

And one that needs secured funding to get off the ground.

After the initial exhilaration and momentum, the hiatus caused by our essential rethink left me in a strange kind of limbo.

It felt like we’d climbed up several ladders but then landed on two snakes that sent us back to the start.

I experienced an unhelpful concoction of emotions – embarrassment, frustration, stupidity, futility.

Which meant the temptation was to put it off.

To let the unclear path and the mistakes made slow me down to a slow meander, and then a complete stop.


I haven’t done my greatest thing yet!!

In times like these, coping mechanisms to navigate the road bumps and blocks are the difference between ultimate success and failure.

So here’s what I use that works for me, in case it helps you in your quest to achieve your greatest thing.

Because you absolutely can do it!!

Coping mechanism #1 – The Hero’s Saga

Tell the story of your quest towards your greatest thing to trusted friends or family members. Bring to life your challenges and describe your mistakes, all with the aim of entertaining them, rather than berating yourself! Find laughs in your blunders and share your treasured learnings. The more you share, the less impact your mistakes and any roadblocks will have on you over time. Instead, this approach normalises them and helps keep you moving forward.

Coping mechanism #2 – Feedback Log

Keep a log of everything you try that doesn’t work. Next to everything you write down, capture the key learnings from that failure, big or small. Not only does this force you to consider the positives from any mistake so that you don’t get caught in a spiral of defeat, but it also acts as a record of your efforts, showing you just how many steps you’ve taken towards your goal, and how your learnings have helped shape your current thinking and approach.

Coping mechanism #3 – The Breakdown

I’m talking about baby steps here, not a full-on meltdown! When things go wrong or don’t work it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and like your goal is impossible to achieve. But before you give up on climbing the mountain, try considering the next incredibly small step you could take, rather than trying to run to the summit. Tiny steps require less discipline and lower any feelings of futility. So ignore the end goal, think about the next small step you could action and do that. You’ll know it’s small enough if you feel no resistance to taking it. Tiny steps not only build momentum almost by stealth, but they create a real sense of feel-good that keeps you motivated to carry on.

Coping mechanism #4 – Winner’s Playlist

This is a fun one. Create a playlist with tunes that inspire you, motivate you and make you feel happy. Anything that builds you up and makes you want to move and take action. For me that’s a blazing mix of 80s classics, songs from upbeat musicals and the odd 90s boy band, but I appreciate my music taste is appalling!! Anytime you feel stuck, frustrated or deflated, put those tunes on and let them lift you up and work their magic.

Coping mechanism #5 – Work with a Coach

Sometimes it helps to embark on your journey with an impartial supporter. Someone who’ll help you navigate the tough times, give you the tools and techniques to power forward, help you formulate your plan, or keep you accountable. I’m blessed with a network of coach friends who do this for me, although I’ve also hired two amazing coaches in the past when I’ve needed specific help. If you want to make progress at the right pace for you, nothing beats it.

Coping mechanism #6 – Band of Cheerleaders

Carefully select and enlist your own group of cheerleaders. These are people who are on your side, are positive about and support your goal, help you draw out the learnings from any challenges, celebrate your successes, and who generally cheer you on as you keep taking new steps. Anytime you experience wins or setbacks, call one of them up or see them in person to share your journey. Whether they boost your energy, help you solve a problem, or delight at your progress, revel in how this feels and let it spur you on.

Coping mechanism #7 – Mirror, Mirror

This won’t be for everyone but I love the effect it has on me so I’m sharing it. Every morning, regardless of what’s going on or where you’re at, look yourself in the mirror, properly smile and take 20 seconds to tell yourself you’re amazing, you’re capable, you’re strong. Whatever words or descriptions you like that incite a feel-good feeling. Involve your feelings and emotions, using your imagination to really feel what you are telling yourself for a moment. Even if you don’t quite believe it, do it anyway. These affirmations slowly start to make an impact on your subconscious mind and the way you think. And that’s only ever going to help you on your quest towards your greatest thing!

P.S. If you’d like help identifying what your greatest thing is Work Wonderland will lead you to your own firm answer.

Or schedule a free 30-minute consultation call with me.

