What is a Career Coach?

What is a Career Coach?

What is a career coach

Go to school, sit your Leaving Cert, decide on a college course, complete your studies and settle into a career: that’s the plan for everyone but it is a plan that rarely works. Some are lucky enough to know what career they want from an early age. Others figure out during their Leaving Cert that they love a particular subject or set of subjects and dedicate their studies towards that. For many people, however, they never discover their true calling. They move from school to university and into a job without ever really finding a career that they can love.

It is probably true to say that people who love their work are in the minority. These people are the lucky ones. If you can sit down to your desk at 9am (or begin treating animals at dawn, or run a restaurant at night) knowing that the next eight hours or so will be enjoyable then work is very easy, it might not even be realistic to call it work. Instead, it is the part of the day that provides mental fulfilment and satisfaction. It is essentially what MihalyCsikszentmihalyi (1992) refers to as “flow” in his excellent book of the same name. Many people spend their time lying in bed at night and in the morning dreading getting up and going into the office. However, if you can find something you are passionate about, work becomes easy, and you jump out of bed and approach the day with energy and verve. Ideally, this should be what everyone looks for from their day.

A career coach is someone who can help you find that job that makes you sit up and enjoy your day. A good career coach will usually be a qualified therapist or psychologist trained in and familiar with the way different people think, and ready to help anyone. They shouldalso have experience in career counselling. They can help you find out what it is that makes you tick, by engaging you in understanding your thoughts and concerns and looking at your passions and experience, translating that into a set of skills and understanding that is relevant to the job market and prospective employers.

A career coach generally helps you by talking to you and helping you realise what it is you enjoy doing, helping you see the value in things you appreciate. When people are good at something they tend to downplay their achievements. They think that they’re good at it because they feel the subject is easy, “Ah, sure anyone could do that!” The reality is that if you think something is easy it is because you’re good at it and enjoy it. Most people would be baffled and have no understanding of the things you can pick up in minutes and do all day long.

What is a career coach?

A career coach will talk to you about these aspects of your life, engage with you in a series of psychometric tests, present options and give you a better understanding of careers, showing you how it is possible to take what you’ve learned from one career and move successfully into another. A good career coach will help you turn your passion into something you can spend your day getting paid for doing.

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The Winner Effect: The Science of Success and How to Use It

I was lucky enough to attend a breakfast seminar with Prof Ian Robertson about his new book the winner effect. Ian is a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist and Professor of the psychology dept in TCD as well as having numerous visiting Professor positions.  You can find him on twitter @ihrobertson

I was particularly excited about this talk as neuropsychology is a real passion of mine. If I wasn’t an Organisational Psychologist, I’d probably be a neuropsychologist.

Ian began the talk by presenting us with a mystery of cichlid fish, showing us a picture of two males, one, a brightly coloured, larger, more aggressive T male and the other a smaller, colourless NT male, which bears more resemblance to a female of the species. In fact, it can often be very difficult to tell the difference between an NT male and a female. Ian asked us to consider how the NT male can transform into a T male in the space of 24 hours. As an avid collector of cichlids for many years, I knew this happened. I have witnessed it with my own eyes but I did not realise it happened so quickly! Below is an example of a T male and an NT male. The difference is quite remarkable.


Ian left us to ponder the mystery of the cichlids and moved on by asking, what breeds success? The answer, of course, is success. Success increases our levels of testosterone and dopamine. The more successful we are, the more permanently our brains are altered because we produce more receiving areas for testosterone. This applies to women as well. Women produce testosterone too, just on a smaller scale than men. Failure, in turn, decreases levels of testosterone.

Success also increases our levels of dopamine, producing the same effect as cocaine. Dopamine acts as an antidepressant and decreases levels of anxiety. As a result, Ian suggested that we contrive to create small successes for our reports, our colleagues, even our children. Essentially anyone who we want to make feel better.

Home Advantage

Its long been known that “playing at home” whether in sports or business – in negotiations for example – gives us a significant psychological advantage but what is less well known is that it also gives us a significant biological advantage. Being “at home” increases our levels of both testosterone and dopamine, according to Ian, and maximises our chance of success.


