Episode 006

Personal and Career Planning in Higher Ed

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Leva Lee: Welcome to BCcampus Mixtape. This podcast is a remix of previous live recordings from BCcampus offerings such as the Lunchable Learning Radio Show, Open Knowledge Spectrums, and more. My name is Leva Lee.

Helena Prins: And my name is Helena Prins. We are both on the learning and teaching team at BCcampus. If you love to learn, you’ve come to the right place. I am joining you from the beautiful homeland of the Lək̓ʷəŋən speaking people, which include the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.

Leva: And I’m joining you from where I live on the ancestral and unceded homelands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples. Today’s episode features an impactful interview with professional career coach Isabeau Iqbal about personal and career planning in higher education.

Helena: Let’s listen in.

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Leva: We are so pleased to introduce you to our next very lovely guest, Isabeau Iqbal. We invited her to speak to us today on setting goals and planning. She is a career coach who works with ambitious perfectionists ready to move forward in their higher Ed careers. She has worked in post-secondary institutions as an educational developer and facilitator for over 19 years. Isabeau is certified, with the International Coaching Federation and is a Gallup Certified Strength Coach. She has a Ph.D. in education from the University of British Columbia. Welcome to Lunchable Learning, Isabeau.

Isabeau Iqbal: Thanks for welcoming me and happy to be here. It’s great to have you here.

Leva: It’s great to have you here. Maybe we could start by asking you how you got into coaching.

Isabeau: Yeah, I got into coaching as a client of coaching. Back in my mid-20s was my very first time as a client of coaching. I didn’t know what coaching was. I met somebody at a networking event. Her partner at the time was training to be this thing called the coach, and it sounded like it was, it would be interesting, and it could potentially help me with some of the things I was working through at that time.

So that was my very first encounter. And then, you know, I don’t think I was coached for a really long time until I was reintroduced to it as an educational developer. So, I started working as a developer in 2003 and at a Teaching and Learning Center at the University of British Columbia. And someone hired a coach to come in and do an event with us, like with the team there at the center. So then I started to be a client of coaching more often and loved it, but never with the intention of becoming a coach. Fast forward, I did my PhD, a few years after my PhD was starting to wonder what I would do with my own career. You know, I was starting to think, OK, well, I could kind of see what was in front of me. I also was thinking about, you know, the years ahead in terms of retirement, to work, whatever the word is, the retirement isn’t the right word anymore. And one of the work, one of the pieces of work that I love the most with educational development, is the one-on-one consultations with faculty members.

And there were a lot of people around me who seemed to be getting certified as coaches. And so I kind of put two-and-two together at that point. And I thought, this feels like it would really be something that I would enjoy doing. And so I decided to get certified as a coach at that time and to start my own practice. So I knew that I would do it in my role as an educational developer, my part time role as an end developer. But I also was very clear that I wanted to start kind of my own coaching practice outside of my work.

Helena: That’s a wonderful, rare story, Isabeau. And I’m curious, if you don’t mind sharing with us, what are some of the common themes that you encounter in your career coaching practice?

Isabeau: Yeah, so as I mentioned in the introduction, I, that most of the people that I coach are what I call ambitious perfectionists. So there are folks who are in higher education who in some way relate to perfectionism. And so the really the common themes can be boiled down to I’m dissatisfied, and I want to change. Right. I mean, really, that’s very, very global. And that can probably describe like every single client of coaching, but more specifically is either that they’re feeling stuck in their current role and are not quite sure what to do, or they feel like they’ve got a number of decisions in front of them and don’t know how to make a decision. They feel like there’s a right choice and a wrong choice. Some people are wanting to exit out of academia. Other people are starting in their role and wanting to setting to set themselves up well and then kind of a final, yeah. So those are sort of some of the themes and have specific variations of that. And I would say the other one is around leadership. Leadership coaching. I coach as part of an academic leadership development program. So these are folks who really appreciate being able to think through problems with someone who isn’t right in their context. Yeah.

Leva: Yeah, I can see that that would be really helpful. More of an objective stance there. So this made me think, as you’re speaking there, of maybe some of the approaches that you might suggest that people would find helpful to address as they’re navigating their career in higher ed.

