Meet Fiona: Coaching you through a career transition

Use your transferrable skills to change your life

Hudson career coach Fiona Cowl knows what it’s like to change course mid-career. Once upon a time, she was a lawyer.

“I wasn’t enjoying the work and I kept coming back to the questions of what I actually liked doing and what I was good at,” says Fiona. “A lot of it was around problem-solving and relationship management and engagement. So I became a legal recruiter and took those transferrable soft skills with me.”

The changes didn’t end there. As a recruiter, Fiona often had to reject candidates that she felt she could have helped to be more employable – but that wasn’t her job. So she made it her job by becoming a career coach.

Fiona has since helped others make mid-career transitions. She recalls an unhappy mergers and acquisitions lawyer who wanted to be in the fashion industry. He had some suitable skills from his legal work, including his management and writing skills, but they had to reach beyond the law for the rest.

“We really had to work on the transferrable skills,” says Fiona. “But he’d blogged about fashion parades and kept a weekend job at Country Road. The blog is what provided an opportunity to do an internship at a fashion magazine. He’s a fashion writer now.”

It’s that sort of thinking – focusing on your skills, which may have been gained outside of a formal work environment – that can lead to new opportunities, such as a career in the booming field of digital jobs, where technical skills are not the only requirement.

“Increasingly there's need for skills like critical thinking, analysis, problem solving, self-management, and working and collaborating with people,” says Fiona.

Fiona’s experience in guiding others through career transitions has helped her identify the keys to success: “Take advice on board, have strategies for managing the ups and downs, keep connected to people, and persevere.”

Fiona also emphasises the role of networking in making a successful career change.

“Some people are reluctant to network, but it’s really important,” says Fiona. “It's not just about getting a job; it's really about having conversations.  It's information gathering and understanding what's going on in the market and learning what different organisations are doing.”

These industry conversations are less about what you can gain, but how well you listen to get insight into the industry. Fiona’s advice is to start small with two or three meetings a month. Over time you’ll gain a clearer idea of how that industry works and which companies appeal to you. You may also have the connection you need when an opportunity arises.

“People are generally really happy to help and just have a conversation,” says Fiona. “You can just say, I'd love to sit down with you for 20 minutes to hear about your impressions of the industry. People love sharing their knowledge and skills.”

Page last updated: 12 August 2021