Benjamin Franklin is widely regarded as a true genius. He discovered cognitive dissonance centuries before any psychologist. Although he did not call it this, he worked out the effect it could have and how he could use it to his advantage. He had an enemy in Government, a man who opposed everything Franklin was in favour of. It was known that this man had a treasured possession, a very old and rare book. Franklin toiled to find a way to get this man on side. Then, one day, he decided to ask the man if he could borrow his book. Somewhat to Franklin’s surprise the man agreed. This placed him in a state of what we know today as cognitive dissonance. Ian likened it to have an itch in your brain that you can’t scratch and it is very unsettling. The man could not change his behaviour as he had already given the book to Franklin so his only alternative was to change his attitude towards Franklin. Soon he was lending Franklin books without being asked. He eventually changed his attitude toward Franklin so much that he became one of his staunchest political allies.

According to Ian, the lessen we can all take from this is that if you intend to ask someone a big favour down the line, for example, if you want them to start buying your product or using your service instead of the people they currently use, you need to start by asking them a series of small favours. Then, when you come to ask the big favour, they are more likely to say yes.

Goal Setting

Setting goals for your staff is tricky at the best of times. If you set them too high, they will fail. If you set them too low, they will complete them with ease but will become bored and unmotivated. According to Ian, what we should aim for is the “Goldilocks” zone where goals are reachable but challenging and give people a real sense of achievement when they reach them. By doing this you have created a situation where they have been successful and, as we know, that leads to more success.

Wear Red

Red is linked to increased levels of testosterone and studies have shown that an athlete wearing red is significantly more likely to defeat an opponent who is not wearing red. A lot of this research has been carried out in the Olympics and specifically in Greco-Roman wrestling where individuals are assigned red or blue kit on a completely random basis yet the results of the fights indicate that the wrestler wearing red is statistically significantly more likely to win.

Let us relate this to something that most of us will be more familiar with. The main kits of Liverpool FC (18) and Man Utd (20) with 38 league titles between them, nearly twice as many as their closest rivals, are red.

What a lot of people will not know is that Liverpool did not always wear red as we’d assume. It was not until Bill Shankly took over as manager that he changed their kit to the famous all red that is synonymous with Liverpool today. Not long after Shankly’s colour change, Liverpool began to dominate English & European football for over 2 decades. Perhaps Shankly knew about the power of red before science proved it!

The same thing occurs in other sports too. Tiger Woods always wears a red top on the last day of a tournament and he’s the most successful golfer in history. Just last weekend, Bayern Munich won the Champions League, wearing red. Can we say that Liverpool would not have dominated football if they hadn’t started wearing red? Can we say that Tiger Woods would not be the most successful golfer in history if he didn’t wear red on the final day of tournaments? Can we say that Bayern Munich would not have won the Champions League if they were not wearing red? Of course we can’t, however, it doesn’t seem to have done them any harm!

Fake Power

According to Ian, adopting a power pose, a confident stance or taking up the whole couch when we sit down as if we own it, changes our brain chemistry. Interestingly, clenching your right fist has the same effect. So, if you don’t have any real power, fake it until you make it. Clenching your left fist should stop you from “choking” if, for example, you have to take a penalty which you must convert or your team loses.

Power, like success, makes you smarter, more decisive, more confident etc. It increases dopamine levels According to Henry Kissinger it is the most powerful aphrodisiac we have.

The Mystery of the Fish

Had you forgotten? T stands for Territory and NT stands for No Territory. So those fish with territory and probably females to protect have to be bigger, brighter and more aggressive. If a T fish dies and an NT fish happens upon the vacant territory, he will change into a T fish in a matter of 24 hours in order to guard and protect his new found success.

The Oscars

One final interesting point about success – people who win an Oscar live, on average, four years longer than people who are just nominated!

Acquiring confidence
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Confidence, does it grow with age or experience?

Acquiring confidence

Many of us recognise when we are feeling a lack of confidence; we feel helpless or awkward in a situation, feel unable to make a decision or maybe we apologise for ourselves, as we don’t feel confident about what we have said.

There are two types of confidence, the short lived kind which we can all experience and work on achieving e.g. psyching ourselves up to give a speech or perform at an interview but this can be short lived. The deeper kind of confidence comes from genuine self-belief and self-esteem, gives us a feeling of certainty about yourself and your abilities. It is more solid and self-assured, leads to greater satisfaction with our lives and it is likely that we acquired it at a very early age.

This deeper confidence is based on knowledge of ones abilities and comes from handling situations as they occur in our lives. We feel more confident doing a task if we have succeeded in doing the same in the past and perhaps learning from any mistakes. This means that both age and experience are relevant to our levels of confidence: As we grow older we have more experiences that we learn to handle and therefore become more confident. But it is also true to say that many people have to deal with more difficult experiences early on in their lives and doing this successfully can develop their confidence at a younger age.