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How I ditched my socialite self

How I ditched my socialite self

Ten years ago I was in hiding.

And I mean serious hiding.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean hiding in the literal sense.

I didn’t spend all my time squirreled away under the stairs in a Harry Potter-esque type scenario (although this idea makes me laugh!)

No, I was hiding in full view, concealed behind a well-maintained personality façade that vaguely resembled a mix of extroverted Tigger and ultra-efficient Supernanny.


Each day I’d put on a show, like an actress dutifully performing her role.

Scarily, I became so adept at it that I almost convinced myself it was true.

Except that it wasn’t.

It was a disguise.

I was playing a part that I believed people wanted and needed me to be, and in my head expectations were high.

I thought I had to be the perennial sorter-outer, taking control of every situation that others struggled with and fixing them.

It was imperative I had ALL the answers.

I thought I had to be the clinical executive, battening down the emotional hatches when it came to people-related decisions.

Even when I disagreed with those decisions and it nearly killed me acting upon them.

And I thought I had to be the raging socialite, painting the town red with colleagues, clients and friends in noisy cocktail bars until the wee hours every other night.

Because that’s what fun people did. PARTY needed to be my middle name.

In the midst of this draining charade, somewhere deep down inside I was begging to be seen.

But the fear of not living up to expectation; of seeing people’s disappointment when they saw the real me, kept me trapped in a fiction of my own making.

Until, that is, a close friend gave me the tough love I needed and told me straight:

“Alison, it’s time you got yourself a coach.”

Now at the time I had no idea what this might involve or even achieve, but worn down with the stress and exhaustion of my pretence I figured I had nothing to lose.

So I took the plunge and contacted someone my friend suggested.

And it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

For the first time I could be brutally honest with someone who didn’t know me.

I could share who I really was and what I was struggling with, and have someone on my side as I took the frightening, incremental steps towards living honestly and in full view.

And let me tell you, I was convinced it would end in DISASTER.

Family members would tell me I’d changed.

Friends wouldn’t get it and drift away.

My boss would think I’d lost the plot and fire me.

But you know what happened?

Family members didn’t even notice. (Side note: I was almost affronted!!)

My real friends didn’t bat an eyelid.

My boss promoted me.


All this taught me two things.

Firstly, it is categorically okay to be who you really are.

Disguising your true self only hurts you and holds you back.

The people who really love and appreciate you won’t insist on you being anything other than yourself, and those that do aren’t the kinds of people you want in your life.

Secondly – and this was a real surprise – being unreservedly who you are is the key to happiness AND success.

The more you embrace and own who you are, the more you use your best strengths and talents every day, drawing the right types of opportunities and people towards you.

I read once that being yourself is the ultimate risk, but now I wholeheartedly disagree.

The real risk is keeping your true self hidden from view and not bringing to the world your unique personality, perspective, talents and passions.

Don’t underestimate the power of you.

Beautiful things happen the moment you decide to be yourself.

P.S. Just in case you were wondering:

  • I hate parties. Noisy, crowded places bring me out in hives.
  • I’m not really interested in alcohol (my friends will testify that 125cl of wine is about my limit!)
  • I need tonnes of alone time and silence to power up.
  • I have an unrelenting fascination with what drives and motivates people.
  • I love making things (I am the proud owner of a Blue Peter badge!), dancing, puzzles, hiking, musical theatre, self-help, Asian food and my husband, Jeremy.

There, it’s out there, loud and proud.

Feel free to share something that lights you up or leaves you cold. I will cheer you on all the way!!

And if you’re worried about what others will say, consider this insightful quote from Dr. Seuss:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

P.P.S. If you’re in hiding yourself and would love some help stepping out of your own shadow, schedule a free, no-strings consultation call with me.

And if you’d prefer to do it yourself, check out Work Wonderland. The course is designed to reveal your innate values, strengths, passions and skills, and help you determine your best career and life based on the true you.

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What I tell people who want to quell the fear monster and achieve great things

What I tell people who want to quell the fear monster and achieve great things

If you know my awesome brother Adam, you’ll be aware that he was not at all pleased about the idea of turning 30.

Not one bit.

