Coach in the Spotlight: Edel Connor
Edel Connor combines counselling with coaching to help her clients explore what makes them truly great. In our Q&A, she shares how she overcame imposter syndrome as a new coach, and why she’s passionate about supporting young people and new parents when they make the transition into, or back to, the world of work.
How did you become a coach?
I had several careers before I discovered coaching.
I was a teacher before moving into editing and translation and then finally press communication.
I’d felt a lot of frustration at certain times in my career.
I reached a point where I started to reflect on some of the things I’d enjoyed in the past.
Like the time when I’d just left university and I wanted to work with my hands and be an artist of some sort, so I signed up for a massage and counselling course on a whim.
That course was transformative for me because it combined two things of the things I enjoyed most – listening and using my hands to help someone heal.
I did some research and I discovered coaching.
I trained as a Co-Active coach and initially I focussed on Life Coaching.
However, it soon became clear that many of my clients wanted to change their career so that became my coaching specialism.
It combined two things of the things I enjoyed most – listening and using my hands to help someone heal.
What prompted you to become a Firework-licensed Career Coach?
I felt that I had some gaps in my knowledge on supporting people with career related challenges.
I was coming across clients who were really frustrated with their job. They’d lost touch with themselves and their likes and dislikes.
I had other clients who didn't get any satisfaction or fulfilment from their job and knew that there were other things they liked doing, but didn’t know how to transfer those skills to a job.
Others had no clue where to start with a career change.
I didn’t feel I really had the know-how to help those clients effectively. I needed some additional tools to support my existing coaching skills.
How have you used Firework with your clients? Do you have a favourite Firework tool?
I’ve used the whole programme with some clients, often across nine or ten sessions.
Clients have told me that they really enjoy the Powerful Self visualisation. It helps to put themselves into a unique space where they can imagine their future selves.
Others have really loved the Dream phase. It can be enlightening for clients to bring themselves back to their childhood and explore the things they used to dream about doing.
It really helps put them in a positive frame of mind and they start to ask, "Yes of course I was really good at X and I would love to be able to do that for a job – but how?"
I love the Ideas Bank. I think it’s a beautiful thing because you start out with so many possibilities and then explore the reasons behind each idea, and what would need to be in place to make that possibility a reality.
What’s great is that clients end up with a much broader vision of all the possible options and they feel they have more choices available to them.
It can be enlightening for clients to bring themselves back to their childhood
What results have you helped your clients achieve?
I worked with one client who wanted a new career, but she was very afraid of change.
Within a few coaching sessions she’d found a new role.
She said that even though the seeds of change had already been sown before she met me, they still needed to be watered. Coaching gave her the courage to make that jump.
She also has a much more balanced and relaxed attitude to her work. She’s made room for other things in her life.
I worked with a client last year who was ready to quit his job because he was so unhappy.
His confidence was really very low. Initially he couldn’t tell me what he was good at.
During our sessions he learned a lot in terms of identifying his values, his strengths, and his skills.
Through coaching with me he had so much more to offer than he previously thought.
He decided quitting his job wasn’t the answer. Instead, he chose to look at it through a new lens.
He knew he was worth something and he was able to see where he could make more of an impact in his role.
I’m a good listener and I think that gives my clients the space to say whatever they want.
I think my clients feel liberated by that. I’m as non-judgmental as I possibly can be, and I encourage my clients to say whatever they want in the coaching conversation – they really don't have to limit themselves.
I feel they already feel a sense of freedom when I say this to them. Confidentiality and safety of course are key to this.
Even though the seeds of change had already been sown before she met me, they still needed to be watered.
Who do you typically work with?
I work with all sorts of people.
I’m someone who has a very varied mix of friends and because my clients come by word of mouth, they are also very diverse.
Some of my clients are very young – 24 or 25 – and others are at the end of their career but still want to enjoy their work.
Some clients have already retired and are looking for a way to make that period of their lives as meaningful as they can.
There are a lot of coaches out there who only work with leaders, but I really enjoy coaching ordinary people with ordinary jobs – many of whom have extraordinary talents!
I like helping them find more satisfaction in their work.
Right now, I coach a mix of different people but focusing on parents returning to work is something that interests me.
My own experience of stepping out of the workplace – even just for a short time – left me feeling less confident about myself.
Before I began my coach training, I'd lost my sense of self and who I was. I only related to myself in a work context and I was constantly comparing myself to others.
Looking back, I now know I’d reached a stage where I wasn’t using my best skills at work.
We know this is a common issue for many women, especially after having a baby.
I was talking with one of my colleagues recently who said “I feel empty. Ever since I had my kids, I spend all my time planning and doing things for them, and I don't really know myself anymore”.