Isabeau: Yeah. I have found that starting with connecting with your values is a really powerful starting place, and I think that we would all agree we have some sense of what our values are. We might be able to put some words to these, but maybe we haven’t really spent the time to think about what those are specifically or how we would define them. So working with the values and first that, you know, is the foundation, we come back to that because when things feel out of alignment, it’s often because we’ve chosen a course of action, or we’ve made a decision that isn’t in tune with our values. So that’s one. The other approach is really looking at strengths. And I find that higher ed folks are it’s interesting, either they really want to dismiss it, or they feel like, well, yeah, I mean, I know I should be doing this, but I really want to look at my areas of improvement and other people are really like hungry to know their strengths.

And I can never quite predict where somebody is at with that. And I find it so interesting because, you know, we live with ourselves and obviously our entire life and yet it’s so hard to name our strengths, often so, so difficult. And so an exploration of strengths and acknowledging the strengths that we have and that we bring it tends to be really powerful for people like really moving to do that. So values, strengths. And then the other piece is in terms of I don’t I think this is very much COVID related, but also higher education related is we tend to drive ourselves very hard. And with COVID, it seems that the exhaustion and the feeling of being unsettled has just amplified. And, like sometimes just receiving permission, giving yourself permission to rest and to care for yourself. Like it makes for a really profound shift also in terms of people’s ability to will to take care of themselves clearly. So those are kind of three approaches that I find are fairly universal.

And then of course, everything is then tailored to the individual situation.

Leva: Yeah, that is, that is the thing that, that we’re feeling as everyone is, is tired and we can’t emphasize that enough is to be careful to take care of yourself or to take attention, to know where you’re at and pay attention to where you’re at and to take care of yourself. How about yourself? How do you keep your work life balance then, Isabeau?

Isabeau: Well. I love the outdoors. So for me, that is a place that I really go to for resetting. I find that if I have a hike planned. So for me, it’s hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing right now in the summer, obviously it’s hiking. And when I have something to look forward to on the weekend, it it carries me throughout the week and then it also helps me with the with the following week. So that has been huge for me. And sometimes it’s with other people and sometimes it’s alone and it seems to have a positive effect either way. Being with my family, I find very, very grounding. And there have been so many times I feel in my own life where I’ve been overly stressed, overly busy. Feel crummy about the way that I show up as a mother. Not that I’m like, it’s the presence piece is really, really key for me. Sort of be present for my family members, for whatever is going on for them. Those are two really, really big ones. So then I try to have fun. though it’s super challenging to have fun.

Leva: It is.

Isabeau: It is challenging.

Helena: (CROSSTALK) You want to have fun this year and we want to provide fun for others too, because it’s been a bit of a challenging time.

Isabeau: Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, that looks like different things for me. I like to sing and that’s something I do weekly. I have an absolutely fabulous singing teacher and that is something that I’ve really stayed consistent about.

Helena: That’s so fabulous. Really. So, Isabeau, we did ask you to prepare a challenge for our listeners, and we’re very curious. What’s the challenge that you picked for them?

Isabeau: Yeah, I think I you know, I listened to your last episode also with, Oh, my gosh oh, my goodness, I’m forgetting her name.

Helena: Sarah.

Isabeau: Yes. Sarah. Thank you. Sarah So I think it’s similar. So this this is really a practice of whenever you are feeling a moment of stress, however you define that and is to put your hand on your heart and simply take some big breaths from your diaphragm. And you can do this when other people around, you can do this when you’re alone. It’s such an easy practice to do. And just like the, you know, the warmth of your hand against your heart and then that that expansion that comes from just taking a breath. So this is my challenge to the listeners is to try it out. If you remember, try it out multiple times so that you can try it out once.

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Helena: Thank you for joining us today. If you like this content, let us know. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn under @BCcampus and on Instagram @bccampus.ca.

Leva: Subscribe to our newsletter at BCcampus.ca for the latest information and details on our offerings. You can also find more information about our podcast at bcccampusmixtape.com and tune in next week for the next episode of BCcampus mixtape.

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