So when his 40th birthday loomed large, I knew it was time to stage an intervention.

Anything to distract him from an early midlife crisis.

Or at the very least minor heart palpitations.

So that’s what I set out to do.

But along the way I learned something very interesting about fear.

And in particular, a trick for overriding it so that fear doesn’t stop you going all out to achieve the full monty on anything you set your mind to.

Permit me to set the scene.

It was August.

Adam’s Big 4-0 was in December.

I roped in my friend Rachel, who is a creative genius, and we got to work planning a soiree.

It started off as a simple event idea.

A surprise party.

With a treasure hunt thrown in for good measure, which would lead Adam unwittingly to the venue.

Pretty straight forward, right?

You might think so.

Except that the more I thought about this event, the more ideas I had.

And the more ideas I had, the bigger the plan got.

If I say “snowballed” you get the picture!

I decided to theme everything around The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

The 30 friends and family attending – kids and adults included – were to wear fancy dress.

I hired a room in a pub with one large, long tea-party table.

Blow up flamingos, bunting and balloons were ordered in droves.

I designed an Adam quiz to test how well everyone knew Adam, including Adam himself.

Side note: he actually scored less points than some of his friends!!

I created Adam-themed prizes.

Side note: Our sister won an Adam nightshirt (you might picture her delight).

I scoured charity shops to assemble the costume Adam would wear.

Now here’s the clever bit.

Rachel masterminded the treasure hunt to lead Adam to the pub unawares.

Thinking he was meeting me, he was instead to be met by a woman in a white rabbit costume who would thrust a bag into his hand.

That bag had a picture of me on the front (so he wouldn’t fear for his life!) and a mobile phone with a text message on it.

The message was a clue, which would direct him to a bookshop in Kensington where his best friend would surprise him, dressed as the Mad March Hare.

They would then be sent a subsequent clue, taking them to another location to be surprised by a different friend in fancy dress.

Every friend had been given a piece of clothing or face paints that Adam would have to put on when he met them.

Which gradually saw him revealed as The Mad Hatter.

The final clue would lead them all to the pub, where Ad would meet me and think that was the end of the game.

Except that when he opened the door to the pub room, his closest family and friends dressed in ridiculous outfits would yell Surprise! and we’d all have a tea party.

I know. Quite a feat.

Now it’s important to understand that Rachel stage managed the treasure hunt with killer preparation and precision.

She had spreadsheets with all the timings.

Whatsapp groups were set up for communication.

GPS tracking was installed on Adam’s phone so she always knew where he was.

And two friends were enlisted to photograph the whole event and play the white rabbit if the treasure hunters went off-piste.

For Rachel’s part of the programme, there were contingency plans galore.

However, the same couldn’t be said for me!

For some reason, thinking about what could go wrong and planning for every eventuality just didn’t cross my mind.

Until, that is, 3am on the day of the event.

Yes, you read that right.

In the early hours of 13th November, a mere seven hours before everything was due to kick off, the penny finally dropped.

I woke up with a jolt and immediately broke out in a cold sweat.

Suddenly my brain was alive and kicking, computing all the possible avenues for disaster!

What if one of the treasure hunt friends got stuck on a train without a signal?

What if the tube lines broke down and party attendees couldn’t get there before Ad arrived?

What if Ad saw any of the costume-adorned party goers on their way to the venue and it gave the game away?

What if Rachel was taken ill during the night and couldn’t mastermind the game?

And most importantly, why in God’s name was I only thinking about this now when it was too late to do anything about it?!

Now in hindsight, even if I had considered these things, there’s nothing I could have done about most of them.

I couldn’t control people’s travel plans, the things that might cause them to be late, or Transport for London’s ability to run a tube service (let’s be honest, I don’t possess a magic wand).

But why hadn’t these fears got to me earlier?

Why hadn’t I been fretting in the months and weeks running up to the event?

What had stopped me worrying about all the things that could go awry?

The answer is surprisingly simple.

I was having enormous amounts of fun.

I was so engaged in conjuring up the ideas and organising the delivery that all I felt was delight and excitement about the whole thing.

I was in Alison happy land.

And it was this prolonged sense of joy and wonder that created a bypass for unhelpful concerns.

