Learner stories: From corporate HR to freelance coaching

After eight years working in Corporate HR, Hannah Salton was looking for a change. She’d completed a short course in coaching a few years earlier, and had benefitted from mentoring and executive coaching throughout her career.
ilm learners; ilm coaching; coaching courses

Whilst coaching seemed like a big leap from Human Resources, Hannah realised there was a lot she’d learned in her roles managing graduate recruitment teams that support her following her passion of becoming a professional career coach. After carefully researching the training options that would get her where she wanted to be, she enrolled on an ILM-accredited dual executive coaching qualification. Now, almost two years later, she finds herself working as a career coach and consultant, helping people to create more fulfilling careers.

“When I started my first ‘proper job’ after university, I barely had a one-year plan, let alone a 10 year plan. However, when I look back at my journey working in the professional services and legal industry, I’m very happy with where I’ve ended up,” says Hannah.

 “I worked in graduate recruitment for a number of years before, and while coaching was something I had been interested in for a long time, I wasn’t quite sure how to make the transition.”

Hannah enrolled at Bristol Business School for a dual-accredited executive coaching course, with an ILM Level 7 in Coaching and Mentoring. She found she really enjoyed was the practical nature of the course, which combines academic study with exercises and assignments in a commercial context. It was this focus on what coaching would be like in practice that really inspired her to take the next step.


My journey away from a stable corporate job to branching out on my own as a coach has been rewarding and filled with lots of ups and downs. I did a lot of planning before I got started, but much of the time you have to try many things and see what works; some opportunities and challenges can’t be predicted. I’d definitely encourage anyone thinking about doing the same to believe in themselves, and start taking steps today to explore all the different options available


Here are Hannah’s top 5 tips to anyone considering making the move to become a coach:

1. Research different routes and options

“I don’t believe many people wake up one morning and know exactly what it is they want to do with their career – it’s an ongoing, active process. I invested time into researching different career paths, and approached distant LinkedIn contacts and friends of friends to help me find out more about possible routes in to coaching.”

2. Talk to other coaches in the profession

“I was pleasantly surprised (and grateful) at how willing people are to spare 15 minutes on a phone call with me so I can learn more about their career, and these conversations undoubtedly helped me refine what kind of coach I wanted to be. Contacts may get nervous if they think you are approaching them on the hunt for a job, so be honest and explain you’re exploring different career paths and would like to hear more about what they do (and don’t) like about their career.”

3. Come up with a plan with timescales

“As many people know, getting started can sometimes be the hardest part, and it can be disconcerting starting on a certain path if you aren’t sure exactly where you want to end up. If doing a qualification to help with a career move is something you’ve been thinking about for a while, don’t let the missing pieces hold you back from starting. For me, coming up with a very high level plan with timescales really helped me to start progressing, and even though things shifted over time, putting together a loose plan helped me to kick start my journey to changing career.”

4. Don’t let other people’s opinions about your career choices put you off

“When I first told my friends and family about my idea to become a coach, I got a bit of a mixed reaction. Once I had explained I wasn’t set on becoming a football coach, they had a lot of questions about the ‘how’s and the ‘what’s of how I was going to make it work. Some of their concerns were valid and a certain amount of risk assessment and planning needs to take place with any career change. But keep other people’s worries in perspective and remember that the most important person to consider when making career decisions is you.”

5.Make the most of your network on the course

“If and when you do decide to make the move to study a qualification, make the most of your time on the course by getting to know your peers. It’s rare that you’ll have the opportunity to be surrounded by a group of like-minded yet diverse people, and this network might be very helpful to your later career.  I really enjoyed meeting such a range of people on my course, who were all joined together by a shared interest in coaching.”

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