Breakthrough Blog - Career Tips & Resources

As a career coach with over 15 years' experience, I have amassed some useful knowledge and quick tips which could help you:

  • get a job
  • keep a job
  • change jobs
  • retrain for a new career
  • get back on top after redundancy or illness
  • improve your work life balance

Please have a look around the articles and share them to friends and family if you find them useful.  If you'd like me to cover any specific topics, please shoot me an message from my contact page and I may include your suggestion as a new article.

Returning from furlough - what next?

Helen SlingsbyWed 19 Aug 2020 @ 8:57



Returning to work from furlough will not mean a return to normal for any of us.  Some in sectors hardest hit by COVID 19 may well be made redundant. This will come at a time when the economy is shrinking by the highest level in 100 years so finding work will be a challenge.

But as someone who has lived through four recessions of varying magnitudes, and coached through two, things will and do bounce back. Even the Bank of England expects the economy to be at its pre-Covid size by the end of 2021.

If you are made redundant, here are some tips:

• Be flexible and open to different opportunities as well as looking at sectors resistant to the downturn such as healthcare will be required.

• Deconstructing what you are telling and selling is key.  On your CV think of your achievements, rather than your day job, consider your transferrable skills and how they can slot into other roles.

 Don’t rely on the internet for jobs. Pick up the phone, connect via LinkedIn and let people in your network know you are available. It’s a numbers game so make numerous applications, and good quality ones too.  One size does not fit all.

• Make the most of your company’s outplacement programme, they really do help and if not on offer even a single session with a career coach will make a difference to how you market yourself and boost employment chances.

• Finally, do some volunteering to keep up confidence levels and remember things will improve. 


For those who are returning from furlough and holding onto  jobs you may be like some of my more recent clients who have discovered that this period has given you the breathing space to reflect and realise things need to change.  

• You may have been doing some pro bono work and gained huge fulfilment from a more client-facing role as a recently furloughed client of mine discovered.

• You may have recognised that ever since graduating you have jumped from job to job but not stopped to think about what sustains you at work. And you may have never really found your niche like my client who, following a career as an elite sports professional, has struggled to find his feet, but is now using furlough to think about what the future looks like, with my help.

• The time may not be right to resign from your job when you do return from furlough but continuing to reflect on who you are and what fires you up,  enlist professional coaching, continue with a side hustle to develop skills and experience, will mean when things are more certain you are ready  to jump.


Mid-career M.O.T anyone?

Helen SlingsbyMon 3 Feb 2020 @ 16:55


Currently reading the excellent Extra Time by Camilla Cavendish, who's put a very positive spin on getting older and how to make the most of it.

She highlights the need to work longer as pension ages increase, but also our preference to do so. Mid-career folk in our 40s, 50s and 60s, we're fitter than ever and can stay the course, technology means we're easily bored, we have big plans, we want adventure and stimulation, and we have children leaving home later and greater demands on our finances. We're crashing through all conventional "age and stage" barriers in our bid to keep working, feel fulfilled and at the top of our game.

But sometimes we need a re-fresh, a mid-career MOT to check that we're still motoring and haven't burnt out the engine, still have a sense of direction and not a blind belief in the same path.  

Mid-career MOT coaching looks at where you're at, and where you want to be but without the usual brakes. Do you want to change gears up or down, recalibrate the settings and work less and play more, have a portfolio career and add more variety into your life? Do you want to set aside funds to retrain completely and become the clinical psychologist you've always wanted to be? Would less cash in the bank and more impact on society have greater meaning by allocating time for volunteering? Are you seeking to progress in your current organisation or step out and launch a rival firm?

A mid-career MOT provides the space to stop and think. Do get in touch for a free preliminary chat on 07775525811  or email me at  [email protected]  


Career transition and liminality – are you betwixt and between?

Helen SlingsbyFri 1 Nov 2019 @ 9:58


Liminal /ˈlɪmɪn(ə)l/

A liminal period is frequently experienced during most forms of career transition whether wholesale career change, job change, returning to work after time out, redundancy and increasingly, early retirement.

It comes from the Latin word, limen, meaning threshold, and relates to a transitional or initial stage of a process, where the individual occupies a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

In the work context liminality is defined as… “a psychological zone in which the individual is truly in between identities, with one foot still firmly planted in the old world, and the other foot making tentative steps toward a new world. – Ebaugh 1988, Ibarra 2003.