There simply wasn’t room for unnecessary fear.

Which meant it didn’t play on my mind.

Or curtail my ideas.

Or cause me to shrink the scope to something simpler, more manageable and less impactful.

Ultimately it meant I didn’t think small.

So this is what I tell people who ask how to override fear and put their heartfelt goals on steroids.

Make it a party.

Consider how you might make whatever you are working on feel like the best fun ever.

This could mean any number of things, depending on your personal preference.

Maybe it would help to create an awesome workspace from which to operate, surrounded by feel-good lighting, pictures, books or objects that inspire you?

What about creating a music soundtrack for your project or goal, with a string of hits that get you fired up, entertained and feeling invincible?

Perhaps you could cherry-pick a group of cheerleaders that you regularly share highlights and laughs with from your journey?

How about organising brainstorm sessions with people that energise you and stimulate new thinking?

You might want to dress for the occasion to bring your best creative self to the table?

Or keep a visible log of achievements that make you smile during the tougher moments?

Anything to keep your endeavour light, engaging, captivating and engrossing.

So that fear doesn’t get a look in.

Or curtail your effort.

Or shrink your ambition.

So what does fun look like to you?

How might you make some small changes to amuse your way to the peak of your potential?

Feel free to share what you’re doing to help inspire others with ideas!

And just for entertainment, here are a few photos from the day…

Ad looking fetching in his hat, and me sporting a tremendous wig that was far too tight for my head!

Our mum dressed up as the Cheshire Cat! I fear the onesie has been stored for other party occasions.

My auntie Jean and her fuchsia flamingo daughter Deb, winner of the most inventive outfit EVER.

P.S. If you want help hitting the peak of your potential and achieving your biggest career or life goals, schedule a free, no-strings consultation call with me to see if I can help you.

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The biggest mistake people make when determining a second career in their 40s and 50s

The biggest mistake people make when determining a second career in their 40s and 50s

It’s confession time. I made this mistake. (I know, imagine).

Ten years ago, I was hankering after a second career. While I’d built up years of knowledge, skills and experience in my field, I dreamed of a making a real change.

I’d spend hours visualising a lifestyle and career that afforded me more time, more freedom and more personal fulfilment.

I imagined living in the countryside or on the coast, working for myself and doing a creative job with meaning and purpose, whatever that might be.

As it became harder to reconcile my dream with my reality (I lived in the city, worked for a global organisation and did a job that didn’t scream purpose at me), I knew it was time to start planning my second act.

And so I did what pretty much everyone does.

As I tried to figure out my ideal second career and how I might make money from it, I started with my CV.

Sensible decision, right?


Bear with me here, I know this probably seems surprising.

While it might belie logic, this is why it was a bad idea.

My CV pigeonholed me as a “communications person”.

Those pages of copy documenting my skills and experience formed parameters that boxed me in.

They presented a tunnel vision of the options available to me, and at best helped me generate ideas that were only one or two steps removed from my current position.

It meant that I started looking at communications roles in different cities, which is where the majority of those jobs were based, and I also considered becoming a freelancer in the field.

Not only did these ideas leave me utterly cold (read freezing), they didn’t deliver on the most important criteria of all.

They didn’t cater for the lifestyle factors that had fuelled my increasing desire for a change in the first place.

One way or another, each idea lacked time, freedom, personal fulfilment or a combination of all three.

Which left me feeling demotivated and like a fulfilling change was impossible to achieve.

What I didn’t know then was that by trying to determine a new path through the lens of my résumé, I was unwittingly curtailing my options and actively courting compromise.

So here’s the eye-opener.

Starting with your CV doesn’t help you make a real change.

It doesn’t steer you to towards a better work/life balance or a genuine sense of purpose, which is what those in their 40s and 50s most often crave.

Instead, the most effective place to begin is with a deeper dive into not just what you’ve done, but who you are.

Taking the time for some intentional self-reflection can make all the difference.

What I’m talking about here is the kind of self-contemplation that feels like fun. Where you dig deep to uncover what truly drives, motivates and interests you, and explore your most feel-good talents.

This is the opportunity to make a change that ultimately delivers the life you dream of.