Here are a few steps you can take to build self confidence and gain strength and courage:

  • Stop comparing yourself to others. Everyone has different abilities and people see, feel and think about things differently. Focus on your abilities and if you catch yourself making comparisons with others, then also give a thought to those who are worse off.
  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive people who value you.
  • Always make eye contact. Smiling can also boost our sense of wellbeing in our own eyes and affect the way we appear to others.
  • Healthy eating and exercise benefits your body and mind. It is a major factor in building self esteem. Endorphins released during exercise also increase our sense of wellbeing and confidence.
  • Recognising your fears and talking about them, is the first step to conquering them. If you are faced with a task you feel you cannot cope with, share it with and friend then discuss how you can tackle it step by step. Set yourself realistic goals to accomplish.
  • You could consider contacting a professional to assist you with executive coaching services. They can help you with techniques to build your confidence levels in a professional, unassuming environment.


It is certainly true that this deeper confidence is first instilled in us during our childhood. Parental and family encouragement and support play a key role in a child developing self confidence and esteem that is their passport to a healthy life. A child learns to be confident to try new things, meet new people and operate in new environment, from encouragement and support from parents or carers. If this environment is absent in the childhood years it can often manifest itself later in life when we are adults and lack confidence in our abilities. Although, for most people, confidence does increase with age and with the experience we gain through tackling life’s challenges, it is certainly true to say that a good foundation in childhood is vital for confidence to grow in later life.

How Culture Shapes the Office- HBR

Organisational Culture differs from country to country, but how does it affect the way that offices are laid out?

Following a 5 year- 11 country study, researchers at Steelcase (office furniture company) have identified 6 dimensions of workplace culture that shape the social dynamics of an office.

Autocratic v. Consultative

A= minimal communication/ collaboration across levels of power,e.g, Russia – departments are highly segregated with distinct spaces. Employees have little access to executives

C= Employees participate in decision making/ take initiative, e.g, UK work spaces are accessible, employees at all levels participate in decision making

Individualist v. Collectivist

I = Self reliance and autonomy are highly valued, e.g., US eliminating the cubicle in favor of flexible work environments

C= Group Cohesion and Co-operation take priority, e.g., In China employees are comfortable with densely arranged workstations

Masculine v. Feminine

M: Achievement, competition, dominate culture, e.g., In Italy most firms have assertive, competitive corporate cultures. Visible symbols of hierarchy such as private offices are important.  

F: Co-operation and harmony are highly valued, e.g., Dutch organisations generally feature more fluid spaces, encourage equality, and reflect a focus on well being

Tolerant of Uncertainty v. Security Orientated

T: Challenges are tackled as they come, e.g., the British are at ease with unstructured, unpredictable situations, and prefer workstations that promote sharing, mobility and creative thinking

S: detailed processes and structure, e.g., in Spain workers tend to be careful about sharing information and make big decisions only after deliberation. The design of spaces reflect this

Short term v. Long term

S: Focus is on fast return, and minimizing investments, e.g., In US being fast, flexible and innovative is important, spaces should allow for quick toggling between individual and group work

L: Emphasis is on investment and company longevity, e.g., In China spaces embody company history, values, adn rituals. Executive offices are important symbols of tradition, order, and long term stability

Low Context v. High Context

L: direct and explicit approach is key to co-operations between individuals, e.g., In Germany communication is expected to be honest and straightforward. How a message is delivered is less important.  Offices should be outfitted with white boards and other information sharing equipment

H: indirect communication, unspoken signals are essential in building understanding. e.g., China, tools such as video conferencing are used, as they allow participants in virtual meetings to see visual cues such as where people are seated and their body  language to build deeper understanding


So…..designing work spaces to suit the local culture fosters trust and productivity – hence building competitive advantage.

28th April – World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2013

The World Day for Safety and Health at Work is an annual international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work – the necessity of which  has garnered much media coverage this week  following another disaster in Bangladesh where  200 people have been killed in Dhaka,  following the collapse of a garment building

Every day, 6,300 workers around the world die from the consequences of sub par working conditions like these.  Yet out of this number 5,500 actually  suffer from diseases – in particular, cancers, caused by exposure to chemicals. The ILO estimates, that out of 2.34 million occupational fatalities every year, only 321,000 are due to accidents.

