Helen – Helping People Find Their Next Career, After She Found Her Own

Helen – Helping People Find Their Next Career, After She Found Her Own

#30 – Helen Hanison’s has lived a life of two careers. After stumbling a little as a teenager, she attended university at the age of 21 to get a degree in Media and Communications and after spending a term during her degree working at a high-profile Public Relations firm, she was hooked. This experience led to a long career working in PR in increasingly difficult positions, in multiple cities in her native England. Despite her success in the industry, it wasn’t an entirely smooth road. The fast-paced field created a lot of turnover and she had to navigate new supervisors and new firms along the way. 

Children and a move to New York City put a pause on that career but upon returning to England, she headed back to the frontlines of Public Relations. When things just seemed to not fit anymore, she headed back to school as a mature student to get a Bachelor of Psychology, as it was always the relationships with co-workers and clients that interested her about PR. Now, Helen is a successful Leadership Coach, helping people take the skills they currently have and find a new direction in which they can utilize them to their fullest potential.

Helen's Contact Information

Website: helenhanison.com

Social Media: @HHanison

Helen’s Complimentary Career Framework:  click here

The transcript for this interview is A.I generated and may not be 100% accurate.

Transcript
Jonathan Collaton:

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening, you're listening to career crossroads. And if you're new here, welcome, otherwise, welcome back. I'm Jonathan Coulton, and this is the podcast where I talk to one person each week about all the decisions that led them to their current career path. I hope you're doing well. I'm feeling great. By the end of this week, I'll have the next five episodes recorded. So it seems like I'm really starting to get ahead on things which is awesome. And COVID vaccines are rolling out. So hopefully we get back to normal life or a version of normal life sometime soon. This week, I talked to Helen and instead of me giving much of an introduction right now, let's just get right into the interview. And you can hear it all from her. And then of course, afterwards, stick around and I will share some of what I think we can learn from Helen. Helen, welcome to career crossroads. How you doing today?

Helen Hanison:

Hi, Jonathan. Yeah, good. Thank you for having me.

Jonathan Collaton:

I'm so excited to have you here. Because you're one of those great people who reached out to me to tell me that you listen to the podcast, and then we got talking. And then I said, got to have you on the show. So should be a really good conversation today. And before we get started, tell me where it is that that you are right now, because I have a Canadian accent and you have a different accent. So it's possible we're not in the same place.

Helen Hanison:

Absolutely. I'm in the UK. I'm close to the south coast near Brighton.

Jonathan Collaton:

Very nice. Okay. Yeah. So let's go back in time. And let's talk about your career. But we always start back when people were a teenager somewhere around High School. Tell me what were what you were like, where you were raised? Big Town, small town, what influenced you? And basically, what made you the person that you were the point where you were in high school? Because it's always that question of right after high school? What do we do? So go for it.

Helen Hanison:

Yeah, I I obviously knew that you were going to ask me this, because I've been listening. And it's really interesting, because it takes me further back than I think I'm used to going when I tell people about, you know, who I am and what I'm doing. The thing is, if I go back to teenage times, I was one of those sort of highly academic students doing great at everything. And then something terrible happened. My mom got ill, is about 14, and she died of cancer long story short, so that shattered, you know, my little world as it as it does when it happens at that time. And I don't think really, if I look at it now, I felt like I coped well, but actually, I think I sort of spiraled in, not that dramatic away. So lots of people couldn't tell. But I went from being that kind of grade a student to going to IB through instead of doing my a level mocks about a few years later. So, you know, I just fell off the wagon of that, that sort of good academic student pathway that obviously sets you up for the future. So it was quite shocking to me when the school had phoned my dad and mentioned that I was meant to be doing mock exams. Where was I? And then that triggered a whole bunch of change. And I think the rest of our conversation is going to be a lot about zigzag careers. And it's for me, it started there. I went into working with my dad who ran a chain of furniture and interiors shops, which had been a Saturday job, but it was never meant to be more than that. And it took a while for me to realize I wasn't just regrouping it was obviously taking too long to gather my thoughts and do something constructive. And he fired me. So that was...

Jonathan Collaton:

Fired by your father!

Helen Hanison:

Yeah, fired via my own father. Which, you know, I would like to say we joke about now, it's still prickles. But it was the best thing as a parent, right? You know, I was just, I was just going nowhere doing nothing. And it was interesting, because it coincided with turning into a bit of a green eyed monster, because by then my peer group were now starting University. So the point of all that studying, you know, was crystal clear. They got to go on this interesting pathway. That was future focused. And if someone asked me a question about my future, I really didn't know so I guess it was the first point of kind of thinking about grief in a chapter that actually it was right, it was obvious to be very impacted by, you know, the death of my mom at that age. But it mustn't define my entire future. And I kind of reclaimed that idea of future, at that point went all the way back to do the same a levels, but now at night school while I worked a day job, so that was harder, but I got good enough grades, I don't think they were great. So I always had that hangover effect of what I didn't really achieve my potential. But on the other hand, it was the stepping stone and I went off to do my first degree. At university. Yeah,

Jonathan Collaton:

Now, I want to just clarify that the A levels that you're talking about is that like an end of what, I guess, you know, the education systems are different around the world. So I should probably just clarify what we're talking about here. But in Canada, you would have elementary school, and then high school would be what we call a grade nine to 12. And then you go to university after that, when you're about 18, give or take. But we don't have any sort of standardized test that you take at the end of high school that allows you to get into university. But as I've interviewed some other people, I've realized that other countries do have that. Is that what these a levels Are? Is that like a test that you take ?That is kind of the rate of that

Helen Hanison:

Yeah

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, perfect.

Helen Hanison:

Exactly. So a levels are the last two years of high school and you collect points for, you know, the grade that you get, at each a level typically do about three, but the applications universities will be looking at your predictions for those exams, and they admit you based on those predictions, and unless you are very, you know, amazing in some way and get an unconditional offer. But that's, that's not for everyone. So yeah, it's okay. It was all about. Yeah, summer is sort of doing enough being good enough to get the grade to go to the university I wanted.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, yeah, it's actually quite similar here, then they would just take into account your kind of final two years of of grades in high school, we just don't have any special name for it beyond the final years of high school. And I've learned, you know, that the US has, I think the essay tees, they're called, it's like a standardized test that everyone takes. And I interviewed someone from Australia, and they kind of talked about something similar, it sounded like a test they have to take at the end. So I'm learning so much about the world as I do these interviews. Alright, and so so you said, you use the phrase, kind of like, good enough, right? So you have to be good enough. And then for you did those grades...were you, was it just good enough? Did you have your pick of school? Or did you just kind of pick one and you're like, I need to just start and this is where I'm gonna go?

Helen Hanison:

It it was a bit like that, if I'm honest, I was my Yeah, I've been there. I've just tried to think, was I happy with my grades, I wasn't happy with my grades, I was happy that I got some grades, given the zigzag that I'd already been on. And I was really grateful. I did appreciate because, you know, I was getting this opportunity that I was so envious off in others. So I got to unlock that idea of a pathway. It was it's an interesting question, did I get my pick of schools, at the time I did a media and communications degree. And there were only about four in the entire country. So I picked it based on the location from home, and proximity to my boyfriend at the time, who's now my husband. So it's sort of when I look back, it wasn't ever so strategic, was just about convenience. But it worked. And I got there.

Jonathan Collaton:

You know, I do think that's actually how a lot of people end up picking the schools, they go to I have a cousin right now who's in his final year of high school. And he's applied to five or six schools. And of I think of the five he applied to, I went to one of them, I worked at one and now I work at another one. So he's been asking me about what it's like. And I actually I, I got into the other two that he applied to as well. And I told him what I didn't like about them and why I never chose there. And the proximity to whatever is always a big part of that, because I think all things being equal, like the education system here, they're public universities, so sure, some have a better reputation than others. But for the most part, like you're going to go get a quality education no matter where you go. And so things like location, proximity to people, you're in a relationship with family that does influence what a lot of people choose to do, so long as the program is something that is kind of known. You know, there's, there's a couple particular schools you might want to go to for business or law, but for a lot of programs, it's I like I could have gone and got a history degree at any university and I would have got a good degree. But yeah, proximity is something that's so relevant for so many people. So location wise, how far away was the university that you ended up choosing?