I think there’s a tendency to focus on what you're losing in terms of work-based skills rather than what you gain when you become a new parent.
People often don’t consider the organisational, planning, and decision-making skills parents acquire and develop whilst they’re out of the workplace, many of which can be extremely valuable to an employer.
I only related to myself in a work context and I was constantly comparing myself to others.
What other challenges have your clients come to you with?
I’m often amazed by how much people lack confidence in themselves.
They can find it very difficult to describe their skills, strengths and what they can do.
I think everyone is unique and special and it can be incredible to see what people are capable of.
Often people have a low sense of self-worth when it comes to their work, and I think this happens when their best skills aren’t being utilised in their job.
There have been moments in the coaching conversation where a client tells me something and I think “gosh, where do I go from here?”
I worked with someone last year where we had several conversations like that.
It was really challenging for me to not jump in and ask a question when the client just wanted me to listen and hold that space for them.
How do you use your coaching skills in your day job?
I am a Coaching Co-ordinator in the European Parliament.
I work with many individuals who aren’t satisfied or simply want more from their job.
Civil servants will sit an exam to get in and then be placed in a position. There is often a disconnect between the role they thought they were going into and the reality.
Individuals may be required to manage a team but not have any prior experience or receive any on the job training.
I want coaching to be part of the culture of the organisation where we can help people develop a greater sense of self-belief.
It would be great for the impact of coaching – and the skill of coaching itself – to trickle down through the institution.
I want coaching to be part of the culture of the organisation.
How have you built your coaching business? How do you source your clients?
Initially, I experienced imposter syndrome and wasn’t confident at calling myself a coach.
I also don’t think I was equipped with the right marketing skills to make it work.
Having previously left my job at the European Parliament to focus on my coaching practice, I returned, albeit in a Learning and Development role.
I didn’t give up on my private practice though.
I read a lot and realised that many coaches feel the same way when they start their business.
I did an embodiment facilitation course which made me realise not only did I need to believe I was a coach in my head, but I also needed to believe it in my body.
I joined several coaching circles and events like the Fireside Chats have served as a reminder that we all start from the same place and building a business takes time.
We’re all human and we all have similar struggles. Once you show vulnerability, that can be your strength.
Now, when I meet someone new, I’ll tell them “I’m a coach”. It’s made such a difference in getting me more clients.
In the end, my business has grown simply through word of mouth.
I don't have a huge number of clients, but I tend to work with two or three at any one time.
Rather than using Social Media, I prefer to have real conversations in real life.
Sometimes these conversations result in a new client and sometimes they don’t.
But it’s always rewarding to hear “that’s changed my perspective”.
Previously I might’ve been dismissive of such small interactions, but now I truly believe that every conversation has the potential to help me grow my business.
I used to be very concerned about having a successful business but I’m less worried about that now.
Now I focus on making a difference to someone else. That was a revelation.
We all start from the same place and building a business takes time
How do you see your work evolving?
In the future, I'd love to focus on therapeutic coaching as well as life and career coaching.
I like to be able to help a client get to the root cause of where the issues lie so they can move forward.
Based on my experiences as a teacher, I'd love to use my coaching skills to help young people prepare for leaving school and making that transition to university or the world of work.
I think it’s vital that we value and support everybody in life, not just those who are more academic.
I’m currently creating a programme called The Luminous Mind for 18 - 25 year olds, which will focus on building self-belief and help young people to identify and utilise their skills and strengths.
I want to support young people to develop their self-belief.
I think it's vital that they have confidence in their skills and can seek out support from others who can help them when they're faced with big challenges.
I think it’s vital that we value and support everybody in life, not just those who are more academic.
What’s the most rewarding thing about being a coach?
When something in my client’s body language tells me that they know they’re capable of more than they’ve given themselves credit for in the past.
It’s always an amazing moment for me when I see people hold themselves differently or have that light bulb moment.
It’s great when people say I’ve really helped them to cope with their anxiety or fear around work.
I suppose I see coaching as an opportunity to provide people with a set of tools to help them manage those feelings and ask for support when they need it.
My counselling skills can really come into play and support me as a coach when these issues come up.
Edel Connor is a Firework-licensed Career Coach and Life Coach. She works with people seeking fulfilment, both professionally and personally. Edel offers a safe space for her clients to express their fears and help them recognise what makes them great. As well as her private coaching practice, Edel works for the European Parliament as a Learning and Development Course Manager/Coaching Co-ordinator. Originally from Ireland, Edel now lives in Brussels with her family. You can connect with Edel on LinkedIn here.