Life coaching

Make a great job of that interview

By | Career coaching, Corporate coaching, Life coaching, University advice | No Comments

Natalie Lancer from Lancer Coaching explains how to prepare for an interview.

Getting an interview is a massive compliment – the organisation has decided that they like what you have to offer on the basis of your application form and that you match their requirements. There are many different types of interview – maybe you will have to give a presentation about a topic, or perhaps it is a panel interview where different people ask you questions.

With a little thought, you can think what questions are likely to come up. Go back to the job description and person specification and write a question for each item. For example, an item from the job description might be “Contribute to collaborative decision making with colleagues”. A reasonable question to expect, therefore, is “How have you contributed to collaborative decision making in the past and how would contribute to this process in the future?”. Jot down a few bullet points for each question. It might be helpful for you to structure your answer according to the acronym ‘SPAR’ – Situation, Position, Action and Result. This involves starting by describing the context, what was the situation and challenge. Secondly, what was your position and what did you do personally to effect change? Thirdly, what action was taken and how did you come to that decision. Finally, what was the result – was it a success? Were there setbacks?

After you have written your own questions based on the job description and person specification, it is time to consider some more general questions, such as “Why do you want to work here?” and “Can you tell us about current developments in this sector?”. This requires some research – start by looking at the organisation’s website. What is their mission statement? What do they think they have to offer? Make sure you read some current information about your sector, such as trade journals, newspapers, information from professional bodies if relevant (see their websites) and up-to-date books. Ask your local book shop for recommendations. You need to demonstrate that you are fully aware about the organisation and the sector.

You may be asked a question along the lines of “What do you have to offer us?” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses”. To prepare for this, it may be helpful to consult a friend about your aptitudes and motivations. Be sure to prepare a clear answer – write some bullet points. When detailing weaknesses make sure you explain how you overcome them.

It is very helpful to have a practice or mock interview. This can be with someone in the field (use your network to find someone) or a careers professional. Not only will you be able to rehearse your answers but you will get some feedback about how you come across and if there are gaps in your knowledge that you can plug.

Plan what your are going to wear. Dress formally, even if you think the interviewer will not. It never hurts to be overdressed – it shows you have made an effort and that you are professional – but you will look silly if you are underdressed. Plan your journey and make time for the inevitable delayed trains. If possible, visit the site of your interview in advance if you are not familiar with the area.

Before the interview itself, go through your application form again. Go over your examples of prior work and make sure you can talk about them. Arrive early – you will look efficient and it gives you time to have a coffee or go to the loo without panicking. Turn off your mobile – don’t leave it on silent. Smile when you walk in, shake hands and wait to be told to sit down. Maintain eye contact.

When answering questions in the interview give yourself time to think. Do not answer with the first thing that pops into your head. Wait two seconds, consider your answer, and briefly think about why they have asked you that question – what are they really getting at? What are they trying to test? Make sure you frame your answer in a way that attends to their underlying reasons. Ask for clarification if you do not understand the question.

Also, think about your body language. Don’t cross your arms as it looks defensive. Instead sit with your arms open or on your lap and lean forwards to show interest. When you speak it is a good idea to gesticulate with your hands as it adds expression – but don’t overdo it. Don’t bite your nails or fiddle with your hair. Often we exhibit certain mannerisms when we are thinking. It may be worth getting someone to video you when you talk to see if you have some unconscious mannerisms that are unflattering.  We speak much more quickly than we realise – so slow down! Do not speak in a monotone –moderate your voice by using highs and lows.

They may say “Is there anything you want to ask us?”. Do ask about something interesting that came up in the interview, but do not ask something that you could easily look up on their website. Don’t bring up salary until you get an offer!

Finally, remember that you are also evaluating them and the job. Having spent some time with the interviewers, are you sure you would like to work there? Are the organisation’s ethics in line with yours? Were you treated well? Were employees you came into contact with happy? Do you like the environment of the office?

A few hours after the interview, write down your impressions, the questions asked and your answers. Do you wish you had answered anything differently? Jot down your amended answers. These will be useful for you when you have another interview.

If you do get the job – well done. Consider if you actually want it! If you do not get the job, remember you cannot control the employer’s decision. You do not know who else was interviewed, and how well they fitted the job description and organisation. There can be many reasons why you did not get the job that have little to do with you. The experience was valuable and a stepping stone to your winning interview.

Natalie is available for one-to-one practice interview sessions and can help with all aspects of the job application process.  For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at or on 07747 612 513.