Helen Hanison:

It was about an hour and a half from home and about 20 minutes from my boyfriend. So it was Yeah, carefully, picked a point in the map.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah. And I did want to just go back really quick and touch on the part where your dad fired you because I find that sort of hilarious. And it's because I do want to know, is this one of those like, was it more like you're fired because you need to go do something more than this? Or was it like, you're slacking at the job and I need to let you go? Because I'm thinking it was the first one, but I don't really know.

Helen Hanison:

It was the first one. And I remember being well, it was the first one apart from he didn't actually say the second part of your sentence. So I just felt fired. There wasn't really the sort of background and the context it you know, because it's important that you, you got to figure this out. So I was very indignant, I'm very offended because I, you know, I felt like I was good at what I did. And you know, it was I earn good commissions, I did that the longer sales that are a bit more complicated, I was sort of good at it. So I felt like it was quite a rejection of the skill set that I had accrued. And it, it didn't really make any sense to me. I just felt annoyed. And he didn't explain which is really interesting question now that you ask it because as a parent, I think, even if it was hard for the child to hear, I would say, look, this is hard, but you will appreciate later. The reason is did it but no. Why just?

Jonathan Collaton:

Is your father still around?

Helen Hanison:

He is yes.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah. Go ask him. You got to find out.

Helen Hanison:

Yeah.

Jonathan Collaton:

Now that you're thinking about it.

Helen Hanison:

You're right. You're right. It's something we haven't thought about for well, decades.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah. So I and the reason I was asking about that was like, was the hour and a half away from home? Like, Oh, good. I'm a full hour and a half away from home, or was it I'm still about only an hour and a half away from home?

Helen Hanison:

Well, it was Oh, good. I'm an hour and a half away. By this time, I I had a stepmother. And I didn't feel part of my own family unit, if I'm honest. So while I needed to be practical, because that's where you know, home base was, you know, you have to go there at your university holidays and base there, etc. It wasn't. It wasn't a happy place by that time.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay. So you said the degree went for was Did you see Marketing and Communications?

Helen Hanison:

Media. Yeah. Media. Yeah. So it's a lot about advertising and PR and journalism. I think, when I look now, at people taking degrees, they they have split what was one degree into so many strands, that I think is amazing, but also puts a lot of pressure on students going into know which lane they want to put themselves in there. But it wasn't vocational. It was academic. And it covered the whole the whole piece. Everything about media marketing. And yeah, planned communications.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay. Now, as you were in the degree, was it something you felt strongly about in terms of your future in that field? Or did it ever just feel like, Okay, this is the degree I, I'm going to get, and then when I graduate, I'll figure out what I want to do with it. And I asked that, because I've started to see a divide, I think you and I are a different generation. And I've started to see a bit of a divide in terms of how people thought about their education. You know, before I was in school, a lot of my generation, it's like, go and get a degree and then, you know, you'll figure it out. But, but my sense is that prior to that people went for a degree because it was going to lead to something specific. So what was that like for you?

Helen Hanison:

Yeah, and I think I was very much on that pathway, because I was looking to solve for this problem of what what am I doing, I knew I didn't want to be at home, remember. So it was a lot about what's going to achieve my independence is about this, this future pathway. So as part of my degree, actually, so sort of invested in this idea of future I opted out of the academics for one semester, and did a work placement for the PR arm of Saatchi and Saatchi sort of famous advertising company. So it was really I didn't look back from that point. I could see I enjoyed it as a sort of short term thing that it was but also that I aspired to those people around me who were at the levels further up and wanted to be them so it's that classic thing of, you know if you can see it, you can be it and I locked in and that was that.

Jonathan Collaton:

That is something that's come up so regularly in my conversations now that like taking time off to work now we just in Canada, we call that Co-Op and it's built into the university curriculum. And and it's it's more Much more common now than it was I know that because I've worked at I think the two biggest Co Op universities in the country or one of the top, one or the biggest. And then I forget if u of t is the second biggest, but it's it's such a part of our curriculum now that we want students to go and actually get into a workplace to practice the skills they want. And frankly, what I've heard from some students I've spoken to a big value of that is finding out if this is actually what you want to do before, it's before you sort of regret that you've gone all the way through with a degree. And now you don't want that future career. So it's great that you got that experience. And Was that something that you yourself, kind of just found a way to do? Or was it something that was promoted as an option by the university?

Helen Hanison:

It was promoted as an option. But with no particular commitment, I have to say it was more like you were made aware it was available. If you wanted to go that route, you would have to find your own placement partner. There's quite a lot of onus. And yeah, it just, I don't know why I can't remember now why it appealed to me to do it. It was it was I think, just that idea of it's almost like a test drive, isn't it? It? You know, you don't know. And there are a bunch of routes, you could go with that kind of degree as with many of them. So it gave me a chance to go, go try it. And that was really what I was chomping at the bit for, I think, because by now I started that degree at 21. And even with those few years, I mean, I was called a mature student then which makes me laugh because I was a mature student a few years ago at a much different age. But it it really was interesting, the people who went straight from school at 18. Were there for the experience that transitionary experience there sort of ritual of it, rite of passage. I was there to get what I needed to get to build a career. So that was my focus.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, okay. I get the sense that that experience you had went well, and then you went finish your degree. And then you were just right out looking for work in the workforce. Is that what happened?

Helen Hanison:

Yeah. And in fact, I got an offer from the place that I had done my placement at all Harrison Cowley. But they they wanted me to start a bit later, they were a bit slower about the offer. And I got impatient with that. So I sent a bunch of letters out explaining that I'd already had that experience and what else could happen and I got a different offer. So I went to a different firm in the end, but but yes, started quick, straight after the degree.

Jonathan Collaton:

So your mid 20s, or something like that. And where are you moving around, like distance wise from from city to city? For you know, you went from home to university? And then did you have to go to a different town to work?

Helen Hanison:

Actually, it's a good question. I started in the same city that the university was in. And the reason I did that was also to do with my boyfriend, because he had another year to go at law school. And that was another few hours north. So it seemed crazy to us, for me to put that hour and a half to extra distance back in by going back back home, which was London at the time. So yeah, that partly made me think Well, actually, if I just stay around here, we have other friends who were, you know, it felt like that's where life was by then. Yeah, and you don't really think about it until you're in it that actually exactly what you're saying people start drifting off to different cities or back to their sort of origins city or whatever. So it's sort of it lost its vibrance and social connectedness in about a year, which was fine, because that that worked for our plan. But yeah, I got him I got a good years grounding in the same city, I'd studied.

Jonathan Collaton:

So that first job then what was the type of work you were doing there? I know, it was probably in that communications media realm, but like specifically, what did you do there?

Helen Hanison:

Yeah, so I was a public relations account executive, which is sort of the junior level. So I was I enjoyed it. I was doing a lot of writing, which I loved. I was doing account handling and being trained to do that that sort of rapport building relationship building side of of the job, unlike advertising, where they tend to split, you're either in the copy and creative side, or you're in the account handling side do you just, it's just all in one in public relations. So it was a it was a steep learning curve, but the thing that is making me smile is I didn't really work on any clients that I loved. It was things like pet food and cookers and you know, you're right. I was mid 20s. Not even so I just, you know, I did what I had to do what I was asked to do, I put everything into it, but it just really held no No genuine interest or relevance to me.

Jonathan Collaton:

So in the modern day, there are definitely people who I've heard reference, like, you know, they watch madmen as a TV show. And they're like, that's what they aspire to be or you know, the modern day version of that. Did you have a particular thing that drove you in the direction of PR? Was it like either a TV show you saw a movie or someone who you knew that you thought? Like, I want to be like them? or How did you end up in that area? Well, how did the interest there arise?

Helen Hanison:

Do you know I'm not sure. I really am not sure. I watched recently a movie. I don't know. I mean, it's so old. I don't know if you'll know it, Sliding Doors?

