Career advice from a life coach

Unless you’ve got a sizeable trust fund to rely on, (in which case, can we be friends?) you probably have to work. We spend more than 13 years of our lives at work, on average. So it's not too much to ask that you actually do something you enjoy. Right? Whether you feel a bit stuck in a rut, or are thinking of a complete career overhaul, it's good to talk it through. We spoke to life coach Dr Lalitaa Suglani from Virgin Care Private, who gave us some very actionable actions to help us, and also you.

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I'm sitting in her office and Lalitaa is asking me what I want. After the initial panic, I mumble something convoluted and non-committal. She points out that I wouldn't start driving somewhere without knowing where the destination was. She advises setting ‘smart’ goals and making them measurable, so progress is trackable. Apparently some people unwittingly self-sabotage by setting goals that aren’t achievable and when they inevitably don’t reach them, see that as a reason to stop trying. I feel like she's got a front row seat looking into my brain. 
Lesson one to self, set some goals, but make them realistic.

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Practising gratitude helps regain perspective. If you’re miserable in your current role, sometimes that feeling can be self-perpetuating. I wouldn't ever call myself miserable in this job, it's pretty dreamy most days. But every role has tasks that we'd rather not do. Lalitaa says to try not to focus on the negative aspects of a job if you're unhappy in it, instead focus on the positive parts. Look back at why you started in the first place—why did you apply for the role? Was it a stepping stone to a longer term goal? Is it in a field you’re interested in? Did it offer financial stability when you needed it? Lalitaa advises doing this whether you're working through an issue with work or not, and honestly, I found that thinking more gratefully is a good way to look at the bigger picture rather than getting bogged down in daily minutiae.

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When Lalitaa talked about people being stuck in rigid patterns of behaviour and self-sabotaging patterns, I noticed myself enthusiastically nodding along in agreement. We create a behaviour blueprint in childhood, about how we should be and what our lives should look like. Did you go through school, always believing that academia was the only answer? Same. Turns out, there are quite a few things to do in life other than be a lawyer or banker, that might actually be more in line with your interests and ethics. Like being the editor of a weekly lifestyle email! By recognising these repetitive habits we can break them and change our behaviour, and ultimately our future.

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When you’re dating someone, you (hopefully) take time to understand their life goals and hopes for their career. Lalitaa suggests pretending you’re dating yourself. Invest the same amount of time in understanding your own aspirations as you would a partner’s. I'm definitely guilty of investing energy in other people's problems before my own, and luckily my boyfriend doesn't have any editorial input in this email to be able to disagree. If you’re confused about what step to make next in your career, spend time digging deep to find out what it is you want, and not what your parents or your school have wanted for you (and refer back to that blueprint step, above).

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Lalitaa advocates an holistic approach to any issue you’re working through. She's a life coach, not just a career, or relationship coach, duh. Your mind and body might not seem directly connected to career decisions, but by nurturing yourself through diet, exercise and sleep habits, you can be at your best. To try and up my hours of slumber, I've cut out caffeine since my session with Lalitaa. Good luck to me. Lalitaa says by feeling good physically and emotionally, we're better equipped to reach our goals, whether it’s having the confidence to ask for a pay rise, or making a brave, first step to changing career.

For more information about life coaching at Virgin Care Private, or their other on-demand health and wellbeing services, visit the website

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