Worldwide, occupational diseases continue to be the leading cause of work-related deaths.  MSDs (Musculoskeletal disorders) affect almost a quarter of workers in Europe. The European Trade Union congress  is also calling for more effective legislation against occupational cancers and drawing attention to the psycho-social risks associated with poor organisation of work.

The inadequate prevention of occupational diseases has profound negative effects not only on workers and their families but also on society at large due to the tremendous costs that it generates; particularly, in terms of loss of productivity and burdening of social security systems.

Prevention is more effective and less costly than treatment and rehabilitation.

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Effectively Influencing Decision Makers

Top tips from Marshall Goldsmith


  • Every decision that affects our lives will be made by the person who has the power to make that decision, not the “right” person or the “smartest” person or the “best” person. Make peace with this fact
  • When presenting ideas to decision-makers, realise that it is your responsibility to sell, not their responsibility to buy
  • Focus on contribution to the larger good—not just the achievement of your objectives.
  • Strive to win the big battles. Don’t waste your energy and psychological capital on trivial point
  • Present a realistic “cost-benefit” analysis of your ideas—don’t just sell benefits. Every organization has limited resources, time, and energy
  • Challenge up on issues involving ethics or integrity—never remain silent on ethics violations.
  • Realise that powerful people are just as human as you are. Don’t say, “I am amazed that someone at this level…It is realistic to expect decision-makers to be competent; it is unrealistic to expect them to be anything other than normal humans.
  • Treat decision-makers with the same courtesy that you would treat customers—don’t be disrespectful. While it is important to avoid kissing up to decision-makers, it is just as important to avoid the opposite reaction
  • Support the final decision of the organization. Don’t tell direct reports, “They made me tell you.” Assuming that the final decision of the organization is not immoral, illegal, or unethical, go out and try to make it work. Managers who consistently say, “They told me to tell you” to co-workers are seen as messengers, not leaders. Even worse, don’t say, “Those fools told me to tell you…” By demonstrating our lack of commitment to the final decision, we may sabotage the chances for effective execution
Tips for reducing stress
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Tips for Reducing Stress

Stress is a normal reaction to those times when we feel under pressure. We may have a crisis at work, a health issue or just feel there are not enough hours in the day.  Our work life balance may be out of kilter and it is all too easy to let stress get out of hand. Typical ways that people allow stress to overcome them include:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family.
  • Taking out their stress on others with moods and bad temper.
  • Drinking or smoking too much.
  • Procrastinating to avoid dealing with problems.


Tips for reducing stress

We cannot prevent the feelings of stress that occur as a natural part of life but it is possible to control the bad effects they can have on our life if we let them get out of hand.  Here are a few tips to help you:

Exercise – There is nothing like exercise to beat the effects of stress. It releases tension and produces endorphins into our system that promote a feeling of well-being.  A good walk or run when we are feeling stressed can get things back in perspective. Try to do some exercise outside in the fresh air. Being in nature can help make our thoughts more positive.

Diet – Eating the right foods can have a dramatic effect on how we feel. Eating foods rich in B vitamins will support your nervous system and help you produce enough energy. Broccoli, Barley, nuts, lentils, and whole grains are just some of the foods you should incorporate in your diet. Vitamin C supports your immune system and complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread boost our energy levels.

Avoiding alcohol and drugs – Using alcohol to make us feel relaxed and numb the effects of stress does much more harm than good. Alcohol is a depressant so while it might make you feel more relaxed for a while it will ultimately make you feel worse.

Sleep– Getting a good nights rest is one of the most important factors in stress management.  Recurrent lack of sleep can make the effects of stress far worse.  Try to do something to help you relax before bedtime; reading an uplifting book or article will keep your thoughts happy. Hot milk and a piece of toast and jam will boost your serotonin levels and aid sleep. Avoiding alcohol is key as it leads to broken sleep.  If sleep is still a problem during times when you are stressed, do not hesitate to see your doctor.

Daily Relaxation time – Taking 15/20 minutes a day to stop and do nothing but reflect can slow the rush. You can combine this time with a relaxing walk or simply sit somewhere quiet and gather your thoughts.