Jonathan Collaton:

I don't know.

Helen Hanison:

No, I can't remember when it came out, or how old I would have been. But I think that movie we watching it sort of felt like oh, maybe there's something going on there because the person was in PR. And, you know, you kind of feel like you're getting an insight, even though it's fiction, don't you? It's sort of, so maybe there was something in that. But I think it was also very pragmatic and practical. I knew I was good at writing and enjoyed writing. So it was not wanting to lose that. And advertising wouldn't give me the same opportunity to do it. So for me, it was between journalism, and PR, because basically, you're you're writing for journalists, and then they sort of, if you're good at it, they they pick up your work and print it with their own header and footer. So we it felt like, that was the way to go. But it wasn't based on that much.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah. And the reason I asked that is just when you're kind of talking about these clients, you had like nothing was big and glamorous. So I was wondering if you at the time had expectations of having bigger, more glamorous clients? If that? If Was that your expectation at the time? Or is that just looking back on it now? And if it was at the time, like where did that come from that expectation? Or hope? Maybe not expectation?

Helen Hanison:

Yeah, I think I think there was something in me that felt like I wanted to play bigger than I was, and all these practical reasons about being in a city in the Midlands, that, you know, it wasn't London, I was definitely had an appetite to get to London, whether bigger, fun, sexy. stuff was going on, and wanted to move into that. But specifically, where that came from why I wanted that for myself, I think I'm not sure what to pin that on. Actually, it was just a sort of general aspiration.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, I get that. So, how long then were you there with your boyfriend having to? He had another year, whatever you said, left of law school? So was it one of those things where like, as soon as he was done, and he was beginning to look for work, it was easier for you to just pick up and move somewhere? Or is that why you left that jobb? Go ahead.

Helen Hanison:

Yeah, I couldn't wait. I couldn't wait. As soon as, you know, we hit the date that we'd said he'd finished that that law school stuff. And it all made sense. I started applying for sort of the same kind of level, but in London. And I had the expectation, this would be hard. And it would take me a long time. So I'd better start, you know, who knew? So we you know, in my head, that could have been a good, you know, several months that you know, who could say it was really quick, and it went full speed. I found a lovely company, kind of medium size, but part of a big global group. So it's the best of both worlds. It had the credibility. But it was also people focused enough the junior people weren't treated as kind of fodder for cannon fodder, you could tell they were invested in and it was a nice culture to be in and with some cool clients and bigger clients. So it all fell, right. So it was it was almost shocking, actually, how quickly that was happening. And, you know, we'd always said, between us, we, you know, once we're into that career mode, that that's when we'll talk about getting engaged. And by this time, we've been together a long time. So, so yeah, it was a lot of grown up realities that felt like we were sort of full speed ahead. All of a sudden it was it was a funny time.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay. And did he did he have the same ease of just getting a job there as well?

Helen Hanison:

No, it really hadn't. Law is is is tricky. I mean, it's really hard to get the right fit to you know, so no, his was difficult. It was it was slightly difficult. And it was really difficult to try and to coordinate. But actually he was in a firm that had an office in London and an office in the city we were living at the time. So that was where the help came because it was it became easier. Yeah, to ask to go to the London office. And from there, you know, he looked and, you know, it all worked well.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, so sounds like then you moved to London and now life is beginning that the plan you've set in motion is really happening now. And how long did that sort of maintain the, the momentum that it had before something major change things?

Helen Hanison:

Um, I think it was a good stretch, actually, because as soon as I got into that firm, I was called, I was still called account executive. And I felt like with a year ish experience, I should have been called something else. So I was already pushing again, for the the next layer up, I wanted the senior account exact, which is your nod that you're sort of on your way to account manager actually, and you know, onwards. So it went well, I was at that place for over four years. But I was always pushing, I think, for that, that next attainment. And I felt immediately, how happier there was something important that happened for me, when I realized I looked at the desk next to me, and the person who was sitting there was much more senior, but had been to Cambridge University is one of our best universities. And I felt Well, I kind of really misstepped through, you know, my route to university. And I've always wondered what I might have achieved, if I'd stayed on that and a level, you know, that that grade a track, I mean, you know, all the way through, maybe I would have done a different degree, maybe I would have gone to a better university to do the same degree, you know, who could say we'll never know. And I remember having a very clear sort of narrative with myself where I said, Well, if you're sitting next to someone who did go to Cambridge, you're both in the same company, you know, the same opportunities are there now. This is time to let that one go. Because I've done it. It didn't matter if I went to Cambridge or not. I'm here now. And so she, so it's all good, we're done. And I just remember sort of releasing that self doubt.

Jonathan Collaton:

I love that mindset. That's a really interesting way to think about things because I, me, and I'm sure other people I know have, I've gone through that same sort of self doubt about like, Am I good enough for this? And then realizing like, well, if you're in the same league as somebody else, and they did what, what you might think of as like, the better path to get there doesn't really matter, right? Like you're both the same spot. And I think I've kind of bounced around between both ends of that spectrum before where I'm like, Well, you know, I failed my seminar in my last year of university. Well, I knew I was going back for a fifth year anyway. But I failed. And I came back and redid it. And I remember my professor saying at the time, like, I've never had a student fail it and come back and redo it. And I got my be the second time around, I didn't get an A but it didn't matter. I graduated. And now I work at the University of Toronto, which is the number one ranked university in the country. So does it matter that I failed the course like eight years ago? And no, it doesn't matter, right? Like, I'm on here now. And whatever I did between then and now got me here. So who cares?

Helen Hanison:

Right?

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah.

Helen Hanison:

And he thing that would matter would be if you carried that self talk around with you that you're a person who fails things the first time or only gets B's, or whatever it is, because you start making choices about the future through that lens. And that's the danger, I think of these narratives that we hang on to we let them sort of move in and fester. So I think it's an important trick to kind of call time, let's say that you you know, that's enough.

Jonathan Collaton:

Call time. I like that. Okay, so you said four years at this at the same firm, and you were always you wanted to push you wanted that account manager role. Did you end up getting it at that firm?

Helen Hanison:

I did, but I couldn't seem to quench the thirst for more. I ended up leaving. Once I was just trying to remember now I think a senior account director so I'd sort of gone through a couple of ranks in those years. But I had had a glimpse into some really cool international accounts and I wanted more of that. And the company I was working at didn't have very many of them. So it got to the point where they were literally saying to me in appraisals, you know we we really need to see you cutting your teeth on accounts that are not familiar to you sectors may be that you've not been operating in before you know get get get more of that strategic counsel experience, where you haven't just grown up with these these clients and these journalists as well. But we don't have anything new here. So we sort of got to that point where I sort of realized, wow, okay, so I know I want to work still on bigger accounts, I want bigger budgets, I want international mattered, I love traveling. And I want more of that, that that was that the next sort of aspirational layer for me was somebody who would hop on planes for their work. So I I applied for that reason. So it was a bit of a it wasn't really that I was unhappy where I was, it was that I couldn't grow any more there.

Jonathan Collaton:

I get that. I think it's like, it's almost it sounds like - and I've, I've seen this happen before, it's like a mutually beneficial, I mean, maybe not beneficial, but there's an understanding from the employer and the employee that like, this is as much as you can, this is as far as you can go here, and there's no ill will when you leave, it's just, you know, you're gonna go and do bigger and better things that you want to do. And we can't offer that. So like, enjoy whatever you do next.

