Coach in the Spotlight: Claire Mackenzie

After reading an article about coaching, Claire Mackenzie embarked on a journey of self-discovery that would transform her life. In our Q&A, Claire shares her early experiences of experimentation, failure, and imposter syndrome, and why it’s been important to allow her career coaching business to grow organically.

How did you become a coach?

A few years ago, I found myself at a crossroads in my career.

I'd fallen out of love with my work and the company where I'd worked for over 11 years.

I was also approaching a milestone birthday and I wanted my work-life to be different.

This was the start of my journey of self-discovery.

Around the same time, I came across an article written by a well-known businesswoman who had pivoted her career and retrained as a life coach.

Feeling inspired, I signed up to the Co-Active Fundamentals course.

It was transformational for me and I immediately decided to train as a Co-Active Professional Life Coach. I graduated in 2018.

Going through the coach training helped me understand myself and to listen to my intuition, which was something I had ignored so many times throughout my life. I wish I’d discovered coaching 20 years ago!

Throughout my coach training, I’d carried on working in my day job. But, I was still very unhappy.

I’d lost my confidence and I felt paralysed to do anything about it.

I finally hit a wall and was signed off work for several months with stress and anxiety.

At that point, I knew I didn’t want to go back to a job that wasn’t fulfilling me and that I needed to change direction in my career.

I worked with a career counsellor and a life coach during this time which helped me find clarity and focus on my values and purpose.


I wish I’d discovered coaching 20 years ago!


Why did you decide to become a Firework-licensed Career Coach?

I’d heard about the Firework career coach course during my coach training, but it sat in the periphery of my world for a couple of years before I eventually took the leap in November last year.

Like any Co-active coach, I love working at a deep level with clients and to dance in the moment. However, there were times when I felt I was missing some structure and where having some sort of framework like Firework, would be helpful.

Firework took away that pressure.

It gave me a structure I could work with and some fantastic tools and exercises that I can pick and choose from.

It’s a great programme – robust and credible.

Clients respond positively to the Ideas Bank in particular. They love that they have somewhere to put all the thoughts that have been lingering in their head and we can work through them together.

My Firework cohort were also really supportive and willing to jump in and share their experiences and tips with the rest of the group.


Firework took away that pressure.


How did you build your coaching practice?

I left my company at the end of 2019 and took some time out to work out what I wanted to do next.

I started taking tentative steps at setting up my coaching practice. I used the ICF peer coaching programme and CoachMeFree platform to practice my new coaching skills, get more experience and build confidence.

At the time I was just coaching anyone who wanted to be coached. Some converted into paying clients. It was a really good way to practice and hone my coaching skills.

I did a lot of unpaid coaching initially, and gradually began to put a price on my services.

2020 was a year of exploration. It helped me to start to shape who I am and where I am now. Set in the context of a terrible time, it allowed me to try and fail at new things, to be scared and to overcome difficulties.

I spent time networking and I signed up for free and paid business building courses and programmes – some more successful than others.

I spent a lot of time trying to work out who I was as a coach and what my coaching niche should be.

So much of my identity was wrapped up in my old job.

I learnt it was best to have conversations with people and that led to getting new clients.

I also use a couple of platforms to source clients. I am featured on the Life Coaching Directory, the Restless Coaching hub and I also have my website.

I get more referrals now from other coaches and various networks that I’m part of.

People have also started to reach out to me via LinkedIn and I have a monthly newsletter I send out to subscribers.

Allowing my business to grow organically and coaching 1:1 has felt truer to me than being all over social media and launching group programmes.


I learnt it was best to have conversations with people and that led to getting new clients.


Who do you typically work with?

I made a career transition in my early 50’s so I tend to work with mid-to-late career professionals to help them to navigate change and find greater fulfilment in their professional and personal lives.

My clients might be in a role or industry that isn’t right for them and want to explore new job possibilities or seek a promotion.

They might have aspirations to move into a more senior role and want help developing a career plan.

I also work with late-career professionals whose goal is to find more fulfilment at work and more balance in their lives overall.

In my Associate Coaching role with Rest Less (a social impact company advocating for more age diversity in the workplace), I work with people at the later stage of their working lives.

I help them find and do work that is meaningful, provides them with more balance in their lives and that fits in with their preferred lifestyle.

