Coach in the Spotlight: Geraldine Locke

After celebrating her 60th birthday, Geraldine Locke felt inspired to help others create a wholehearted retirement. In our Q&A, she shares her passion for helping individuals rediscover themselves and find fulfilment in their golden years.

Tell us about your journey into coaching.

I've worked in training and learning and development for the last 30 years, starting my career in the hotel and catering industry.

My passion has always been to help people grow and learn at work.

Coaching was a natural progression from my career in learning and development.

About 15 years ago, I did a postgraduate diploma in coaching and mentoring with Oxford Brookes.

From that point, I've had my coaching practice running in parallel with the work I do in learning and development for other companies.


My passion has always been to help people grow and learn at work.


What lead you to career coaching and training with Firework?

When I came across Firework, the programme was only running once a year, and the next course happened to be the following week.

The timing and the fact that it was close to home felt serendipitous.

I knew it would take weeks if I were to develop everything that Firework would be providing me during the course, so it was a no-brainer.

Once I'd done it, I felt elated.

What I love about Firework is the journey you can take the client through.

Also, having the lifetime licence gave me that reassurance that once I'd done the course, that was it.


How did you make a return on your investment with Firework?

It's funny because I've never considered that question myself before now.

I was able to immediately integrate what I learned through Firework into what I did.

For me, the value was there straight away.


Who do you work with?

I've never described myself as a career coach, but when people come to me for coaching, they are often experiencing career issues.

These conversations often coincide with a 'zero' birthday – there's something about turning 30, 40 or 50, which is a trigger for some people.

They're contemplating a reinvention or some sort of pivot in their life.

I can't tie my niche down to a particular age or type of person, though.

They tend to be people who've lost their jobs, or they're fed up and at a crossroads in their career.

When someone says "I've had enough", I know that's my cue to help them find out what's going to make them sing.

I've used the Firework programme as a tool kit and integrated parts of it into other programmes.

I've recently embarked on a brand new project, which I'm excited about.

Last year, my husband and I both hit 60, and it struck me what an extraordinary stage of life it is.

People may get to the end of their career, face retirement and ask themselves "what next?"

They might be considering a lifestyle change, a house move, or some other transition – of course, events in 2020 have pre-empted that for a lot of people.

So, I went out and did a lot of research around what makes the best transition at that age.

In previous generations, people would work hard for years, then stop suddenly – we call it the “falling off a cliff” model.

We now know that if you can gradually reduce your career whilst developing “something else” it will be far better for your mental and physical health.

I want to help people identify what that “something else” is. I call this Wholehearted Retirement©.

From the research, I developed the acronym PRISM©: Purpose, Routine, Identity, Social and Money.

This model focuses on what people can do to fulfil those areas in their life.

For example, for some individuals, there can be a massive sense of loss when they leave their career behind. They may be grieving for their professional identity, of who they were.

I aim to help these people rediscover themselves and feel comfortable having an identity outside of work. It can be easier for women, especially if they've taken time out from their career to have children. But for many men, particularly those of a particular generation, it's challenging.

I'm also running this programme for couples, which is an entirely new way of working for me.

It's so interesting when you get two people together to ask them about their expectations and where they see their life as a couple going after retirement.

For many people, they've not had this conversation before, and things come up that neither party expected. It might be that one party decides they want to spend a year travelling the world and the other wants to invest their time in art classes or joining a choir.

It's interesting to help couples explore their individual wants and needs and what this means for them as a couple.

Of course, retirement isn't just one block of time; there are phases. It's about making the most of those earlier years – the golden years – where you're hopefully still fit and healthy. Then grandchildren might come along, which can be delightful, but that could create some restraints if they take on a childcare role.

There's a lot of rich material in the Firework programme that I'll be using for this new initiative.

Firework isn't only about career; it's about finding fulfilment in how you spend your time, whether you get paid for it or not.


For some individuals, there can be a massive sense of loss when they leave their career behind.


What are some of the results that you've helped your clients achieve?

The impact of coaching comes down to the quality of the listening and the questioning you do.