The effect of university on personal growth

By | Coaching in Education, Life coaching, University advice

The idea that university is a place of personal growth is not a new one, but with tuition fees set to rise this academic year again, it may be wise to back up this claim with some empirical data. What personal growth occurs at university and why is it important?
Natalie Lancer has been studying the phenomenon of personal growth at university for her PhD in Psychology at Birbeck, University of London. Twenty undergraduate students at UCL volunteered for the study and they were each given six personal coaching sessions by professional executive coaches over the academic year 2014-2015. They were interviewed four times over the year about their personal growth.
Personal growth was individual for each student and what they learnt varied according to what they had experienced in life so far. However, the growth that occurred can broadly be described by several themes. The most pronounced growth was in focusing on their long term goals. They formed clearer personal goals about career and what they wanted out of life in general and were able to take positive and specific steps to fulfil them. This included making a short film and successfully applying for television internships for someone who had identified wanting to work in Film and TV. He had previously considered himself to be ‘not good enough’ but by building up his creative portfolio and helping to run the TV station at university, he gained valuable experience as well as confirmation that this was the sector in which he wanted to work. As his self-belief grew, so did his talent and positive mindset which shone through in his application and interview.
Others who had lacked confidence in the past identified that they grew in physical or psychological well-being. Many found that their analytical approach to situations and dilemmas had changed in that they felt more confident in their own decision-making. They all reported growing in competence and ability in a variety of skills including academic and organisational. Their university experience broadened their horizons, from an appreciation of different cultures to the realities of budgeting. They all gained a greater understanding of interpersonal relationships whether that be with their families, friends, professional contacts or romantic partners.
The coaching itself was seen as motivational and helped them with many areas including time management, life plans and positive outlook. All but one of the students reported that the coaching greatly accelerated what they would have learnt about themselves anyway which meant they were able to set things in motion much earlier on and reap the rewards from this head start of growth. This, in turn, meant that they had a more enriching university experience and they were able to leverage this with greater impact in terms of careers and personal development during and after university. In other words, they felt that they were more successful in landing a job that played to their strengths or finding a fulfilling relationship as a result of their ‘speeded-up’ university experience provided by coaching.
Some students had more profound experiences where a gain in confidence enabled them to excel in ways that would have seemed impossible previously. The emotional ‘baggage’ we carry around from years of people telling us that we are not good enough, for example, is like a fetter on our potential and capabilities. By engaging in new experiences, and showing themselves that they could do it (whatever the ‘it’ was for them), the students were able to blast these fetters away and reclaim their confidence, and tangible evidence of their new found abilities.
The students were given the option of continuing their coaching into a second year, allowing a further year of analysis and evaluation to take place, which the majority of students chose to do. The results of this will be available on the dedicated website (Educational Development and Evaluation Centre) in the coming months.

Coaching for students is increasingly offered by universities. However, it is not, as yet, widely available. If you think you would benefit from private coaching sessions with an experienced coach, please contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or

What can coaching do for me? 

By | Career coaching, Corporate coaching, Life coaching

Are you in your final year of uni or have just left? Have you made some career plans? Have you started a job but not finding it fulfilling? Maybe you need some career coaching. A coach is someone who can help you identify your strengths and devise some sort of plan based on your goals.
I have been coaching since 2010 in my two businesses and MyUniApplication. I focus on young people dealing with a variety of issues from increasing their confidence, to career and university guidance.
I am an accredited coach (I am a member of the Association for Coaching) and I have just published Techniques for Coaching and Mentoring (2nd edition) with the renowned coaches David Clutterbuck and David Megginson. The book brings together our expertise on coaching and mentoring in a variety of different settings and organisations.
I devised several original coaching techniques which are showcased in the book such as the ‘Free Imaginative Variation Technique’. This involves writing your ‘dream CV’ populated with potential job roles and qualifications. Now, here is the ‘imaginative variation’ part: ask yourself what you can change or leave out whilst still preserving your ‘dream CV’? Actively experiment by changing and deleting skills, roles, companies and qualifications until you have a clear picture of the core items that must be present for your CV to be ‘ideal’. Identifying what you are aiming for is a great start – many people find it difficult to express their end goal. Next – how to make this goal a reality. Break down these goals into small, practical steps. Some goals seem overwhelming, and it may be that you need a professional coach to help focus on how to make your ambitions achievable.
If you already have a job, rather than leave your current employer, another way to make sure you are doing your dream job is to maximise the value of your role. What is your current job description and what would you need to add to make it more enjoyable or challenging? Use this ‘dream job description’ as a springboard to explore how your role can be developed. Will you need to develop some new skills? What value would these new components add to your organisation? How do you think your line manager would react if you propose that you should do it? How can you get your ideas off the ground?
We often forget who our contacts are and how they can help us (and we help them). The following exercise explores how people we know can develop us further and help us get to where we want to go. Draw three concentric circles, each one slightly bigger than the last on a large sheet of paper. Label them inner, middle and outer. Think about who you know, in whatever context and however loosely, and write their names in the appropriate circle. Your inner circle might include close friends, family and trusted work colleagues. Your middle circle might include people you are in contact with who you value but you are not in touch with as frequently, and the outer circle are acquaintances you could potentially contact but haven’t done so yet. Now ask yourself: What networks or relationships do I want to develop further? For what purpose? How? Can you leverage this for mutual advantage?
The benefits of coaching are now being reaped by students looking to maximise their potential and go into the world of work with their eyes open. This shouldn’t be a surprise – after all, who wouldn’t want professional support to make changes or realise your ambitions?

Techniques for Coaching and Mentoring (2nd edition) by Natalie Lancer, David Clutterbuck and David Megginson is available from Natalie is available for one-to-one coaching sessions. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at or on 07747 612 513.