Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Carolyn Trafford and I’m a personal strategy coach, which is all about helping people get to be who or where they want to be.  Yes, it can be done on your own, but it’s a lot easier and more fun with someone by your side, making sure that you stay on track when things get tough and that you challenge yourself too.

What was your first job?

My home town is Leek in the Staffordshire Moorlands it’s a market/textile town – it’s lovely, you should visit!  So I spent my whole summer break from college packing and unpacking nighties and pyjamas.  At 17, it was great fun and I had more money than I could spend but I wouldn’t want to do it now.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I used to work in a building society branch and trained the new recruits – I always loved it when they went on to bigger and better things knowing I’d played a part in their learning and success.

What or who has inspired you?

This is a difficult question…  I’ve taken so much inspiration from so many people, my mentors, friends, coaches, managers.  However, I have a friend who in her 40’s developed a debilitating condition – she uses a wheelchair for some of her daily routines and will ultimately have to use one permanently.  Sometimes I let my daily struggles get me down – missed deadlines, missed opportunities, whatever – but she had a goal to climb a mountain and she did it on crutches, with a sense of humour, and nothing would have stopped her.  I remind myself of that when my day grinds me down.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned?

To believe in myself and my abilities and ignore the voice in my head that tells me I can’t do something.

What is the biggest professional challenge you have faced?

Trying to be something I wasn’t.  I left my public facing role and went to work behind the scenes for a better paid, more flexible role.  It wasn’t the best use of my skillset and I became bored and demotivated. As a result, I lost confidence and found myself very stuck!  It took a lot of investment in personal development time (and a damn good coach) to restore my confidence and enable me to work out what I wanted to achieve.

Social media – friend or foe?

Ooh now that depends… I love Facebook and LinkedIn – they support my business plans and help me build my profile. I’m still not sure with Twitter and have to force myself to use it.  It’s all about finding what works for what you want to achieve and using it to your advantage – it’s all about strategy.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

It’s not so much advice, more my favourite quote by Vivian Greene:

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Life doesn’t always deal us the hand of cards we need to play the game; sometimes we just have to make the most of what we have been given and it’s only then that we show what we’re really made of.

What advice would you give now to a senior executive looking for their next career move?

Take some time out to plan exactly what you want and remove any of the “self-doubting” thoughts you may have.  If you’re lacking skills go and get them, read a book and practice – that bit is easy.  No one takes on their next step on the ladder without having some gaps in their skillset so accept that there is no perfect candidate – aim high – you’re as good as the next person, if not better.

Looking back on your career so far, what would you change?

I’d have taken more opportunities when they came up rather than talking myself out of them.

Connect with Carolyn here:

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