I had a client who came to me in her early 30s. She'd trained as a teacher, and all she knew was that she didn't want to teach anymore.

Of all the people I've coached, she had the most imaginative Ideas Bank. She explored the idea of becoming a biologist and carrying out research with dolphins in the Caribbean; retraining as a psychotherapist and was intrigued about becoming a spy.

During our conversations, she often spoke about her need for security within a family environment.

At the end of the coaching, she decided to go back to teaching in a primary school, and within a year she'd married and was expecting a baby.

She told me that the coaching experience surfaced what had been missing in her life – and it wasn't related to her career.

What she had craved was a family.

As a coach, ultimately, you know you've done a good job when the client leaves that process happy, and they know what it is that they're looking for.

Some clients will change their attitude or their mindset but not their career. Others may transition out of the sector they've always worked in but still do a similar role in another industry which is more aligned with their interests or values.

Sometimes the decision of career change has been made for them. They might have been made redundant, or have reached retirement and don't know how to fill their time.

This is where a portfolio career can be rather attractive.

The motivations may not be financial, but they want to return to work on their terms so they might take on a trusteeship or do some consulting.

Author Rumer Godden said, "Everyone Is a House with Four Rooms, a Physical, a Mental, an Emotional, and a Spiritual."

It's crucial to enter into each of these rooms each day. Even if we don't spend a lot of time there, we should at least open the windows.

I help people identify what their rooms might be and what it looks like to spend time in each room and open the windows.

I find it an absolute joy to help people at that stage of life.

It's vital for everyone to feel purposeful, fulfilled and have the opportunities to continue learning.


It's vital for everyone to feel purposeful, fulfilled and have the opportunities to continue learning.


What tools or resources have helped you develop your coaching skills and your practice?

Every day I make an effort to read and discover something new.

My coaching bible is The Coaching Handbook by Jenny Rogers.

This book was written years ago, but she's the best in terms of helping you to understand listening and questioning in a coaching context.

Nancy Kline's Time to Think was the book that probably impacted my work the most.

The whole concept of allowing people the time to process and to work things out for themselves is simple but effective.

There are so few opportunities to have secure space for people to work things out for themselves, and it's a privilege to provide that as a coach.


The whole concept of allowing people the time to process and to work things out for themselves is simple but effective.


How have you built your business? What have you found to be the most effective ways of attracting new clients?

I'm an excellent networker, and funnily enough, the majority of my work has come through ad hoc conversations.

I might be chatting to someone about what I'm doing, and they'll go and recommend me to their friend.

So, whilst I haven't actively made myself visible, I have found a lot of clients through word of mouth.

I'm trying to make more effort with LinkedIn though and plan to start recording and posting video content about my new venture.

In the future, I'd like to step away from some of my training work to give myself time to write more and build a personal brand for my coaching business.

I want people to get a sense of who I am.

It's about making a connection. People buy into people.

It's imperative too for people to know that my coaching approach is grounded in adult learning theory.

It's not soft and fluffy, but it's a self-learning experience that I'm here to support you through.


The majority of my work has come through ad hoc conversations.


How have you adapted to working during the pandemic?

It hasn't changed the way I work too much as I've been working with clients globally over Skype for years.

I think a conversation that takes place online is almost as good as face to face.

It also means that there are no holds barred on your business. The world is your oyster.

What's changed for me is that prospective clients are now more accepting of working online.


What are the most rewarding aspects of coaching for you?

Coaching is one of the most rewarding jobs there is.

I love seeing people come to that realisation that they know what they want to do with their lives.

It's wonderful when they have those "ah-ha!" moments.

I know that whatever question I've asked or the environment I've created has allowed them to find the answers for themselves.

I love knowing that my client has moved forward under their own steam, that something has shifted for them, and they're coming out as a different person when they came in.


Geraldine is a licensed Firework career coach, executive and personal coach and coaching supervisor. Following a long career in training and development, Geraldine felt inspired to become a qualified coach and launch her own business. Fresh Beginnings is her signature coaching programme, supporting clients to approach the milestones in life with poise and resilience. Find out more about Geraldine at