Helen Hanison:

Yeah, apart from, be careful what you wish for. I got a great job at as an associate director, so I got the next promotion at the one of the world's biggest PR firms. And in my second week there, the director that I worked into, disappeared in a puff of smoke as they sometimes do in PR, she, it I you know, I pieced it together a bit later, she was actually having a nervous breakdown, she was mid divorce and trying to wrangle with an incredibly unwieldy client. And there was a lot of pressure. So she she just disappeared. But what that meant for me was I had no one to work into. So that was in at the deep end. And now with this much bigger scale of operations, which is what I wanted, but I'd wanted someone to sort of lead me through the learning curve. So it was there were some shocking revelations where, you know, we realized that she hadn't ever built the client. So we're about a year's worth of billing had to be done in one hit. I mean, it was it was, I think it was over a million. I mean, it was huge. It was huge. So there were some scary moments that I mean, I couldn't make this stuff up, he was I'd never seen anything like it. So trying to grapple with launching the first functional foods, I mean, literally creating a category that didn't exist against a backdrop at the time of a lot of fear around genetically modified organisms, GMOs, and you know, a lot of cynicism and suspicion.It, it wasn't easy, but it was stimulating. And I've never felt so committed and invested in what I was doing. And I think part of it was, how hard it was, in terms of, you know, being unwieldy and, and, you know, it was a challenge to get that into an order. And I like order, and I'm still trying to prove obviously, for the next level, you know, that that's what you're there for. But the other part was that I was finally and I think for the first time working on something that I believed in, it was in the health area, it was a range of functional foods that would help lower people's cholesterol and offered an option to first line medication for people that you know, might be worried about having heart operations and things like that. So it It felt like it mattered. And that was new.

Jonathan Collaton:

the whole time when you were trying to just progress in that career and moving up obviously, you know, bigger clients but had you considered or Had you ever run into that sort of issue before have like, bigger client bigger stakes, bigger catastrophic failure if things go wrong, or was that that first moment where all the sudden it was like, Oh, no, what am I doing?

Helen Hanison:

It, It was Oh, no, what what did I do? And one of my favorite clients at the last place had even said to me, Oh, no, Helen, why are you going to them? And she had this kind of, I don't know experience of them somehow that you know, all those inner and outer narratives just swirled because it felt like I could, it felt risky. I felt like you know, I've worked hard five years in you know, I I'm looking for this to be a jumping pad to bigger and greater things and it could all crumble. So, yeah, it made me realize the four years in London I'd spent until then we're actually in a really lovely, comfortable nurturing culture that I had. not appreciated as much as maybe I could have.

Jonathan Collaton:

the idea of sort of not having a direct person you report to that's that can be there as maybe a mentor can be so crippling when you when you just have to figure out something new on your own. And there isn't someone there to stop you from making a mistake, maybe before you make that mistake or like, not even a mistake, but spend time and energy doing something when they have the institutional knowledge to know like, Oh, no, we tried this. And here's why we don't do it because it didn't work. But instead, now you're just putting the energy in because you don't have anyone telling you not to do that. That can be so frustrating and stressful. So how long that did you sort of, I'm gonna use the word survive in that role, because that sounds like it was challenging. I mean, as you said, you really believed in what you were doing. So that's great. But it also sounds like that was the first real, really difficult job where there was a struggle to it, instead of you just powering through and getting promoted.

Helen Hanison:

You're so right. I, it was interesting, though, I think as much as there was a lot of fear and discomfort, there was massive amounts of growth at that time. So the thing that I didn't realize at the time, but the thing that definitely happened was I became the leader of my team, and quite a sizeable team, looking after their equilibrium and keeping them motivated and productive and getting, you know, the product of you know, what we did the the PR work done and done so well was, I think the biggest single chapter of career growth I ever had, it came with the flip side, because once we had launched this product, or this category, really, the the client couldn't afford to maintain that level of team just for ongoing maintenance. Now, you know, maybe they laundry lock yogurt next year or something, you know, it wasn't the same big thing as getting regulatory approval, and, you know, being first to market and all that. So, the team downsized, and I was asked to start to work on other things by which time I felt like this particular product and this team, and those people ran through me like a stick of rock. So it was a really hard adjust, to sort of step back from spending as much time on that one client and start to spread myself thinner across others that I now didn't care so much about. They were breakfast cereals, and laundry tablets. And you know, other things that just to just know that I've, you know, don't you know who I am, I've launched medical school. So it was a funny time, but I didn't enjoy the adjustment after that amazing, but trying experience, and I look to leave,

Jonathan Collaton:

what was the total amount of time then between getting to that company launching the brand and then moving to sort of like maintenance roles, I guess, in other brands there? And then whatever you did next?

Helen Hanison:

Yeah, I think it was about a year and a half of just tunnel vision to launching that thing. It was I mean, it just took over my life for that time. And then there was another year where I sort of breathed easier, but was bored and less stimulated and wasn't excited about a future in you know if this is what it was gonna be. So I started to put myself out there again.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, and what did you find when you put yourself out there at this point?

Helen Hanison:

Well, I really responsive market because that launch was a big deal. And the market was watching. So by now I was a bit more focused. I didn't just want any old consumer role I wanted food and health that was my interest. So that was what I was pursuing. I got a couple of offers very quickly and was back at this point of indecision by this time more wary that you know, what, don't I know how do I make the right fit choice for me next because this matters, you're getting more senior now this is Associate Director director is in is in your future soon. So I chose the company that felt more like it was the same character and fit as the first one that I'd been out for four years. It felt like it would be a friendlier environment where I would be invested in and lead well and there'd be growth. And it was also Covent Garden, which helped. So that was where I went next, another big global firm but it it felt like this the PR arm was small enough to wrap your hands around.

Jonathan Collaton:

Well, when you got there was that. Were your feelings about that correct? Are you

Helen Hanison:

No, absolutely not.

Jonathan Collaton:

All right. Tell me about it. Tell me what went wrong. If and maybe not what went wrong, but how it was different, I guess, then then what you thought

Helen Hanison:

it actually went really well, again, for a good couple of years. And then I don't know the the slight problem is with these big global firms is that the London office is sometimes thought of as almost a satellite office. And the decisions are made by headquarters, which tended to be somewhere in the States, which wasn't a very personal way, I guess, to run business. So there was a bit of a revolving door philosophy about the leadership teams in all of these companies, actually. So it had the feeling that people get a certain amount of time, and then it's time for change. And that's what happened, I got to the point where I think by now I was associate director, and being pulled into board meetings, I was loving my work loved my team, it was it was all ever so good, nothing went wrong for me, but the board got obliterated in one fell swoop in a round of redundancies. So it was one of those times where, again, you've got to decide how do you recalibrate around that? Do you take it personally that, you know, people that have worked there for sometimes 20 years or just vanished, you know, that that they would just cut off, and that's hard to watch, and harder to be part of when you're in quite a liminal place, you know, the border, asking me opinions, and does that contribute to which people went, you know, it was, it was a very, very uneasy, difficult time to sort of move through. But as these things settle, I often think the best opportunities are there for the people who are left, and they are the chosen ones. And that's probably for some kind of reason. So I got promoted to the board. And they they positioned it in this way of, you know, we need, you can see what needs to be done to stabilize the team and the side of the accounts given some of these people have gone. And we need to take it away from you this this sort of invisible block that will you can't get involved because it's not your client, and your portfolio is only this one. So if we make you a director, that is us giving you permission to go and do what you can see needs to be done, piece the team around you as you see fit, and grow the business and was stressful, stabilize the business, but then then get on with growing. So it was an amazing opportunity. But it came from quite a shocking and difficult time.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, definitely sounds like it. And were you....was it one of those things where all of a sudden one day like, Here's just here's a list of everyone who's gone? Or was it kind of drawn out where you began to even worry like, well, what if I'm gone? Like, what if I'm one of the people?

Helen Hanison:

No, not that time. I mean, there are other times that I could have said that this time I was in Rome, we were on a weekend away. It was I got a phone call from the director, the managing director who had been fired, made redundant and, and she said, Look, I you're away, I just want you to know, this is what's happening. And then the phone just blew up. Just everyone was calling. So I was walking around Rome, really not taking anything in not able to, you know, focus on on this lovely weekend. But we were organized. So yeah, that's one of those lightbulb moments locked into memory.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, there's like it's hard to ignore beautiful Roman, there's like a military coup going on back home almost. That's kind of what it sounds like, even though it's all internal. Right? It's it's just a changing of the guard of sorts. Right? So yeah, you get into that new role. Then you mentioned the word director, and they kind of said, build your team around you as you see fit. So at that point, did you have that? Did you really, it sounds very much like you were in charge of quite a bit. And did you feel ready for that? And, you know, were you worried about not having someone above you that could kind of you could fall back on? Or did you have someone still above you that you could sort of fall back on to get advice from?