It should feel playful, exciting and inspiring, and most importantly of all, deeply personal to you.

So where to start?

Well, in my experience there are four foundational areas that combine to shape the right ideal career and life path.

Those areas are your personal values, strengths, passions and skills.

To help kick-start your own process of self-reflection, have a go at answering these questions. Take some time to really mull over your responses, to see what they tell you.

  • What are your values? Which principles underpin the way you need to live and work in order to be happy?
  • What are you passionate about? What activities or topics absorb you so that you lose time when you’re engaged in them?
  • What are your strengths? What are you naturally talented at? What do people always tell you you’re good at?
  • What are your skills? Which of your skills do you enjoy using the most?

I can promise you one thing. Your answers to these questions will provide a much better foundation for decision making than your CV.

They will also help direct your thinking without trapping you in a single line of focus based on your field experience.

So in the words of the wonderful Mary Oliver, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

P.S. If you’d like some structured help with your self-reflection, which leads you to a clear answer on your ideal second career, check out my Work Wonderland and IDENTIFY programmes.

It will lead you, in a fun way, to uncover the personal gems that will form the foundation for your next career chapter.  

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What I tell people who want to enhance their career success

What I tell people who want to enhance their career success

A number of years ago I did my best to conform.

While I worked in an industry that was creative, we had corporate technology clients and the advocated dress code was designed to match – smart, safe business wear.

Which was all very well, except that I hated it.

Now don’t get me wrong, some people look brilliant suited and booted. I’m just not one of them.

In truth I looked like a 14-year-old who’d been at the dressing up box. Not exactly the best guise, nor one that did wonders for my self-confidence.

But most of all, the innocuous uniform just didn’t feel like an outward expression of who I am.

Like an uncomfortable costume in the wrong size, it simply didn’t fit.

What I really wanted to do was break the rules and dress creatively.

I wanted to experiment with pattern and colour, and stand apart from the sea of black suits.

I wanted to be a living embodiment of the inventive work I delivered.

What’s wrong with clashing animal print anyway?

But I didn’t.

Rather than embracing my inner Vivienne Westwood, I did what was advocated and toned myself down.

I did my best to fit the mould, looking and dressing unremarkably and for the most part I succeeded.

Luckily for me, playing by the rules culminated in a situation where I was heartily encouraged (read begged) to wear a suit.

I was attending a senior leadership meeting at a client’s European HQ and the message was clear.

Whatever you do, don’t be original. Fit in. Blend. Be what’s expected.

Despite my initial protests, I conceded and went feeling utterly uncomfortable in my own skin. I have never performed so badly in a meeting before or since.

I still get the shivers when I think about that experience, but it was a game changer for me.

I vowed never to compromise myself like that ever again.

It made me realise that I could only perform at the top of my game if I was the best version of myself, unusual outfits included.

That learning saw me deliberately bring the real me to my job role and working attire.

Trusting my instincts, I got rid of my suits and sensible slacks.

I waved goodbye to my court shoes and pin-stripe shirts.

In their place I introduced zebra print trousers and clashing tops, and I launched an ongoing experiment with changing hair styles and colours.

And the funny thing was, the more I embraced my true self the more successful I became.


Allowing myself to be different communicated confidence.

It also created a new dynamic.

It gave clients a better insight into who I was, which encouraged a more open and personal dialogue that resulted in deeper relationships.

It made networking easier because people were curious and would use my attire as a way to open up the conversation.

It encouraged prospects to trust in mine and my team’s ability to delivery creatively.

And it made me visible to my organisation’s executive leadership team.

They started to pay more attention to what I was doing and what I was delivering, which resulted in bigger opportunities.

Now you might be wondering why I’m telling you this story, so here’s the skinny.

It’s what I tell people who want to enhance their career success.

The root is to be unreservedly yourself.

Don’t let any person or organisation tell you who, what or how to be if it means contorting to fit a mould that isn’t you.

Refuse to fit in. Reject demands to be something you’re not. Say no to being unexceptional.

And if you’re in a company or a role that can’t or won’t accommodate your best self, change them not you.

