Coach in the Spotlight: Fiona Reith

Fiona Reith is on a mission to help her clients regain energy and focus in their career as they approach a key transition point. In our Q&A, she shares some of her strategies for sourcing coaching clients and explains how she overcame feelings of self-doubt when it comes to promoting her business.

Tell us about your journey into coaching.

I started out working in commercial business development and was fortunate at one stage to work with someone who gave me some incredible training opportunities.

Coaching was at the heart of the company.

The experience of being coached helped me overcome challenges like dealing with intimidating people.

After I had my children, my corporate career just seemed too huge to continue with because it involved a lot of travel.

So, I moved into a career in education.

I worked for almost a decade running mentoring and employability programmes for young people.

This led me to explore coaching because I wanted to ensure the work I was doing was of the best standard.

As soon as I started my coach training, every time I walked into the training room, I would think “yes, I'm in the right place”.

But I still wasn’t sure where it was going to take me. I saw it as another string to my bow.

The pivotal moment came when I came across a book called “Designing Your Life”. It completely changed my perspective.

I began talking to people and it triggered some new ideas.

I started taking small actions to test those ideas out. It gave me more confidence to trust my instincts.

I decided to go to California and train with authors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. The experience was a powerful one.

When I came back, I handed in my notice at work and began my coaching practice.

Until I read that book, I’d been struggling for a long time to work out why I didn’t feel totally satisfied. It was like something had been missing.

I'd been listening too much to the noise around me – “you should do this” or “you'd be good at that”, rather than listening to myself.

That’s not to say that my journey to becoming a coach was an easy one. Some people were more supportive of my choice than others, but I feel fortunate to have established some great relationships with former trainers and coaching supervisors who were in my corner.


I'd been listening too much to the noise around me...rather than listening to myself.


Why did you decide to be a career coach specifically?

I didn't set out to do career coaching initially.

I had a real leaning towards and tapping into others potential. I've always been curious about what other people do for work and why they do it.

In all my commercial business roles I always worked with interns and was involved in graduate recruitment. I love helping others to reach their potential.

Perhaps I had an instinct that I should support people with their careers and help them set their future direction, but it took a while for me to realise it.

It kept coming up in my own coaching sessions and my coach said, “I think you want to be a career coach”. It was this that gave me the confidence to explore it further.

I think the fact that I left my commercial role to go into education was also a clue as to who I should coach.

Everything I've done in my career has influenced what I choose to do now. For instance, I like to work one to one with people, I really understand what employers are looking for and what the job market looks like.

I think my own experiences of career change mean I’m motivated to try and normalise the idea of changing careers.

I had what was deemed to be from the outside a very successful and very enjoyable career before I became a coach.

The pivot I made when I had my children was brilliant because there was a strong reason to do something different because the design constraints had changed.

I don’t feel like anything I’ve done has been a waste of time.

I like to remind my clients of this too – everything you've done feeds into what you're going to do next. It's all good experience.


I think my own experiences of career change mean I’m motivated to try and normalise the idea of changing careers.


How did you build your coaching practice?

I already had a good understanding of what I’d need to do to build my business. 

I’m quite a commercial person and I worked in sales and marketing for several years and had an existing network.

In addition, I read a brilliant book that my coaching supervisor recommended to me, called “Building a Coaching Business” by Jenny Rogers which gave me some brilliant practical steps to take.

I paid attention to some of the social media experts, but I didn’t follow any specific programme because I was clear I was going to do it my way – the only way that suited me.

After I left my day job, I took about a month off and I didn't do very much at all.

Then I suddenly got motivated. I opened a business bank account, briefed a website designer, and got a business coach.

Obviously, my coaching business was small to start with. But I put a lot of effort in, and the clients started coming.

I got some pro bono clients through friends, and they gave me testimonials to use on my website.

I started writing on LinkedIn and gradually small numbers of people came to me for coaching.

After the fear and panic from the first Covid lockdown subsided, it seemed to accelerate people’s desire to change careers.

Clients just kept coming.

They were keen to work online, and many found they were (and still are) able to work more flexibly and fit coaching sessions into the middle of their day.

I didn't expect to be saying this, but yes, I think the pandemic was a good tailwind for building my business.

I have a mixed strategy now for sourcing my clients. I try not to rely too much on any one tactic.