Helen Hanison:

No, it was a it was a really strange transition. Somebody had come in as they sort of, I don't know, even where she came from. She was just sort of in the wings, which always, you know, makes us a bit suspicious, obviously, but she was in the wings. And there was a deputy MD sort of suddenly presented who I didn't know and who was absolutely damning about the people who had left which I found incredibly difficult because there was unprofessional, but it was it was tough, because I you know, you can't voice opinions, but actually I agree with the people who have left and I'm not getting on well with Chemistry. And though it was, it was very abrasive it was she felt, I think, very, very clearly in Jewish wasn't wrong, but I had loyalty to the old guard. So it was kind of an attack mode with me rather than anything comforting, or leading or nurturing or imposing. So it was, he got worse before it got better. She actually didn't stay long. And the next person they put in that MD position, you know, it was very interesting, they sort of put the corporate director, anyone who's worked in agency will understand how very strange This is they put the corporate Director in Charge of the consumer division. And the only person leading the consumer division was me. So it was a very, it was like a massive jump now. But again, he was absolutely great at what he did. And and I wouldn't have expected it, but found the nurturing there. So showed me how to do things put me into contact with people who would be a bit more leading and a bit more, you know, give me more time to the bits that were new to me. So essentially helped me consolidate in my role as a director, and we ran the most profitable business unit and the whole company very quickly. So it, you know, there's sort of twin tracks, I think, going on where it was being successful, but not making me happy as I went,

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, until you said that, I was thinking that, like, it was good, then chaos, but then got good again, but if you were, despite whatever success you had, you just still weren't happy with it. So how do you? How do you reconcile that? Or how do you what do you do about it? Because, and I'll, I'll make maybe a bit of a leap here, but it seems like you have no problem with jumping around to get promoted. And, and not that like I do, or anything like that, I just mean that there's some people stay loyal to a company forever, but you seem to be willing to move around to do what suits you best. So was that another one of those moments where, like, I'm out of here, I'm gonna see what else is out there. I'm qualified, I've got all this great experience here. I'm gone.

Helen Hanison:

This time, it was coming from a place of I need to find somewhere that is more stable, I need to find somewhere that has a leader in place that is actually an expert in the area I work in. And it wasn't there. You know, actually, I looked for a job handed my own noticing. And by the time I had left that notice period, they had employed, you know, a really impressive person to lead the team. But by that time, you know, I was I was kind of out the door. So it was, it was an interesting lesson on should I have just been a bit more patience. I was in such a good position I'd done so well, for them, it would have paid back. But no, I went to look for somewhere that seemed like it was more stable. And I got my first head of consumer job. So although I was already a director, this is, you know, it's one of several in a, in a bigger company. This was still a big global company, but I was now head off. So that felt very, very exciting. And I had all kinds of hopes,

Jonathan Collaton:

all kinds of hopes, okay. Now, when you left that job for that head of consumer job, did you leave with that other job lined up? Or did you leave? Oh, you already had it lined up? Okay. And you're nodding along.

Helen Hanison:

Yeah.

Jonathan Collaton:

That's why I'm answering that question. Yeah.

Helen Hanison:

Yeah, yeah, no, I'm, I think at that point, nothing was very impulsive. It was all very planned and the agency world tends to think of, you know, three years or so is is perfectly normal at those levels. So it was it was all very easy. And actually, that phase of interviewing and getting offers and again, I had a couple of offers and choices to make, you know, it's a very flattering sort of ego boost of a journey in some way. So it was it was a it was a pleasant perspective to move into because you felt possibilities were opening up and that the hard bit was choosing

Jonathan Collaton:

was this head of consumer job the stability you were looking for.

Helen Hanison:

Well, it was until it wasn't this one. This one also had changes in the leadership above me. This time, it was a great thing. I didn't really get to know the the first MD very well at all, so it sort of didn't really touch me it was slightly strange. The person who had recruited me wasn't there, but I really really rated and respected the person. They bought in and could see why. And we had a really great relationship. So I did get that thing that I wanted of being part of a team that I respected the credibility of the people above, and felt I had lots to learn from them and felt looked after as well, you know, personally. So it, it worked well. But I also got pregnant in that role, although was planned and hoped for. But there's always, I think, a question about when you get to that kind of leadership position, and how are you going to make it all compatible? So it you know, it was a whole different sort of career Crossroads at that point for me, because I wanted to build a family. But I had absolutely no idea how that would affect me, and how conflicted I would feel about the expectations of now being a board director, and a new mother all at once.

Jonathan Collaton:

Hmm, I wondered when this was going to come up, because it's, you know, a lot of people I spoke to early on when I was doing this podcast, didn't have kids. And so it, it didn't come up all that much. And the more I've talked to people, I've sort of branched out and I'm talking to people who do have children and, and how that affects their career choice after that, and, and how it, like the feelings of being conflicted that, you know, you just said, I've heard that before. And, and prior to that, there's this for a lot of people this like mercenary attitude of like, I'm going to do what's best for me, and nothing can stop me because I have no reason to not do that, right. And then all of a sudden, when when family comes into the play in a bigger way, it really does seem very much like it changes things for people. So So how did that work for you? Like, did you take a full year off when you had your first child? Or was it just a couple of months because you thought the expectations of the job you had to get back there right away?

Helen Hanison:

It's such a good question. I started out saying I won't be away long. And I was thinking, maybe three months felt right. And then I quite quickly decided that ridiculous. Six months. And then I decided, well, actually the laws changed here, I can do a year I'm allowed to do a year, we can manage a year I'm gonna do a year. And there was somewhere there that everything had changed for me. And I think, now I look back and can see that the fact that my mom died when I was young probably had a big part to play in that, you know, though, there, I wasn't conscious of it. But maybe there was decisions being made through the lens of, well, if you're not here forever, you need to be very present for this little person that you just made, you know, that's actually the more important job. And my sense of self was no longer defined by the other job that, you know, unfortunately, paid the money. So it really shifted. Now, by the while I was on maternity leave, it happened again, that everyone on the board got obliterated every there was lots of lots of changes, I was too contentious, presumably to do that, too. So I just went went back. But for I mean, I don't even know if it was six weeks, it felt so obvious that I just about settled in. And then I was also made redundant.

Jonathan Collaton:

Wow. Okay, that's, that's, that's got to be quite the shift, right? When you're, you're, you're in this very important role, and you're off for a year, and then you come back and all of a sudden, you're off again. But at the same time, I'm sure you knew, like you're very employable. And so did you have a lot of concern about finding the next job and, and something else I think is maybe fair to ask too, because it comes up a lot with people who are in relationships is if your husband was working and also employed, finances can play a big part in the pressure people feel whether or not they like need to get something right away versus they can spend the time to find the thing that's right for them. I'm going to assume that if your husband went to law school, he is a lawyer. And so given what the world knows about lawyers, they generally do okay. And so I imagine there was some leeway for you there. But But what was that like right away? Did you decide you know, well, now I have more time to spend at home with my kid or or am I do I need to go find something right away? Like, what was it like for you?

