Q&A with career performance and self development coach

This week we sat down with career performance coach, Alexandra Levy. Alexandra is a self-development professional and qualified coach with over 10 years of experience, with a career that expands across companies such as McKinsey, Mattel, Dow Jones, Hilton & Google.

Q1. Where does your passion for coaching come from?

Growing up I found myself supporting my mum in her tutoring business helping primary school kids with their English and maths problems. Guiding those students and helping them grow was remarkably fulfilling. In the corporate world I found that there was a serious lack of guidance for professionals looking to navigate and develop their careers, which left many feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and undervalued, something I experienced myself at various times. Helping others in similar situations alleviate their frustrations and unlock their own potential is a purpose that deeply resonates with me and drives me forward.

Q2. How does your work impact clients' wellness?

It’s amazing to think that during our careers we spend over 90,000 hours at work, a whole third of our lifetimes. Numerous studies show that up to 50% of people at work are unhappy. As a result many of us suffer from acutely negative mental and physical issues due to work related stress. I help my client identify and articulate what’s getting in the way of reaching their personal and professional goals. We map the emotions and life experiences which may trigger behaviours that block their path as well as their future objectives they want to achieve. We then put a strategy in place to find fulfilment at work and a balance in their personal lives, which improves their mental and physical wellbeing. 

Q3: Can you tell us more about the pillars of coaching that you focus on?

My signature coaching programme “The 4D Method”, a proven system I developed to ensure my clients reach their objectives. We go through four stages: Define, Detach, Design, Develop. Define is where we discover the client’s objective. Detach is where we diagram negative thought patterns or behaviours and learn self-mastery. Design is where we determine the strategy to reach the objective and Develop is our implementation and iteration plan, where we check in, adapt and embed behaviours as we learn.

This method links together the tenets of Positive Psychology (leveraging our character strengths), Cognitive Behavioural Coaching (learning how to control our thinking) and Physical Intelligence (how our bio-chemistry impacts our performance). These combined techniques teach clients how to gain more self-mastery and awareness. As you learn how to strategically influence your thoughts, feelings and behaviours you gain more self-control and better work-life outcomes.

Q4: Can you tell us some more about your background? 

I am a self-development professional and qualified coach with over 10 years of experience. My career includes working in HR and Talent Acquisition across McKinsey, Mattel, Dow Jones Hilton and Google. I have worked with a wide range of clients from start-ups to corporates, focusing on career development using a blend of Neuroscience, Cognitive Behaviour Coaching and Positive Psychology.

Over my career, I have helped over 1139 individuals find a new fulfilling job and helped those who wanted meaningful career progression through multiple mentoring programmes. 

Q5: What are some of your key tips for career development?

Find your ‘Why’ and be OK with it changing: We are in a new era of work where careers are less linear and more people are focused on work that energises and motivates them. It's important to figure out your  “why”, the core idea or reason that drives you and be ok with this changing over time. The average age someone changes career paths is 39 years old. 

Use Technology to manage your work and not the other way around: We have an ‘always on’ culture due to slack, instant messages etc. Find a way to make technology work for you (Schedule email, turn off notifications, use the ‘blue light blockers’) and ensure that you plan time for rest (Rest reminder or walks in your calendar). Without doing this you will struggle to be a high performer and may burn out.

Leverage people power: Build a powerful network for your career development of 3 groups of individuals. Current role network - the people who help you succeed in your job. Future role network - the people who help you explore future possibilities. Personal development network - the people that help you to improve and be your best

Q6: What does a day in the life of a career performance coach look like?

Mindset: I start the day with meditation, breathwork and walking my dog. Weekly I see a personal development coach. Nightly, I close out the day by answering some of the following questions like: “What am I proud of today?”, “What am I grateful for?” “What I’m looking forward to most tomorrow?”.

Nutrition: I am mostly plant based. I start the day with a green smoothie. Lunch is usually a salad combined with some sweet potato. Dinner varies as I often cook for others.

Work: My work schedule varies around my clients. I get started with client work in the morning and answering emails. Then I often have a break part way through the day where I create content for social media or courses. In the evening, I often return back to coaching (who have busy jobs so can’t meet during the day) or onboarding new clients.

Q7: Does nutrition play a role in improving performance and productivity in the workplace?

Yes, nutrition plays an active role in workplace performance. The decisions we make minute to minute, the interactions we have, our ability to think creatively, this is all influenced by our bio-chemistry. Every single second. To massively oversimplify for brevity, the levels of serotonin (happiness), cortisol (stress), adrenaline (rational thinking), acetylcholine (focus) all affect our productivity and performance.

All of these chemicals are affected by our nutrition. Eating nutritiously helps the gut-brain connection and emotional regulation, ensures you have the right nutrients to produce the right chemicals in a balanced way and therefore has a significant contribution to your ability to perform and be productive both inside and outside of work.

Q8: And lastly, what advice would you give anyone looking to adopt a new career path but are perhaps too nervous to do so?

Neuroscience has proven that our brains are hardwired to keep us in our comfort zones. When we move towards our growth zone (i.e. new career paths) adrenaline and cortisol flood the body triggering fight, flight, freeze. This typically leads to withdrawing from new opportunities as a safety mechanism because a part of our brains (the amygdala) is not evolved enough to adapt to new situations completely rationally. This part of the brain always sees unfamiliar and new opportunities as a threat. So when considering a new career path self-awareness is the key. Try to pause, step back and analyse if the opportunity plays to your strengths and fulfils or ‘why’ - in which case go for it, careers are more fluid than ever before - and differentiate between your hardwired reflex for self-preservation and whether this next opportunity really is the right fit.

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