I was the first coach in the UK to do the “Designing Your Life” accreditation which means that I'm quite high up in the list of coaches on their website.

I often find that when the book is being promoted, I get more clients coming to me because of the association I have with the authors.

I also use LinkedIn. I did Helen Pritchard’s Five Day Challenge which is probably the best model out there on creating LinkedIn content for small businesses.

If I’m asked to come and speak at a group or write an article or be interviewed for a podcast I always say yes.

I get a lot of clients through my website. That’s credit to Zoe Ryan at ZR Digital who developed my website and keeps prodding me to make sure that it’s up to date, so it ranks quite highly.

Some people say you don’t need a website, but I value having one.

I also did some training with Kerri Twig who taught me to really listen to what the client says and use those words in my marketing message.

My clients say things like “I'm really lost” and “my friends and family are sick of hearing me talk about this”.

I’ve tried to capture a little bit of that pain in my messaging and have found that it seems to resonate with the clients I want to work with.

People go through these transitions all the time so it's comforting for them to know that those feelings and concerns are normal.

I’ve tried lots of different approaches to sourcing clients and I'm continually reviewing what’s working and what isn’t.

Overall, I’d say my clients come through a mixture of referrals, partnerships with other coaches and associations.

I think it's important to say that I coach three days a week and I don’t rely entirely on coaching as an income.

Right now, I'm as busy as I want to be.


I was clear I was going to do it my way – the only way that suited me.


How have you used the Firework toolkit with your clients?

Firework is the right mix of self-reflection and creativity, which I love.

Sometimes I’ll just use one or two of the tools with the clients, but I’ve also taken several clients all the way through the entire process with great results.

I almost always use the Ideas Bank with everybody.

I’ve got a new client starting with me next week and we plan to work through the whole programme in 12 sessions.

It’s great to have such a rich selection of tools. There are so many ways to get people exploring and building more confidence in their own thinking.

Some people really want to do that deep reflection and probe into some nostalgic dreams or something from their past that they might’ve missed out on. It can be rather important and insightful to go back and unpick that.

I also love that Firework overlaps with the design thinking model where you generate an abundance of ideas and distil those ideas into themes before focusing in on the two or three things they want to take action on and explore next.


Who do you typically work with?

Initially I thought my clients would be ‘career women’, but what I’ve ended up with is an ideal client who tends to be going through some big life transition.

It might be that they’re approaching a key milestone birthday – typically 30 or 40 or 50 – or a big career transition point like a promotion or partnership.

My clients tend to be high achievers who are ambitious but feel a little lost.

They wonder if they missed a key opportunity somewhere – a pivot point or a promotion – because they’re not content with where they are.

My clients are often either very innovative or quite analytical and both of those things may be keeping them trapped.

They often don't realise that it's completely natural to feel this way and that we all go through these transitions at various points in life.

They might have a lot of conflicting beliefs to work through.

Reaching out to a career coach can feel like such a relief because they suddenly have this space and a structure to unpick everything and move forward again.


My clients are often either very innovative or quite analytical and both of those things may be keeping them trapped.


What kind of results have you helped your clients achieve?

Most of my clients make what I’d call a career shift rather than a massive leap into a completely different industry or sector.

Saying that, I have worked with people who’ve made huge changes.

There was one client who was working for a FinTech start-up in the City and seemingly doing well. However, they weren’t feeling fulfilled at all.

After our coaching sessions, they decided to pack in their job and went to Italy to learn to be a sculptor.

I worked with an engineer and through lockdown he discovered a passion for entrepreneurship and being involved in supporting communities.

He’s now gradually shifting his career in that quite different direction.

Another client came to me during the pandemic feeling totally demoralised.

Again, this was a very successful person but ready to give up their job because they felt so unhappy.

It turns out that intellectual challenge had been missing from his role and we managed to work together to a point where instead of walking away, he doubled down and took on a more senior role in a different region.

He’s much happier now.

Whilst some people experience dramatic career changes, others have simply changed the environment they work in or the way they think about their job.

I like to reassure my clients that there isn't one definitive answer to fulfilling work.

Your career can be an evolution.

I see myself as a personal coach because the results I help my clients achieve are entirely personal to them.

What’s so exciting about the work I do is that each client is designing a solution that fits with their values, their lifestyle, and their aspirations.