You’ll never achieve your greatest potential in the wrong guise. It will only ever hold you back.

Your real self could be exactly what your team, clients, partners or organisation needs, so be bold and let your unique light shine.

You might just be staggered by the results.

P.S. If you want to reveal elements of your true self use that information to identify your ideal career in the context of your ideal life, check out my Work Wonderland career coaching programme and web app.


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Have you done your greatest thing yet?

Have you done your greatest thing yet?

I read an article the other day by a guy who works with senior executives to help them plan their next role.

In it he said he always asks his clients one telling question.

This question not only stopped me in my tracks, but made me realise it’s the door opener to a deeper answer on that nebulous thing called life purpose.

What was the question?

Have you done your greatest thing yet?

Think about this for a moment.

In your gut, do you feel that your greatest accomplishment might still be ahead of you?

Yep, thought so.

If you’re like me and probably 99% of other people, you still have much to achieve. Your legacy is still in the making.

Now call me glass-half-full, but this feels really exciting!


Firstly, there is still time.

No matter what your age or what you’ve achieved to date, there is no denying that the future holds steadfast possibility.

We absolutely have the ability to make decisions today that shape our future tomorrow.

And if you’re concerned that age is a factor and feel like it’s too late for you, consider this.

JRR Tolkien didn’t publish his first volume of The Lord of the Rings until he was 62.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes didn’t conquer Mount Everest until he was 65.

Comedienne Lynn Ruth Miller didn’t break into stand-up until she was 70.

Secondly, the question prompts possibility thinking.

It opens up the dream channel, and gets us to consider our inner most aspirations and desires.

These are the ambitions we tend to harbour secretly and let our imagination loose on when we think no-one is watching.

They are the dreams that can point to our true purpose.


Have a go at this now.

Ask yourself if you have done your greatest thing yet.

If the answer is no, suspend your disbelief and allow yourself to drop into that place where you imagine your life’s greatest accomplishment.

Go to town. If absolutely anything was possible and you knew success was guaranteed, what would your achievement look like?

Really picture it in your mind. Let it be as big and bold as you want it to be.

Remove all parameters and be as ostentatious as you like.

Then experience how that achievement feels. Give yourself permission to live it as if it’s real for a moment.

Breathe it in.


What you are imagining provides a strong indication of your heartfelt purpose.

It’s the endeavour that you intuitively know would make you feel most alive, most fulfilled and most motivated.

Achieving this goal might seem wildly improbable, but that’s okay.

Just treat it like a signpost.

It’s pointing you in the direction of what you really, really want.

And if you let it, it can help inform the decisions you make about your next career or life step, and shape your future.

There’s no debating that it’s scary. This is not in the realm of comfort zone.

But then great things never came from comfort zones.

So what does your future greatest achievement look like and what small step could you take towards it today?

How might you turn your wildly improbable goal into your next great adventure?

Side note:

If you’re wondering whether this is all hypothetical from my own personal perspective, allow me to dispel that idea promptly!

I vehemently know that I haven’t done my greatest thing yet.


Because I have a burning desire to create something that changes the way schools deliver careers advice for kids.

And I mean every type of school.

In every country that might need it.

I want to help teenagers make decisions on subjects that play to their own strengths, passions and sense of purpose.

Decisions that aren’t influenced by what’s considered the “right” choice – either by the education system, our culture, parents, friends or the media.

So that kids arrive at the career path that’s right for them.

So that they don’t have to experience the trauma of an ill-fitting career.

So that they don’t have face a course correction years down the line.

So that tomorrow’s workers are happier from the get-go.

Big idea?


Within the perceivable reach of a career coach?

Feels like it.

Likely to be achieved by Alison?

[Pause for effect]

Not on paper!

Today I know absolutely nothing about career services in schools across the globe, beyond my own poor experience light years ago.

I have zero contacts in the education field.

I have no literally no experience with children or teenagers given I’m not a parent myself.

And I don’t know where the genesis of this idea came from or why it’s that important to me.

Still, this is what I picture when I answer the question.

My first small step is going to involve some research to see if my hunch about the need is even remotely accurate.

So there we have it.

I’ve said it out loud and committed to an action that might just affect my future and lead me towards my greatest thing.