Personal recalibration and great effort is taking place to move through to the other side but the process can be painful as it’s hard to let go of the past and embrace the present. In other words, one is betwixt and between.

Female clients of mine re-entering the workplace after maternity leave, find solace in this term as it helps them make sense of what’s changing in their lives now motherhood is part of their identity. Here the liminal period can be described as the first tentative steps back to full time work via taster days and returnship programmes, but also the period of reflection during maternity leave about how to return, if at all.

An IT client is similarly experiencing liminality. Having being made redundant despite personally doing a great job, he is currently straddling two camps; that of being at the top of his game for 30 years in the tech sector where he was in demand and where his identity is completely bound up, to the new camp where he does not have to work but is bewildered about what the future holds.

As career theorists state: “One of the reasons people experience liminality as a time of confusion, insecurity, or uncertainty is that they feel they have lost the narrative thread of their life” (Ibarra, 2003a).

However, through career coaching my client is beginning to let go of the past and look at his options, one of which could involve retraining as a maths teacher. His identity is still a little up in the air, but he is working to pick up the thread of his story so it makes sense to him and to others.


How to make a transferable skills CV

Helen SlingsbyFri 21 Sep 2018 @ 13:35


I've been working with Abi and Adam this week. They come from completely different sectors and backgrounds but share a desire to switch careers and take their tranferable skills with them.

Richard has been working in estate agency and has a hankering to harness his photography and film making abilities to the world of TV and movie making. Abi has had years of running successful sales teams and is now looking at project management.

I advised both to think about the world they want to enter and what is required from it, and then to dice and splice their own relevant skills and experience to match what the new roles are looking for.

For Adam this was about identifying "bridging" jobs in film and TV, such as locations expert or production worker, where his transferrable skills would sit nicely with the new world. In this case, we were selling his understanding of the property market and his experience of working in fast-paced environments, large teams and meeting tight deadlines.

For Abi, it was about selling her experience of project managing sales campaigns, hitting targets and managing complex teams, that would open her up to  project management roles.

Selling these attributes at the top of the CV , after the contact details, gives the recruiter what they want in the 20 seconds they are prepared to  devote to a resume. It tells them, in this case, that Abi and Adam understand what is required of the job, and that the candidate has made the effort to provide the evidence that they can do it. Immediately the connection is made for the recruiter that the candidate gets it.

Here's Adam's pitch to  the creative world he wants to enter: 

Career Highlights

Collaboration: Understanding needs of different teams, communicating and adapting across roles, industries and personalities to ensure success.

Pressured environments: Priced & managed 13 different new build developments across London, properties in excess of £6 million; 9 managing teams and 4 solely. Managing time expectations to ensure crucial timings are achieved in the financial sector.

Digital: Production management of websites; skilled in Microsoft Office, Photoshop, Lightroom and Bridge, all linked to advanced photography. Quick to understand and interested to learn about new programmes.  

Workplace Adaptability: Working across and within many mediums; theatre & film, photography, financial print, property and events. This includes being a volunteer team member of teaching Shakespeare in numerous schools.


By the way, your work history, recent role first, then follows. 

I've had loads of success with this style of CV so if you'd like me to  help with yours, drop me a line at : [email protected]  to book a session. 



Find out your strengths and get ahead

Helen SlingsbyFri 1 Jun 2018 @ 14:26



Knowing what makes you tick is vital to making the right job and career choices. And knowing your strengths is part of this. Definitions differ, but essentially strengths are your natural talents, things that come naturally to you and do not require a huge amount of effort to exercise.

I was working with John earlier this week and it was a revelation to him to learn of his strengths as he lacks confidence, has worked largely in an interim capacity as an office manager and did not have a career plan – until now.  We used the At My Best strengths cards for this exercise which are highly visual and provide 48 examples of key talents.

Choosing these and seeing them written down and in front of him made John realise two things; that he has a completely unique set of strengths that distinguish him from the crowd - a confidence booster in itself, and that many of his talents; being adventurous, flexible, engaging, attentive and calm, are particularly relevant to  his ambition to work in the marine industry as a marina manager or a project manager.  

The exercise gave John the impetus and permission to start pursuing this ambition, harnessing his broad experience, technical know-how, passion for boats, and better understanding of what makes him tick.

As a post script , employers are increasingly using strengths to test and interview candidates - get ahead of the game. Book a session  with me.