My Career: I'm very passionate about my work

Today in My Career we feature Coach and Job Search Strategist, Founder of Top of the Pile, Fatou Barry
My Career: I'm very passionate about my work

Coach and Job Search Strategist, Founder of Top of the Pile, Fatou Barry. Pictures: Noemi Thomschke Photography

Name: Fatou Barry

Age: 32

Lives: Cork city

Job title: Career Coach & Job Search Strategist, Founder of Top of the Pile

Salary bracket: Mid-five figures.

Education background: Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Foreign Languages, Master’s Degree in Audiovisual Translation, Certified Coaching Diploma from A.V.A. International Coaching Institute, Accredited Diploma in Life & Executive Coaching from Positive Success Group.

Hobbies: Anything personal development- related (reading self-help books, binge-listening wellness and business podcasts, attending seminars and online events, etc.), long walks in nature, volunteering, lip syncing, and travelling (in normal times).

Describe your job in five words: Positive, encouraging, supportive, non-judgemental and empowering.

Describe yourself in five words: Introverted, caring, optimistic, hardworking and persistent.

Personality needed for this kind of work? Entrepreneurial mindset, strong listening skills, resilience, growth mindset and purpose-driven.

How long are you doing this job? 18 months.

How did you get this job? When I was in high school I wanted to become a social worker, but at that time I was extremely shy and got discouraged by the remarks of well-meaning people. So I did what I thought was second best.

I had excellent grades in English and German, I loved writing and cinema, so I pursued a very niche translation speciality and graduated with a Master’s degree in Audiovisual Translation in 2012. 

The highlight of my early career as a freelance translator happened when one of the movies I translated for a festival was released nationwide (in France, my home country) and the distributor decided to keep my French subtitles! 

Most subtitlers wait a few long years before having the opportunity to translate a movie for a nationwide release and I was very lucky and grateful to be able to experience this only after a few months in business.

In 2013, I started a job as a town clerk in a village (random, but I had to pay the bills). A few months later, I got accepted for a very selective traineeship in the Translation Unit of the European Parliament and had the most amazing time in Luxembourg. After three months of total immersion in a multi-cultural and multi-lingual environment, I came back home jobless and dreaming of abroad.

That’s what led me to Cork in June, 2014, where I started working as a Technical Support Advisor for Apple. I have quite an interesting journey as a Cork-based multilingual professional. I had seven different job titles (including an internal promotion) and worked for five different companies in less than seven years working in Ireland.

The idea of ‘Top of the Pile’ was born in January, 2018, during a goal setting workshop hosted by JCI Cork and facilitated by the amazing Life & Business Coach Gillian McGrath who, at some point, asked us to write down a meaningful goal for ourselves.

During this event, I wrote down for the first time that I wanted to launch a career coaching business to help ambitious but frustrated multi-lingual professionals land a job they’ll love. I honestly didn’t know I had this big goal in mind before I put it on paper. Looking back, I think the dream was there for a long time, probably hidden behind some self-limiting beliefs that I managed to break free from and that I help my clients overcome today.

In 2018, I was awarded a qualification in Human Resources Management from Cork College of Commerce, and later completed two coaching courses in 2019. I officially launched my business on July 26, 2019, in Bank of Ireland’s Workbench on Patrick Street, Cork city.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? Coaching is not a regulated industry, so you don’t need an official qualification to call yourself a coach. Even though I made the choice to get certified (twice) in order to receive quality training and become more confident in my coaching skills, I am constantly working to become the best coach I can be by working with exceptional coaches who don’t always have a formal qualification.

I am a constant learner so I am always looking to improve my skills. 

I recently completed a course to become a certified trainer and deliver even more value to my clients.

Describe a day at work: I am a night owl and rarely go to bed before midnight, so I wake up around 7am with a morning meditation or a motivational podcast or audio. I start my work day doing something for my business or my clients, whatever that is. It could be posting an update on LinkedIn, creating a poster on Canva for an upcoming event or masterclass I am hosting, replying to a client’s email, sending a Zoom link for a scheduled session, or catching up with my virtual assistant based in a different timezone.

My clients can usually book their coaching calls three days per week from 5pm to 8pm. When I am not working directly with clients, I am usually connecting with people on LinkedIn, taking a course on a specific business area or working with my own coach. I am most creative after 8pm, so I usually plan my online events, develop my coaching offers, write my LinkedIn posts and create my social media posters in the evening.

What do you wear to work? I don’t believe in dressing up only for special occasions, and if I feel like wearing a cocktail dress to go to the office or for a Zoom call, I certainly will. The opposite is also true, I am happy to work from home wearing a headscarf and some loungewear. My only constant is wearing red or purple lipstick for my professional Zoom calls. It just makes me feel ready.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: Coaching my clients is not stressful. I am passionate about what I do and it doesn’t feel like hard work. On a scale of 1-10, I’d give it a 2. However, some work days are quite long and some weeks are very busy. When this happens, it is my responsibility to take some time off to unwind and take care of my mental and physical health. 

I have been burned out in the past and I am being mindful of not going there ever again.

When do you plan to retire or give up working? I’m just getting started, I am not thinking of retiring any time soon! At some point I would love to scale my business in a way that would allow me more free time for my other pleasures in life.

Best bits: Working with ambitious and like-minded individuals who are willing to take their careers to the next level and helping them reach their career goals. Receiving a lovely testimonial or a job update from a past or current client. Constantly learning and growing as an individual and as a coach. Building a business is the best personal development experience ever; it’s challenging but so rewarding.

Worst bits: The uncertainty of not knowing where the next client is coming from, especially in the early stages of the business. Having to do everything by yourself when you’re just starting out and don’t yet have a budget to delegate some tasks.

Advice to those who want your job? If you feel called to help others in a powerful and personal way, and want to have a positive impact on someone’s life, go for it! You don’t have to have it all figured out to become a coach. You are allowed to be a work in progress and help someone grow at the same time.

Before you decide to embark on a coaching career journey, I would encourage you to experience coaching, by hiring a coach or enroling in a coaching course, or both.

Any other comments? Listen to your gut, believe in yourself and trust that life is happening for you and not against you. You deserve being paid doing something you love. It’s not too much to ask.

Special message to my fellow non-native English speakers: not only can you land your dream job in Ireland, you can also create your own. If I was able to do it, you can too! If you need help figuring out your best next step career-wise, I’d love to have a chat with you.

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