Feel free to join me!

What do you visualise when you think of your own greatest accomplishment and what baby step you could take that will point you in that direction?

Answers on a digital postcard… 

P.S. If you’d like some structured help determining what your greatest thing might be, Work Wonderland will lead you to your own firm answer. If that sounds good, check it out.

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How to retrain your brain to think differently

How to retrain your brain to think differently

If you read/watched my last blog, you’re now aware that you have the power to retrain your brain.

You hold in your mind the ability to ditch the limiting beliefs and fear-based thoughts that might hold you back, replacing them with thoughts that help you move towards achieving the things you most desire.

Hallelujah for that!

So that simply leaves the small matter of how.

Here I’m going to take you back to blog one in this series of three.

In it, I asked you to have a go at identifying any limiting beliefs you might hold in relation to something you’re really like to achieve.

If you didn’t do the exercise then, please check out the blog and have a go at it now before coming back to this point.

Now, you should have one or more reasons written down for why you believe you can’t have or achieve that particular outcome.

Of the reasons you’ve listed I want you to consider each one in turn and choose the one that feels the worst. The one that feels like a physical punch in the gut.

If a number of them produce the same intensity of negative feeling, just pick one, it doesn’t matter which.

Then I’d like you to switch that chosen thought around and write down its complete opposite statement.

For example, if your original thought was “I’m not good enough”, it would become “I am good enough”.

If it was “I can’t compete”, it would become “I can compete”.

“The good guys never win” would become “The good guys win”.

You get the picture.

Now, with your new opposite statement in front of you, I’d like you to write down three specific examples or proof points that back it up.

The examples can be big or small, personal or professional and from any time over your lifetime. Everything is valid.

So if you were finding examples for “I am good enough” you might write down things like:

  • Because I put my partner’s needs before mine the other day
  • Because I worked hard and qualified in my field despite the challenges
  • Because I was good friend to Rob this week

Try to ensure your proof points are as specific as possible. Avoid vague statements where you can, simply because being specific will have more impact.

As you think of three examples, be aware that your mind won’t like this exercise very much!

It will try to tell you that you have no examples. This is totally normal.

Just notice your mind’s resistance to the exercise, almost thank it for its concern and have a go at it anyway. Just keep going with it until you have three.

You might be wondering what the point of this is, but what you’ve started to do with this exercise is challenge your own mind’s thinking.

By finding proof points for the complete opposite of a limiting belief, you have started to blast small holes in it and show it for what it is: an untrue statement.

It’s untrue because you’ve managed to find examples for the complete opposite.

Every time you do this, finding opposite proof points for any unhelpful thought, physiologically you are creating a new neural pathway in your brain.

This is important because with repeated practice you’ll strengthen that neural pathway until it automatically becomes the path your mind chooses.

It will become something you don’t even think about. You’ll simply notice that your thoughts generate positive feelings, and those feelings mean you find it much easier to take steps in the direction of the things you really want to achieve.

In effect, you will have retrained your brain to think differently and turned it into an unconscious habit – a good one!

This exercise might seem overly simplistic, but it’s genuinely the most powerful way to change your thinking.

So have a go at it, and try it with a number of different limiting beliefs as they come up.

For a lot of my clients who keep at this, they eventually start to find their original thinking funny, which removes its power altogether. Imagine that.

P.S. If you feel seriously stuck with limiting beliefs that you’re finding hard to remove and you’d like some professional help dissolving them once and for all, schedule a free consultation to see how my coaching could help you break free.

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How your brain works and why it’s possible to re-wire your thinking

How your brain works and why it's possible to re-wire your thinking

In my last blog I dropped a bomb shell about limiting beliefs and the fact that it’s likely we all harbour at least one or two.

These are the thoughts that hold us back and stop us from achieving the things that matter the most to us.

But why is this the case?

What’s actually going on in our brain and how and why does it work against us?

Understanding the answers to these questions is the key to beating your brain at its own game and changing your thinking.

So check out this short video, which explains what happens, why it matters and why it’s possible to re-train your brain to think differently…

And stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll show you how to change your thinking, based on this understanding.

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