I like to reassure my clients that there isn't one definitive answer to fulfilling work.


What are some of the challenges your clients have experienced? How have you helped them overcome those challenges?

I’m always coming up against challenges which is why I think it’s important to keep training and investing in my personal development.

Sometimes when clients get really stuck in the exploration phase, or their saboteur is getting in the way, their head goes down and they can't see the possibilities anymore.

So, I’m always looking for tools and techniques to help clients generate new ideas and career options.

There's a brilliant quote by Dorothy Parker – “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

There are so many things in the world that a person could potentially find exciting and fulfilling.

Yes, the world of work is changing.

So, it’s important to focus the client’s mindset away from scarcity and towards abundance.

This is where it’s useful within the Firework programme to help the client to generate lots and lots of ideas.

We need to encourage people to be open-minded and not be afraid.

We’re always working on the client’s inner critic and underlying beliefs.

Coaching holds space for people to experiment and helps them build more confidence to talk to other people about their ideas.

I've had brilliant successes with clients where once they start talking to people about something they’re curious about then opportunities appear that they never could’ve imagined.


Coaching holds space for people to experiment and helps them build more confidence to talk to other people about their ideas.


What have you found difficult about building your business?

Initially I was worried that coaching might lead me to feel lonely, but this hasn’t been the case at all.

Putting myself out there is a challenge and something I'm not wholly comfortable with much of the time.

Sometimes this can manifest as procrastination because I might come up with a good idea and then start to doubt myself.

That’s where having a community of other coaches can be a brilliant source of support.

I’ll have a chat with somebody and get some honest advice.

I’ll work with coaching my supervisor and work out what it is I’m really worried about.

I’ll collaborate with a group of people and ping some ideas around and suddenly I’m able to get back into action again.

For me, the biggest challenge is overcoming self-doubt which is why I can empathise when my clients feel like that.

I’m aware that I come across as confident and energetic – and I am – but I also have days when I don't feel that way.

I sometimes struggle with boundaries and knowing how many clients is enough for me.

I work three days a week and I do about 9 sessions across the week which seems about right for me.

Some full-time coaches might be able to do three times as many sessions, but that wouldn’t work for me.

I work one to one on a deep level with people and that takes a lot of energy.


I’m aware that I come across as confident and energetic – and I am – but I also have days when I don't feel that way.


What trends are you seeing right now with your clients?

There’s a trend towards finding personal meaning in the work people want to do.

I see a lot of clients coming to me who are stuck in what I call a ‘meaning trap’.

They might believe that if they work in an area that's deemed as meaningful, such as education or the environment, then they should feel fulfilled by that.

But that’s unlikely to be the case if they’re not using their strengths or if they’re not in the right environment.

I’ve noticed more people wanting to work in areas like data and sustainability or humanitarian work. There’s going to be a huge evolution in the sustainability sector and potential for a lot of growth there.

I’m a big advocate of client’s getting volunteering experience to help them sidestep into these sorts of industries.

I try to encourage my clients to be the bravest and the boldest by creating something for themselves.

What I tell my clients is that they must start tapping into what they want, not what everyone else wants.

I’d love it if students in schools and universities were told that from the beginning but we're quite far away from that still.


I try to encourage my clients to be the bravest and the boldest by creating something for themselves.


How has becoming a coach changed you?

I’ve learnt to trust my instincts more.

I’ve learnt to avoid running too far ahead and accept I can’t always be in control.

There’s a concept in Designing Your Life called ‘Failure Immunity’ which is about how with each challenge you either win or you learn.

I have that mindset now in everything I do.


What is the most rewarding aspect of coaching for you?

I love it when clients can reconnect with themselves.

When they start to have the confidence to trust their instinct and act.

They blow me away when they see what they’re capable of because of what is, essentially, a simple conversation.


Fiona Reith is a Firework-licensed Career Coach and the first UK accredited Designing Your Life Coach. Her coaching approach is informed by a life-long passion for self-development and books. She is motivated by her mission to help her clients become focused and re-energised again. Fiona has an ILM coaching qualification and is an accredited practitioner of the EMCC. In addition to coaching individuals, she continues to mentor young people on a voluntary basis. Fiona is based in Perthshire, Scotland. Find out more at