Helen Hanison:

Do you know I look back at that time and it is such a conflicted sort of way of experiencing I think redundancy will always be experienced as a sort of career grief and that that was definitely what I went through. I was letting go of saying goodbye or however you want to express that as you know, to the person I used to be it felt Absolutely profound and important. And I couldn't quite work out what I wanted. I just didn't have clarity, because it was very confusing. What I knew how to do was go and do the same as what I just lost. But I didn't want to be doing that anymore. So what, what was that it was it was very, very confusing. Now, from my perspective, as I am now I wish I'd have known where to reach out for some help with that for some ideas, because I'd been running, you know, the largest Baby Care brand globally, for that PR company, it would have been such a natural segue as a brand new first time mother to go into the journalism for the parenting titles. For instance, another friend popped up with a sort of baby concierge business idea. And I said all one, no, I can't join you. Because, you know, I'm a new mother, and I'm going back to work. So no, so I missed that. So there were a lot It was this feeling of I don't really know what I'm doing. Now. I don't know who I'm being. So I'll just do mothering. It felt like a choice I had no choice in. It was a very strange. It was a very strange segue, again, very transitional in an uncomfortable way. But it wasn't, I just wasn't understanding what was uncomfortable or what to do about that. In the end, I did send out some questions about you know, what about freelancing, that feels less pressured, that might be nice, maybe you'd go and work for a month here or six months there, and then take time off. And, and the market responded well to that idea. So it was a bit of a learning curve, because I hadn't, I'd only really used that kind of consulting agencies for when I needed additional support as the leader of a team. So you know, I have the connections, but didn't, you know that I'm now on a different end of the desk, I guess. But I went to a firm on a three day week, I thought I had absolutely sorted this out as a consultant rather than a full time proper employee of theirs. So it felt very liberating, and I absolutely loved it. And it was a nice balance, because I had more of my week at home doing mothering and less of my week, doing the stuff that I knew how to do. And this agency was a lot smaller. It was in the food and health area. So it was it was in sort of my career context, then they wanted to acquire a little boutique shopping in a specialized area. So again, I've had a lot of experience at this point of the destabilization of companies and teams, and it became my job to pull the two teams together and make them behave as one and build the culture and so on. So I loved it. And then they couldn't really afford to keep paying the higher rates that consultants tend to earn. And they sort of quoted me quite hard to go permanent and be an employee. And I look now at how that felt. And it's another light bulb moment where I'm signing a contract to go permanent. And no, I don't want to. And I wish, I wish I somehow had a way to step back and say, so don't you got this gig, you'll get a different gig, it's fine. You don't need to be permanent British because they want that, you know, that's but then right. So it's kind of like, and I look back now and think that is also the moment where I realized what was important to me loud and clear, was the people I worked with my people, as I always felt of my teams. And that was more of the hero of the story than the PR results and the column inches and the reviews and the clients it was it was about people. But I saw none of that clearly at the time. So I signed and got unhappy. And I think it was about one more year that I stayed with them and then said to my husband, you know, I think London's overrated. I'm such a Londoner through and through. So this was shocking. And, you know, he went with it hook line and sinker, we moved to the country.

Jonathan Collaton:

Wow. Okay, a lot going on there. And so what I love is that you've clearly been able to look back and pick the moments of your career where you can actively think like, what if, why did I do it this way? And you're actually questioning those moments. And I'm, you know, yes, there's that idea of like, well, what if but I also imagine And that you don't really regret it. Because if you didn't have those moments, you wouldn't be where you are now, right? It's the same with the idea of when your mother passed away, if you had continued on that, like a plus track, maybe you'd have gone to Cambridge, but doesn't matter, because then you ended up working with the people from there, right? So, so who cares, but the career reflection you've done is, is great that you can actively think about these moments. And at some point down the line, I'm gonna have to give you a call when I finally tell you about the time when I will have said like, well, I don't want to do this, why am I doing this? And that's probably going to be thanks to you. So thank you for that, that tip there that I will think more actively about when I'm making a choice, if it's what I want, or not. So getting back to your career, though, so you move to the country? And is that where you are now than in Brighton? or near Brighton?

Helen Hanison:

Yeah, exactly. Um, we, although it wasn't quite as simple as that. We, we moved outside of London to a similar area. But didn't I mean, make it for very long. And this is where sometimes, you know, the best planning. I mean, it felt like such a strategic plan to leave London so that then the money as you so you know, we were okay, but it just made it more comfortable if we're out of London, to just be one income, and commit to that and grow the family and get on to the next chapter for us. But then my husband got a job offer in New York. So that threw everything up in the air. And we were in the middle of converting a bomb, which was not a very rentable property, because we were halfway through doing that. So it was a better sales project for somebody who wanted to pick up where we left off and make it theirs. So we sold and we we left the country with by now our second baby literally weeks old.

Jonathan Collaton:

I did not know this at all. This is this is uh, okay. So, so New York, and I guess your husband's working as a lawyer, and and you're going to be...is the plan then just be a stay at home mom for the time being since you have such a young baby? And I guess also was the New York thing, like, when you when you moved, did you think we'll do this for a year? We'll do this for two years, and then we'll go back? Or was it like, let's just see what happens.

Helen Hanison:

Such a good question. I went thinking, we're going to do this forever. You know, this, this was how it was built. To me the opportunity for my husband was a, you know, well, I may as well say it was it was for AIG. So, you know, it was it was about to get very turbulent at AIG, but it hadn't happened yet. So the company, you know, until the Wall Street cash was was, you know, you felt like you could just be in it forever. Not necessarily in the same role. You could hop countries, you could hop departments there, there was a lot there. But it felt like that, and that was.

Jonathan Collaton:

that we're talking about, like 2007 too big to fail era?

Helen Hanison:

You also right? Yeah. 2008. But just, yeah, yeah. So the whole you know, that that felt very big. And yeah, you're right. For me, I was on my husband's visa. So I had to go all the way back to immigration, and then sort of get one for myself. So I did decide, no, that's fine. This is kind of an extended version of maternity leave. And that's okay. That, in fact, was a really refreshing limitation, because now I couldn't work it you know, that was that pressure was sort of off me it was about do the mothering the other way, instead of leaving the house, three days a week that was more like four days a week, you know, at just do that. And, you know, bed in my five year old by now who has a new country, a new school to adapt to and the baby, so it, and it was fantastic. I absolutely loved living there. I think the beauty of an expat community is everyone gets it. So, you know, everyone has the same appetite as you do to build a network and a meaningful one one that feels like you've got support around you, that replaces the anchors and the relations and you know, things that you've left somewhere else. So it, it was fantastic. It was not fantastic for my husband, who sort of was obviously in all the chaos, and the legal department gets ever so busy at times like that. So it was good learning. But it was also very clear very quickly that if this wasn't going to be the shortest immigration in history, then the advantage was definitely going to be to pick the right time and bring the experience back to the UK market.

Jonathan Collaton:

Right. Okay. So, so yeah, obviously that's what happened at some point, you pack up and you move, you move back home, and when did you like what's the plan then when you're packing up, move back home. Did He have a job lined up already when he went back.

Helen Hanison:

Yeah, I mean, the good thing about being in that in that sort of lane of work for him was that he was made more busy. They they there was so so much work for that department to do. So. It was a comfortable segue in that sense. You had time, you could see you wanted to now leave. But it was three, three plus years later, it was fine. It was fine. On one level, it was better, for sure for my husband's career. But we had built a life. And I think when you move countries the first year, you you just still feel foreign. The second year, you're feeling comfortable in the third year, you're you live there now. So it was tough to have got to that place with all these, you know, incredible community around us and important friendships as you do when your kids are ever so young. Those are the people who become your people and leave them. So it was it was a tough segue for me to come back. I I saw the sense there was no, it wasn't like I was questioning it. But it was hard.

Jonathan Collaton:

So when you go back then, I always wonder whenever people are moving countries, you kind of in one way, you're wide open in terms of where you can go, like you're not tied to anything necessarily back in the UK. So did you want to go back to that, you know, right by the barn that you had sold before you left? Or was it based on like, wherever? I mean, it sounds like he had kind of an option in terms of where he might want to work. So how did you pick where you would go back to? And then and for you, at that point? Were you thinking that when you get back there, you know, the kids are gonna be a little bit older, maybe I'll get into the workforce, or what was your thought?

