An Interview with Yvonne Bignall by Leon Hendra of Empower Careers

Today I have the pleasure of featuring the views of Yvonne Bignall, a leading life and Imagecareer coach, based in England.

Having worked through a diverse range of jobs and experiences, Yvonne now focuses solely on coaching others to improve the quality of their lives and careers. With a specific focus on empowering women to take control of their lives and careers and get to where they want to be. Through a range of media including blogging, print and 1 on 1 coaching Yvonne’s work pushes her clients to think creatively about building confidence and momentum to drive forward their lives.

Below she has answered some of my questions; giving great insight for job seekers looking for inspiration in their lives and work, or interested in pursuing a career in helping others find their bliss.

How would you describe your career path to date?

There was never any planning in my career path! I left school at 16 and worked in the retail industry in both administrative and a sales capacity.

If I were to chart my career it would probably look like a MindMap with me going off into new territories every chance I got. Hence my career history is a mix of job titles ranging from receptionist/reception manager, train the trainer, betting shop manager, fitness instructor, aerobics teacher, cabin crew, import/export clerk to executive PA and office manager… and a few others I am sure.

To me working seemed like the perfect playground where I got to try new things, build new skills and when it stopped being exciting, move on to something else. I wasn’t fearful of trying new things and the bonus of job security by staying with one company didn’t really appeal to me.

How did you get into the Coaching business and what attracted you? 

9 years ago I was made redundant. It was not a great surprise and as I had been planning to leave anyway, it certainly didn’t have the type of devastating effect I have seen for others. I decided to temp whilst I thought about my next move. The prospect of going to work for another company in my late thirties didn’t thrill me so I decided to assess my skills and what I enjoyed in order to identify what I could do for myself. This took me on a self-development journey that is still alive and kicking today.

I realised that my diverse skill set meant I could turn my hand to anything if I put my mind to it. I read an article in a magazine about women working from home and one of the featured women set up as a Virtual Assistant, providing business support services to small business owners. I loved the idea of creating something from scratch and using my knowledge to help other business owners.

Within a year of setting up Virtual PA Service and being a top three finalist in the first ever UK VA awards, I was getting a lot of calls from women who wanted to start working from home using their secretarial skills but didn’t know how to. Having trained in the UK and US in virtual working skills I was more than happy to impart what I could and help these women find out if it was really for them and if so, what they needed to do. At this stage it wasn’t a service offering, it was just my way of helping others but I realised that I was enjoying it more than the VA work itself.

That changed the direction of my business model and I started to build my coaching and training credentials to help others find their career/business/passion paths.

What is the next stage/objective on your career path?

I have developed a confidence building programme to help women who want to live the life of their dreams and launch their own business! Lack of confidence as oppose to lack of skills is the most common reason not to attempt the things you truly desire. It is the ‘what if I fail’ syndrome. Fear can ruin your life whereas confidence can help you create it.

I am also involved in a joint project around my other passion, customer service.

What do you consider to be the most important factor in your career success?


Passion (from the Ancient Greek verb πάσχω (paskho) meaning to suffer) is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something (Wiki)

There is a feeling of passion tied into what I do and want to achieve. It is never about just going through the motions or working because I have to, it is a desire to see and make a difference. That drives me to do what I need to do and ultimately I believe it is the thing that will bring me success in business.

What advice do you wish you had received when starting out your career?

That I could do anything if I wanted it enough! My parents instilled this in me far more than school and career advisors who seemed to relate my ability purely to exam results. They never assessed my personality or asked about my dreams for the future and therefore I didn’t really think those things were important. I came to realise they were essential.

Also, the word ‘entrepreneur’ was unheard yet they must have existed. It would have been amazing to have lessons on how to start my own business or at least realise that such an option was open to me.

What are the major differences that you see in today’s job market compared to when you were starting out?

The biggest thing I see is fewer jobs for more people. There is certainly more competition for jobs and that’s why I believe entrepreneurship is so important; letting people see there are other ways of building a career.

Entrepreneurship is being encouraged from school/college age now and I think this is a wonderful thing. Not everyone is gifted academically but somewhere inside of them lays a talent waiting to be discovered. Entrepreneurship supports unearthing that talent.

Having a degree (or equivalent thereof) 25 years ago really meant something and set you apart in the race for jobs. Now that seems to be old thinking. Graduates have as much trouble finding a job as the next person and so many of them have become disillusioned by the time & effort they have put into their education.

What skill or ability do you think is the most essential for success in the current job market?

I believe it is important to know your talent and what makes you tick. For example, if you love music working in a clothes shop is unlikely to bring you much joy. But working as an entry level administrator or runner (or even tea person) for a record label or radio station is a much better fit. You would have more opportunities to learn about the different areas of the music business and by giving 100% to what you do and seeking out opportunities to do more, get noticed. Even if it is a slow climb to where you want to be at least you’ll have positioned yourself to be in the right place waiting for the right time!

A great example of this is the story of Edwin C. Barnes (noted in the Think & Grow Rich book by Napoleon Hill).

With the current economic climate and a job market that is tougher than ever, what advice do you have for people starting out on their career?

Attitude is as important as qualifications. You have to show willing, be a team player and bring a ‘can do’ attitude into the environment.

If a job requires a certain level of education that you have not attained are you willing to achieve it? Would you do night classes to get up to scratch? If yes, then don’t let the fact that you haven’t already done it stand in the way.

And if you are certain about getting into a specific industry refer back to the previous question. What job might you have to take to get your foot in the door?

More specifically what advice would you have for people looking to follow a similar career path to your own?

Immerse yourself in understanding who you are (self-development), what your values are, what excites you and how your life experiences can help others.

There are many qualification routes into coaching and training. Whilst there are no hard and fast rules for being accredited in either area if you care about what you do your own learning and development will be as important to you as helping others.

Speak to existing coaches and trainers to find out more about the industry. Knowing the pitfalls are as important as knowing the benefits.

Ask for help! Don’t try to do everything on your own. It is a sign of maturity, not weakness…

What individual or book do you look for inspiration in your career?

My self-development journey began with a book by Sarano Kelly – The Game: Win Your Life in 90 Days. It gave me the push to make changes and to confidently do things differently.

I love women who have or are making a difference from a place of authenticity. My role models are many including Oprah Winfrey and Ali Brown; strong confident women. However, I am also a huge fan of Richard Branson (magnificent entrepreneur), Tony Robbins (a master in my field) and Paulo Coelho (spiritual writer extraordinaire).

There are so many people that we can look to, to inspire us and there is nothing quite as great as standing on the shoulders of the giant ahead of you!

By Leon Hendry

Empower careers

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