Lucy Barnes – Career Coach
Posted March 6, 2019, by Jenny
Meet Lucy, PR graduate turned sales rep, turned PR professional, turned producer, turned HR member turned career coach. Yep, she's had quite the career journey. After many highs and low Lucy is a happy and proud career coach at General Assembly, helping students find success during and after their studies.
Read all about her career adventures here....
Tell us what a day in your role may look like
The main aspects of my role are to teach our students the best practices when it comes to finding a job and coach them through the process from when they start their course at GA, to when they find a job after graduation. It's a varied role and my day could include:
- Having 1:1 coaching sessions with a student or job seeker. This could be helping them with their resumes or even guiding them through a salary negotiation. Whatever they need advice on, they can reach out to me
- Organising networking events where our grads can meet employers first hand
- Teaching in-class workshops on a variety of topics such as the importance of networking, how to build an effective LinkedIn profile, interview preparation etc.
- Prospecting and meeting with potential employers in the industry who might be interested in hiring our grads
Tell us about your study and career journey
I went to university straight after school to study PR and Marketing. After uni, I couldn't find any PR roles in my local area so I took a sales role at a pillow factory (no joke). After 6 months of that, I was actually made redundant. It was crushing. My goal was always to move to London so I packed up everything and went travelling. When I got to London I got a role as a PR Assistant in a film marketing agency. I stayed at that company for 5 years! I actually moved away from PR and into production where I got to work on producing movie trailers and posters etc. It was a lot of fun but a lot of hard work and long hours. In 2013 I moved back to Australia and stayed in the agency world working with FMCG clients but was really starting to burn out. I realised that it wasn't a sustainable journey for me. If I was going to give up my social life for the office, it wasn't going to be so that some client, somewhere, could sell a few extra cans of deodorant.
So, I did some thinking, 2 years of thinking in fact, and after that time I realised that the thing I liked most about my job, wasn't my job at all. It was the thing I was always doing on the side...helping people. If a team member was having an issue with their manager, it was me that they came to for advice. If a manager was having an issue with one of their team members, it was me they came to. If a friend wasn't happy in their job, if someone wanted to ask for a pay rise, if the CEO was having confidence issues... I was there to help. So I transitioned into an HR role in the company I was already working for and eventually came across the Career Coach role at General Assembly. I've been here for over 3 years and I love it. I love helping people, and I love having such a rewarding role.
What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you in your career?
Getting invited to a movie premiere with my clients!
What was your first job and what do you think it taught you?
When I was 15 I got a casual job developing photos in a camera shop. Besides learning great customer service skills, I think the biggest lesson came later in life when film cameras became obsolete. I had that role for 6 years and experienced the digital disruption first hand. A few years after I left, I read that the whole company had gone under. Overnight your job could become obsolete and I think it's important to continue learning and expanding your skills so that you can handle those shifts better.
Name a career highlight
A recent student of mine had moved to Australia for university and after he graduated he spent 2 years looking for work with no luck. He eventually came and studied with us but was lacking confidence due to his negative experience. We worked together a lot throughout the course and not long after he received an offer from one of the big four firms. He was so ecstatic and it's those moments that make me really love my job.
Name a career low
Being made redundant from my first role out of uni sure felt like a career low at the time. I took it so personally and thought it was something I did wrong, when in fact it was the company that was failing. It took me a while to realise that it was actually a blessing in disguise. It was exactly what I needed to push me to go overseas and that's where my career really started.
Name something in your field you’d like to know more about
Neuro-linguistic programming. I’m planning to study NLP this year and I’m hoping I will be able to bring this into my coaching conversations.
What’s the most important career tip someone has given you?
“It’s just a job”. Earlier in my career, I was really tough on myself and would get stressed quite easily if a project was slipping. My manager at the time reminded me that it was just a job and not worth losing sleep over. It has stuck with me throughout my career and helps me to remember that I can only control what’s in my control.
What’s the number tip would you give someone preparing for a job interview?
Research everything. Press releases, website, key players, social sites etc. What are their values, who are their clients, how long have their staff worked there? e.g. If the staff are all new, is this a sign of high turnover, or are they going through a period of growth? This research will give you an insight into the company's culture and will give you key information to focus on e.g how you prepare your answers, what questions to ask and even how to dress for your interview.
What career advice do you wish someone had given you after you graduated high school?
I think for me it would be two things.
1) People in the industry are very happy to help and give advice. I decided to study PR at university based on the two-paragraph description in the course guide. I wish I had reached out to someone in the field to learn more about what the day-to-day looked like before I dedicated 3 years to study it. I know now that there would have been a lot of people happy to help me.
2) What you do next doesn't have to be what you will do for the rest of your life. I'm 33 and have already had 5 distinctly different careers: Sales, PR, Production, HR and now Career Coaching. Just don't be afraid to try, it's all of these different experiences that led me to where I am now.
What important qualities and skills should people have if they want to become a career coach?
Empathy & resilience are key in any role where you are working with people. In my role, I'm talking to a lot of different people, each of whom are transitioning their careers and that can be a stressful time for them. I need to be conscious of how they're coping and feeling. As a Coach, I'm often the first one the students come to if something is happening in their personal life but as an empath, it can be easy for me to take on their pain as well. Just know your limits and make sure you take the time you need to debrief and unwind. I have an incredibly supportive team and manager so we all look out for each other.