Helen Hanison:

Yeah, in time, I thought, once my kids are in full time school is not long now. That's when I should get back into proper work. But it was sort of a safe idea, because it was also offered at a distance. But we moved back to London, a different patch than we were used to. So we still had some feeling of difference, which is what we wanted. And honestly, if we'd have felt more confident, after that experience to go on to a different country, we might have thought about that. But it just felt like it wasn't the time, the clever thing to do, you know, was definitely London, but then London's a lot more expensive. So now we're adjusting from sort of, you know, having a lot of space in the states to this much smaller house back in London, which feels like we left this for a reason. It's kind of we've done it. So it was tough. And there were some not money pressures, but there was an incentive to make things more comfortable at that point. So I did that thing where you email people that you used to know in your network and say, so listen, we're we're back, just letting you know, where are you all, and got invited to Boomerang back to a boss of about 13 years earlier. In one of those big PR companies, there was somebody on maternity leave and a client in trouble. So I said, Sure. We talked about working a shorter week, and dropping kids at school and coming in later and you know, all kinds of flexible things that made it possible. So I went in feeling okay. Because it was short term, right? You know, I'm not signing my soul to the devil this time. You know, it's, it's an experiment, it has a beginning and an end. So I did that. And it was just as tough as it had been the first time for a whole bunch of new reasons. And he was a little bit like walking onto the same floor, even with, you know, when you watch a movie, and they do a time open and the screen sort of shuffles in wiggly lines, and you realize you've just gone back in time or something, it was like that the cast of characters were different, but it was, it was that jarring to even walk onto the floor. And then it was highly pressured because the whole point of me being there was to troubleshoot a very difficult, unstable client, unstable team, all the same pressure points, and all the same demands. So in the middle of this, my son was struggling to adjust back at his school and we decided that the London prep school environment was too aggressive coming from very relaxed version of education compared in the States, which he was doing greater. And, you know, we were starting to discover there was there was more to it than that, and he actually has an attention deficit, but we didn't know that at the time, but we got recommended to you know, he's you know, he's shutting down at this school move move him that you know, quickly, so We did. And that was when we moved near to Brighton we left that that sort of London landing point. But I still have the big job, I was still honored my contract to the end. But it meant I was trying now to settle kids. Again, it was only a year and a half after we'd moved country to another environment. And obviously, you know, one of them was needed some support with that. So it was a tough time to be hopping on planes and be at European meetings and not at home really much at all. So it was, it was not an enjoyable experience. And if it was very clear that I'd grown out of it, or it wasn't for me anymore, I'm not quite sure how to articulate it. But if it was done, I was so clear, that wasn't I had to change something more significant than just keep going back to the same, the same model again. So it was really at the point that I got so rundown in that trying to keep pace, I suppose with the expectations, I ended up in hospital with a really bad chest infection that they were worried with something more, but it was it wasn't but it was it was just really bad. And that felt like another one of those sort of alarm bells ringing that you you, this really isn't a choice, you can't carry on doing this to yourself. So it was it was time to think again.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, wow. So this is quite the journey you made you decide that something has to change. And at this point, then, because you've gone back to sort of the same type of your your troubleshooting, but MPR. And at this point, when you say it's time for a change, are you thinking like PR, I'm done with it, I've got to find something totally new. That is, you've mentioned the word stability a few times and everything you keep doing job wise has no stability for the sounds of it. So is this the point where you'd like to get the stability I need and to give me the flexibility I need for my family, I'm going to have to make a major shift in careers.

Helen Hanison:

Do you know, I thought I was as clear as that. And I made moves that felt like they weren't as clear as that. That turned out not to be right. And I think sometimes no amount of thinking about it on your own in a silo gives you enough input to come up with the right ideas. So I looked for a smaller, firm local to my home, that would want to benefit from my sort of London caliber of experience. And it didn't work how it was meant to, they had an amazing appetite for what I was on paper. There's the paper profile again and again. They wanted that and I wasn't selling that. So I wanted a nice job that I could do easily a few days a week, they wanted head of food or consumer because they were about to sell as small independent PR company to one of these big, big ships. So it wasn't what I thought and they didn't even tell the person that they brought me into a place that someone was coming. So they were horrible alarm bells very quickly. And then there was a lot of agendas, because I was there to build critical mass in this particular area, which meant ruffling feathers of people around me saying well actually, what you're doing is food and health. So I'll take that. So I was not making friends and influencing people in order to do the job that brought me in to do so it was it was not right. And that I that was it was really clear really quickly. And this time I called I called I just called it and I didn't wait to see how that would play out. I just said to the CEO This is it's such a shame because I can see everything that you do touches so many different bits of my career, but this is feeling really wrong. So it took it one more go to finally decide this needs to be a proper pivot. And it was actually my husband who said to me, You know why? Why don't you think about doing something different. And it was it was like some kind of green light had been given. It was a strange thing. There was nothing really stopping me doing that before at any point, but it was something about him saying it and I knew for me that that meant go and scratch the itch of psychology. So I found University of Sussex which was ever so close to where we live. I had a really well respected psychology degree. And I didn't let myself think about it too hard. I looked at the application form system. Tap stuff in sent it off, I think within an hour thought nothing more of it, I felt like I'd done something. And that was all I really needed. So it was kind of shocking A few months later, when they said, We really impressed with your application look forward to seeing you in September, because then I had to go and do it. So it kind of felt all kinds of uncomfortable, again, because I hadn't studied for decades, I'm by now properly mature, mature students. So you know, it was kind of a weird environment to be in. I very nearly opted out in the first semester and looked for a master's in journalism, something that was closer to what I used to do, because it turns out statistics was as bad as I thought it was going to be. And neuroscience wasn't so easy that the by the time I'd finished discovering what I could do, the next round of electives was on the list. And I I just knew I wanted to do those more than I wanted things to feel easy. So I found different solutions got it's got some help and move through it. And I ended up three years later with a first class honors degree.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, how did you come up with psychology in the first place, though? Was it just did you feel like it connected to like the core of what you liked about public relations? Is that where I came from?

Helen Hanison:

I think so. Although I'm not sure, I still saw that at the time. I think if you think about public relations, you're raising awareness, you're driving interest, but actually, it's about driving behavior. And it's closer to Sociology, there is some psychology that you're taught as part of the degree in all kinds of courses you go on once you're in professional development, once you're in the career. And it was always the people getting into the psyche of what motivates someone, what will be their tipping point to your product, or your clients service, or whatever it is. So I was getting closer and closer to understanding that people and how understanding them was important. And that's before you bring in that context of the teams and the people that I worked with being more important than, you know, the nuts and bolts of PR as well. So I think, yeah, it was a realization, I had looked at it once before. And been completely put off by the statistics and by the neuroscience and just thought I just can't and at the time, it was very close to when we moved to the state. So it kind of just fell out of my head. Because, you know, we Yeah, the process didn't play through. So it felt like an itch that I wanted to scratch. And actually my son having that diagnosis, when I had made some of this neuroscience a bit of a specialist subject, I didn't hailed books, and realized that I had the competency to do that. And it was interesting. And again, it was about understanding how to, I suppose shape his little life and understand how to drive his behaviors and become the person he should be. And you know, it was all it was all that stuff that led me there.

Jonathan Collaton:

So three years later, as you said, You've got the degree. And did you have a direction you thought you wanted to head in? After you got the degree or when you were doing the degree? Did something really pique your interest? Or like how do you how do you sort of reset? Now you've got this new degree, but but you you need to not do PR it sounds like and so how do you find what you do need to do?

Helen Hanison:

Yeah, and I went into that degree with so much to prove to myself and I was the same again, as the first degree really, I was looking for it to be a jumping off point but didn't know what to do. It wasn't until the third year that I said to this lovely professor of mine. You know, I don't I think I, I thought I wanted to be a counselor. I would like to support people and help people. I'm about people. And she listened to me and sort of said, you know, so what is it you're struggling with? And I said, Well, I just feel like now I understand more, that if I'm helping people with psychopathology, you're not really fixing it, it's not very positive, you're helping them cope more positively. But you're not necessarily sort of waving a wand and making their life different either. And I wish there was something like that. And she sort of laughed and said, there is it's called coaching and put me in touch with some coach trainings and people who were coaches and helped me piece together that that final year. So it was all about positive psychology, which was exactly this piece that I wanted to move into.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, so obviously those those type of connections like you have to have these conversations or else, not or else, but by having those conversations that's how you realize coaching is something you want to get into. So Then what's the practical side of, I'm a coach? Like, how do you go from...you mentioned some some courses I think there. And so how do you actually take that degree and then take some extra courses, and then market yourself as a coach?