It’s rewarding to help people navigate a career transition, whether that’s leaving a job that they know isn’t the right fit, getting a promotion or finding a more fulfilling role with less responsibility later in life.


Tell us about some of the results you’ve helped your clients achieve.

I worked with Ronald who was mid-career and had a programme development role within a large bank.

He felt stuck in his career with no hope of making progress in his current company. His goal was to get a promotion and he couldn't understand why it wasn’t happening.

We worked on defining his goals, gaining a better understanding of his values and strengths (particularly relating to leadership) and dealing with his inner critic.

We also looked at how he could set better boundaries around family time. He secured his dream role and a promotion in a new company.

His work/life balance improved and he built a better connection with his family.

Later, I received an amazing email telling me he felt so happy when he woke up each morning and was excited to be in a role that previously he’d assumed was far beyond his capabilities.

I’ve coached other clients who are younger and at the start of their careers.

I worked with Ayeisha – an amazing young woman who was unhappy in her current job. Her lack of confidence meant that she didn’t think she was ‘good enough’ to go for more senior roles.

Together, we worked on creating a career vision, identifying her values and strengths, connecting to her powerful self, managing her inner critic and focusing on a positive mindset.

As a result of working with me she secured her desired role in a new company, increased her self-belief and found a greater sense of fulfilment in her life.

Many of my clients just don’t appreciate how brilliant they really are when they first come to me. It’s a privilege to help them become who they want to be.


Many of my clients just don’t appreciate how brilliant they really are when they first come to me.


What challenges have you faced in your role as a coach? How have you overcome them?

What I love and what I'm passionate about is being able to have an impact and playing a part in someone else's transformation.

When it comes to my business, I don’t particularly enjoy marketing myself and I don’t feel it's a great strength of mine.

I’ve experienced impostor syndrome and the tendency towards perfectionism and procrastination can creep in sometimes.

Finding my authentic voice is important to me but it’s also been a real challenge.

Sometimes the need to be perfect means I’m not able to be authentic and therefore it can be a struggle to say anything at all.

In the early days I would try to fit into a mould of what the client wanted because I wasn't as confident in myself as a coach.

I’ve had to learn about marketing from scratch. It’s not featured in my background at all. I’m getting better at it though.

The Marketing sessions within the Firework Programme have really helped me identify who I am, who I want to serve and what I offer.

Focusing on just one product, one audience and one channel has given me the structure I needed when it came to marketing my business.

It liberated me from the feeling that I should be doing everything.


In the early days I would try to fit into a mould of what the client wanted


How do you see your coaching practice evolving?

My goal is to get to a place where I have more freedom to choose what I want to do and when I want to do it.

I’d love to have a portfolio career combining associate coaching, corporate coaching in addition to working with private clients.

It’s important that I’m always learning and developing my skills, and to make the time to invest in my personal development.

I work with a coach and she has helped me get clearer on who I am as a coach, my personal brand, and how to create clear boundaries with work and personal time.

I now have a greater sense of more balance and more time for myself.


It’s important that I’m always learning and developing my skills


What do you wish you knew when you started coaching? What would you have done differently?

In the beginning, I was constantly watching other coaches, looking at their websites, and the networks they were part of, and thought “I’m not doing any of those things – I’m failing.”

If I could go back in time I would tell myself to just allow things to happen when they're meant to happen.

Don’t try to force it. Trust the process. And I’d remind myself to take the time to celebrate my successes and achievements – because there are always wins to celebrate!


I’d remind myself to take the time to celebrate my successes


What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a coach?

There’s a saying: “Find the work you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

For me coaching is enjoyable, and it doesn't feel like work.

I get a buzz out of helping people achieve their potential and being part of their journey.

Coaching provides me with a huge sense of reward and fulfilment. I love helping people to be the best version of themselves.


Claire Mackenzie is an International Coach Federation (ICF) accredited coach and Firework licensed career coach who works with mid-to-late career professionals helping them to navigate work and life transitions. She is passionate about helping them find the work they love to do and create the life they want on their terms. Claire also works with Rest Less, a social impact business that wants to help a generation of over 50’s get more from life, by helping meet the needs of this large, diverse and under-represented audience. Find out more about Claire at