Coach in the Spotlight: Annette Bento

After a chance encounter with a stranger, Annette Bento discovered her calling as a career coach. Here, she shares her experience of coaching graduates and creatives, and how she's used the Firework tools to create a bespoke coaching experience.

Tell us about your coaching journey.

I worked as an economic forecaster and strategy analyst in the electricity industry for several years.

This work, although very well paid, wasn't right for me.

I didn't want to spend my time stuck in an office staring at a computer screen all day, so I took voluntary redundancy which allowed me to focus on my children.

Later, I did some administration jobs but felt bored and unfulfilled.

I wasn't sure what to do next in terms of work, but I knew I had so much more to offer.

I discovered coaching during a chance conversation with a complete stranger in the park.

The timing was perfect.

At that time, I'd never heard of life coaching, let alone coaching for a career change.

But, it gave me new hope that I could retrain and find employment in a profession that I felt suited my personality, skills and interests.

So, in 2006, I trained as a life coach.

Since qualifying, I've been coaching staff and students in a leading secondary school.

I became a Firework Career Coach in 2017, which allowed me to focus on building up my private career coaching practice.


I discovered coaching during a chance conversation with a complete stranger in the park.


Why did you decide to become a licensed Firework career coach?

My private practice before Firework was pretty much non–existent.

I was confident in coaching people about their life in general but felt confused when it came to career coaching.

I didn't have the right tools and resources.

I was actually losing prospective clients at that stage because I didn't feel I could help them as much as a qualified career coach.

I'm so grateful to Marianne, my fantastic coach supervisor, for recommending Firework to me.

I was up for a new challenge and interested to see how I could develop my coaching skills and attract more clients.

I believe in coaching people from the inside out, so the Firework course resonated in a big way.

I knew it would provide me with support and guidance on how to structure career coaching sessions, which resources to use and in what order.


I was confident in coaching people about their life in general but felt confused when it came to career coaching.


What was the experience like?

The course content and training was excellent.

We covered a lot of material; a mixture of information, techniques, demonstrations and role-playing.

I left equipped with the knowledge, tools and resources to deliver a powerful and practical career programme.

I felt more confident that I could coach people through career change and find work that was right for them.

I couldn't wait to put what I learned into practice!

My favourite aspect of the Firework toolkit is the Life and Work Stars.

It's a smart way of summarising who the client is and having them capture all their reflections during the "Explore" phase of the programme.


What has Firework helped you to achieve?

I was a bit anxious the first time I took a client through the programme.

That feeling soon disappeared when I saw how quickly they became unstuck and developed confidence in their choices and decisions.

I now offer a 9 session structured career coaching programme.

I have a greater sense of confidence in my coaching approach and in what I offer.

Having the Firework license has given me kudos which enabled me to generate more business and get more coaching clients.

I feel more confident, empowered, authentic and crucially, more effective as a coach.


How long did it take for you to get a return in investment with Firework?

At the time, I had a very tight budget and wanted the investment to be worthwhile. It definitely was!

It only took me taking two clients through the Firework programme to earn back what I paid for the course.


Who do you work with and on what areas?

I've worked with a variety of clients in different careers: a computer analyst; an HR manager; social worker; a retail assistant; a teaching assistant; a doctor; a film studies graduate and a model making graduate, to name a few.

Most of my private clients are graduates and creatives.

It's been exciting to see the impact of taking them through the Firework programme.

I worked with a filmmaking graduate who was unsure of whether to pursue a career in film making or look at other professions.

By working through the Firework programme with me, she discovered a passion for interior design and photography.

Following an internship with a leading home interior magazine, she's now studying floristry. Her long term aim is to be a freelance interior stylist.

I worked with another Arts graduate who was unsure whether to pursue a career in line with his degree.

Whilst working together, he identified a strong interest in nature and the environment. He's now pursuing a career in landscape and horticulture.

I also worked with a talented musician who doubted his abilities.

We worked on developing his confidence and looked into what it would take to make a career out his passion.

He ended up going to study music and becoming a professional musician!

My clients walk away with increased self-awareness. Clarity on their career direction. More confidence. A more empowered mindset. Better time management. 

They leave with the tools to create a happier lifestyle, along with more suitable employment.

I love creating bespoke coaching packages for my clients and helping them achieve the results they want.


[My clients] leave with the tools to create a happier lifestyle, along with more suitable employment.


How have you built your coaching practice? What have you found the most effective ways of attracting clients?

I began by running workshops in schools, focusing on team building for teachers and exam preparation for students.

The team-building workshop helped promote better communication between staff in the school.

The exam preparation workshop gave students a safe space to discuss their anxieties, worries and fears.

They left with practical tools and resources to help with their revision and exam performance.

A lot of my business comes through word of mouth and recommendations from previous clients.

I'm always talking with work colleagues, friends and potential clients about the power of coaching.

As a Firework coach, I offer a tried and tested structured career change programme to my clients.

I've found it much easier to market a career programme than offer generic career coaching sessions.

I'm a very creative thinker, and my ideas come from reading, researching and webinars. I also talk to friends and colleagues to get a feel for what they need from a coach.

I've also used a lot of the Firework tools and resources in workshops.

I'm currently facilitating a life balance workshop for friends and colleagues.

This is a pilot programme where the aim is to support working mums in creating the right balance between their work and personal life.

We focus on finding ways they can do more of what they love and less of what they don't.


I've found it much easier to market a career programme than offer generic career coaching sessions.


What other tools or resources have helped you grow your business or enhance your coaching skills?

I use an array of tools and resources in my coaching sessions, including Emotional Freedom Technique, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Drawing and Talking.

I've created a set of coaching cards with metaphoric and symbolic images which helps people articulate what's on their mind.

Having my coach supervisor, Marianne has helped me enormously. I'm able to sound out my ideas, and she helps me find a way to follow them through.

I also share a lot of my ideas with and get feedback from my coaching peer group in Brighton.


How will your coaching work evolve in the future?

My aim is to support people through life transitions and transformation, empowering them to take action and get results.

The global pandemic predicts a bleak future, with many people losing jobs and businesses. But there's a massive opportunity for career coaches to help people who are looking for meaningful work.

Being a Firework coach, I'm well placed to help people find meaning and purpose in their career. I'll continue to offer career coaching and life transformation coaching via Zoom.

I have a new exciting opportunity to work with a local community association who have received a government grant to help job seekers find work.

I'm developing a series of workshops to help people rethink their work options and will be facilitating these in early 2021.

I also hope to continue collaborating with other coaches and trainers on projects.


The global pandemic predicts a bleak future. But there's a massive opportunity for career coaches to help people who are looking for meaningful work.


What are the most rewarding aspects of coaching for you?

When my client gets that "ah ha" moment of truth and realisation.

When they feel more empowered to take action, solve their problems and follow through on their ideas.

When they make a personal breakthrough or overcome a fear.

It's also wonderful to see clients "pay it forward" and be in a position to help others with what they've learnt through coaching. This makes me feel like my impact is even more significant.

Of course, it's great when my clients find the right job or career path.

But, knowing they're living authentically and are happier is very rewarding.


Annette is a licensed Firework career coach based in Brighton and is the founder of Inside Out Career Coaching. Alongside working with individuals on career change, Annette has 15 years' experience coaching staff and students in a leading secondary school in Brighton.