• Jenny Stallard

5 surprising things I’ve gained from re-training during the pandemic




Retraining had been on my mind for a while, pre-pandemic. I was one of those people who had got to a stage of their career – for me, journalism – and begun to feel like I wanted to pivot. But a combination of fear and not quite knowing where I wanted to pivot to kept me where I was.


When my partner and I decided to move out of London – a source of a lot of my work in the form of in-house ‘shifts’ – I knew something had to change. It wasn’t a pandemic move, but planned before anyone knew the word Covid. But it happened during the pandemic, and, along with a city-to-countryside move, came the resurgence of the feeling that I wanted to try something different. Not abandoning my career, but going in a diagonal step, forwards and away, bringing some of the things I loved and leaving the things I didn’t like anymore, that didn’t serve me, behind.


Through being a coaching ‘guinea pig’ for others who were training and speaking to a lot of coaches through my work, I realised that the world of coaching was one that interested and enticed me. And so, in October 2020, I began a training course to learn all I could about becoming a coach.


Now, coaching is an unregulated industry. So why did I decide to train? There were a few reasons – I wanted to have the kudos of saying I had trained when I approached clients (both for one on one, group coaching and clients who might want me as a speaker or writer). I also wanted that ‘back to college’ feeling. I wanted to learn something. To grow my knowledge and to study. It was – is – a big commitment. My course involves weekly group classes, recorded assessments, I need to do 50 hours one on one coaching as well as attending group workshops and a final assessment.


I can confirm I got and still have all the ‘back to school’ feels!


But there are some other things I gained that I wasn’t quite expecting. And I’d like to share them for anyone who is also thinking of retraining, or joining a course, and thinking ‘but what will I really get from it?’.


1. Friendships

I hadn’t thought too much about whether or not I’d make friends on a course, but I’ve made so many! Perhaps it’s because of the intimate nature of what we share (we peer coach, and often explore some of our deeper feelings and worries in groups. All confidential, of course.) But more than just peers, I feel I’ve made some amazing friends. People who understand the ‘journey’ I’ve been on with the course. One in particular who, although we’ve not met yet, I know will be a friend for life! Finding friends in your new niche who can say ‘Yes, I get it’ is so important. People who know the stress of the workload, or the challenge of the tasks you’re set.


2. Confidence

I’m sure – especially on social media – I come across as a super confident person. But it’s not always the case, and retraining has really boosted my confidence. From realising I’m actually quite good at the coaching (eek, imposter syndrome moment there), to building a new business. When a client has signed up to coach with me, there is a huge wave of confidence and pride that the baby steps I took to retrain are now turning into a new part of my business. I’m enjoying saying that I have spent time learning something new, I feel proud, and that pride makes me more confident to say what I offer to people.


3. Perspective

If you want some perspective on your current career, then retraining is a good way to get it. I didn’t really realise that until I just wrote it! But the thing is, I was disillusioned with my work as a journalist. I often reached ‘peak pitch’ and was ready to throw in the towel completely. Through retraining – and the coaching that’s come with the programme – I have realised I actually love being a journalist, and a writer, but I want to do it more on my terms. For it to be part of what I do, not all of what I do. So, I’ve niched the journalism. Now, as much as I can, I write about freelance life, and being self-employed, in line with Freelance Feels and the fact that I coach small business owners and those considering going it alone. It means that journalism can come along into the new coaching world, but just the bits I want to bring. I was sad to ‘give up’ on a career I’d been in for more than 20 years. Retraining made me realise I didn’t have to. And, in fact, that I had to be ‘old me’ in order to become ‘new me’.


4. Skills that weren’t on the course

It’s likely when you sign up to a course, you’re expecting certain things from the outline. And there may be – as there was with mine – extra things. For example, as well as the process of coaching, we were to expect to learn about building a coaching business. But through it all, and I don’t think this is exclusive to my course, I’ve learned other skills. Content planning, using Zoom (the course is taught on Zoom and by being in regular Zoom meetings it’s helped me understand the software better for my own workshops). Using social media in ways you weren’t already. Selling!


5. Boundaries

Learning a new skill set in a new world has helped me realise what wasn’t working in the old world. And the biggest one was boundaries. As a journalist, life is very ‘ok! Yes! Sure!’ and you do things ASAP, to deadlines that Editors set, without often challenging things. Being thrown into a new world of coaching, with people running their own businesses, I have realised that my boundaries needed to change (and indeed in many cases be set in the first place!).


If you’re interested in working with me as a coach one on one, or joining the May ‘Relight Your Freelance Fire’ group coaching, please do get in touch.

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