Keeping a positive attitude – Approaching hard times in a positive and productive way is healthier for our minds and bodies. Thinking the outcome will be the best rather than the worst, can help us cope with stressful situations. If you find you think more negatively about things then it is possible to learn positive thinking: Identify the times when you think more negatively and when you catch yourself taking a negative view then use some positive self talk to see things in a different way. Be open to humour during difficult times and ensure you have positive and supportive people around you to talk to.

If you accept there are some events you cannot control e.g. job loss, bereavement, illness you can learn to put yourself under less pressure.

Manage your time – There are certain situations which cause us stress where we do have control of, e.g. Managing time at work, managing travel times, planning ahead for appointments and social events. If we learn to prepare and prioritise tasks then this helps our daily life run smoothly which leads to fewer unexpected events that can cause us stress.

Seek social support – a good chat with friends that can support you works wonders when we feel stress taking over.

Being aware of when stress is having an adverse affect and doing something about it, will make you happier and healthier.

Seek expert advice – there are experts such as business coaches available who can help you manage your work life balance in such a way as to help you work through your tasks better. This in itself will help you reduce your stress levels.

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DavittCP are OPP’s new Alliance Partner for Ireland


DavittCP are delighted to announce we are Ireland’s Alliance Partner for OPP and we are officially licensed to offer consultancy services to OPP’s clients based on OPP’s psychometric tools.

Click on logo below:


OPP Alliance Partner Logo Colour

Happy International Womans Day

According to a Chinese proverb, women hold up half the sky.

International Women’s Day was originally all about the RIGHT TO WORK– and the right to work in fair conditions, properly compensated for labor, and legally organized in open forums. It actually goes back to a protests by women garment workers in NYC against poor working conditions.

Women and the Workplace

  •  A Global Gender Gap Report 2012, showed that by reducing gender gaps in employment  the US GDP  increased by 9 percent and eurozone GDP by  13 percent.
  • Harvard University president Drew Gilpin Faus argues that women bring a different approach to social interactions in the workplace.


Yet, in Ireland……

Only 16 per cent of TDs are women; with only 9 per cent of our boards of  top private companies being made up of women. Fewer than one in four voices on our news and current affairs radio shows belong to women.

Interesting facts about women and work in the  Developing World?

  •  When women and girls earn income they reinvest 90% of it into their families compared with only 30-40% for men
  • 44% of businesses in Ghana are run by women
  • 75% of women worldwide cannot get bank loans because they have unpaid or insecure jobs
  • A World Bank Study of 100 countries found that the greater the representation of women in parliament the lower the levels of corruption
  • Women are outnumbered 4 to 1 in governmental positions around the world



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Is your Brain Hooked on Being Right -Judith E. Glaser HBR

Is your Brain Hooked on Being Right

When we experience stress, fear or distrust cortisol floods our brain and our executive functions which once helped us with advanced thought processes like strategy, trust building, and compassion shut down.

What happens instead is our amygdala, aka,  (instinctive brain), takes over, and we default to one of four responses: – fight (we keep arguing the point) – flight (revert to, and hide behind, group consensus)- freeze (disengage from the argument by shutting up)- appease (make nice with your adversary by simply agreeing with him).

Whilst all responses can be harmful to communications,  the fight response seems to be by far the most common and damaging to working business relationships.

After winning arguments, our brain floods with chemicals: adrenaline and dopamine; these make us feel good, and dominant – even invincible,  hence we want to replicate these feeling as often as possible, and this leads to us recreating the  “fight” response in any other similar situations. Whilst leaders may be extremely good at fighting for their point of view they may be completely unaware of the damaging impact this behavior can have on the people around them.

However, there is another hormone that can elicit a similar feel good response: oxytocin.

Oxytocin is activated by human connection and it opens up the networks in our executive brain, or prefrontal cortex, further increasing a person’s ability to trust others.


Some tips for increasing Oxytocin levels when communicating with others

(1)  Set rules of engagement.  Have everyone suggest ways to make meetings  and conversations both productive and inclusive –write down these ideas down for everyone to see. These practices should counteract the tendency to fall into harmful conversational patterns. 

(2)  Listen with empathy. Make conscious efforts to speak less and listen more. The more you learn about other peoples’ perspectives, the more likely you are to feel empathy for them.

(3)  Plan who speaks. In situations when you know one person is likely to dominate a group, create an opportunity for everyone to speak. Ask all parties to identify who in the room has important information, perspectives, or ideas to share. List them and the areas they should speak about on a flip chart and use that as your agenda, opening the floor to different speakers, asking open-ended questions and taking notes.