Helen Hanison:

Well, there was, it took a while to choose the right coach training, it's not a regulated market or not, not here anyway, I think that will change pretty soon. But right now, anyone can do like a quick online course and call themselves a coach. So it was, it was kind of hard to unpack, well, I'm, I've done a whole degree in this stuff now. So I want the version that has weight and credibility and is a psychology based, not a sort of quick surface level counterpart. So it took me a while I found CTI Coach Training Institute and I would thoroughly recommend it, I think I had another one of those sort of once a light bulb moments, but light bulb years, I mean, the training took the best part of a year to go through every several weeks you you show up in, in a room in London, or wherever. And then they they have them everywhere their state space, actually, but you get to know the people that are your cohort has such a deep level and you're practicing on them as part of the training, you're not just sit passively listening as a very active an experiential way of learning. And you're also encouraged to set up a practice. So you're offering your services out to people, they encourage you to do that for some money, so that it counts towards your certifications later, if you if you do it for free to people just to get the numbers up is not looked on as quite as valid. So so there was a whole year of all that. And then I got to a point where it's really interesting. What they don't teach is what is the business model for coaching. So now the marketing a very commercial side of me wanted to work out how to do that. So I signed up with a great business coach, Greg Faxon. And, you know, really, I just knew he was a lot younger than me, but had the whole drop down menu of all the things I needed to be doing to cross the start line. And I think without his support, it would have been a lot more painful, because it was still quite hard work, even with someone showing you the way. And it It took some time. But it was really interesting. Once I put myself out there and said, I am a coach, my coach has challenged me to offer 40 calls in the next two weeks, I got absolutely inundated. And I've been as busy as I could be ever since.

Jonathan Collaton:

Amazing. And so so what's the business? Now tell me all about it and tell me what you're doing and how you help people? And if they want you to help them? How do they find you?

Helen Hanison:

Right, so I'm a leadership coach. And when I tell you what it is that my specialism is, everything we've talked about so far will hopefully make a lot of sense. What I help people with as seasoned professionals generally, is how to realign what they do with what matters most of them when they're feeling stuck at a career crossroads of their own. So they are motivated for change. But on some level, they're stuck in a cycle of trying again and again to solve the same career problem, because that is the story that was mine. I'm trying again and again to solve this. But I only have the same menu of options because I'm trying to do it on my own. So I now see that what I do is helping people avoid the pain and the lost years, as I call them now of going around and around the same stuckness and know confidently how to make transformation happen for themselves instead.

Jonathan Collaton:

And where's your business located? I imagine you you know, the last year has allowed you to if you weren't already, you probably got clients all around the world now.

Helen Hanison:

Totally. It's interesting. It used to be speaking on panels and add events in London and a good portion I'd say a nice even split of UK and US clients. It almost all moved, obviously when none of it's on person, but it all moved online. So it's it's very easy. It's all done by zoom that seems to work just as powerfully. And yes, it opens up the world. I have my own website, Helen hansen.com. And that's probably the easiest place to find me although I'm also on LinkedIn. And the first step I think for anyone any coach worth their salt should should offer this is a complimentary I call them clarity conversations where we just spend some time getting to know what is the situation that they're feeling stuck out. What is their career. context, what do they wish would happen and some people really know they have their vision and not not like me, they they know exactly. But their stuckness is not knowing how to get there. And other people have that it's the kind of the point, they don't know what next, they just know what they're doing is untenable. I'm bankrupt of all meaning. And that's not something that they can live with long term. So that's the brand of help. But after that conversation, I need to make sure that my brand of help is going to help and I invite people to work with me where I'm confident of of that.

Jonathan Collaton:

Amazing. Now, I personally had a conversation with you, we just, when we when we met to talk about you doing this interview, you ended up just basically coaching me right then and there. And that worked really well for me, and I'm going to tell you all about it after we hang up here. But I just wanted to give that review, I guess, while we're on the interview here, so if anyone is thinking about needing help figuring out what they need to be doing next, and Helen is someone that you think can help you, I definitely encourage you to reach out. And Helen, thank you so much for sharing all of that today. That is quite the journey. I didn't even know you lived in the us for part of it. And hopefully, what you've shared will be able to help other people realize that at some point if they if it just stops feeling right, and like they need to make a change than just go and make the change because it's clearly worked out for you. So thank you so much.

Helen Hanison:

You're ever so welcome on I my hope would be be the same, the career trajectories are not linear. And I don't know who says they should be squiggly is just as good.

Jonathan Collaton:

All right, so that is Helens career path up until now. And you know, it's funny that Helen almost can't help herself when it comes to helping other people find clarity in their careers. She does it as a job. But the first time her and I spoke we chatted about first her career path and the podcast, and then my own career path. And I'm a bit of a share. So I have this new philosophy that if you just tell people what your dreams are, maybe some good will come of it. Maybe that just makes you more likely to do it. Or maybe if they have some way that they think they can help you. They'll do that. So I was sharing my dreams. And Helen basically gave me an entire coaching session for free. And I've actually since implemented some of the advice that she gave me on that day, and things seem to be heading in the right direction. So I'm a fan of what Helen does. Now, I point all this out, because after we recorded the conversation, Helen messaged me and told me about something that she wanted to give my listeners. So she's created a complimentary framework to help you learn about how to make meaning from your career life memories, and how to plan out what's next for you. I've put the link to that framework in my show notes. So head over to her episode page on career crossword podcast.com to find that. Alright, and so now let's talk about what we can learn from Helen's career story today. Throughout her career, I think that we can see the importance that relationships with others play in some of our own careers. Now, very early on, her dad fired her, and that was very likely to make sure she was back on track the way she had been in high school. And some of the decisions he made after that were related to her relationship with her boyfriend at the time, the University she picked was in part because it was only 20 minutes away from where her boyfriend lived. And then the first job she accepted was in that town. And she took that in part because her boyfriend was a couple hours away from there. And she didn't want to put more distance between them. And then as a couple as they started to think about what their life would be like they both had this idea of moving to London, and they lived in London for a long stretch where they just focused on their careers. And you heard from Helen, how she really was successful at that point in time, she was moving up in her company moving to another company and moving up there. And she had the stability in her life to be able to work towards that. After that decisions were influenced by a combination of children and her husband. The birth of her first child was the catalyst for leaving London and moving to a smaller town outside of the bustling city. And then the family packed up and moved to New York for three years when her second child was born. And that was because of a job opportunity her husband had. And with two kids, Helen was busy being a mom and she didn't have time for a second job. So she took a bit of a pause from her career to just do that. So then, as a family, they come back to England, and the plan was for her to work less and have more time to be a mom. And after all these, I would say maybe failed attempts at finding a job that was really going to fit our lifestyle and and be what she wanted it to be. It was her husband who said why don't you think about doing something that isn't PR Helen didn't think of that on our own. It was his prompting That got her to look into possible other options. Then with the financial stability of being in a relationship, she was able to go back to school full time and get a totally different degree. And that degree has led to what she's doing now. And her whole career now is about working with other people, and helping them figure out how to harness the skills they have, and point them in the direction of something they're passionate about. She does that by building relationships with our clients and getting to understand them. And because she understands them, she can affect change in their lives. Knowing all of these moments, Helen had the power to make a choice. And when she did, she chose courses of action that weren't just good for her, but they were good for the people she cared about. And I bet that if you go and look at your own career, you might find that you've done the same. And that is some of what I think we can learn from Helen, which means that this is the end of this episode of career crossroads. Be sure to check out Helen's complimentary career framework in the show notes and I've also listed her website and some social media contact information. If you need some help finding some clarity in your own career. If you know someone who would be interested in Helen's career path, please share this episode with them. And if you want to hear more interviews like this, go to career Crossroads podcast comm or follow the podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify, or your podcast player of choice. And if you like what you hear, please leave the show a five star review and tell some people about it. Because that helps me grow the show. Come back next week to hear from Lisa who moved from the Cayman Islands to Boston to start a career in accounting and finance. But over a decade later now works in real estate investing in California.