Updated: Jan 27
"Don’t you think it’s odd that it’s successful businesspeople who get access to coaching, when if more people had access to it when they were younger, they might actually end up in those successful positions?"
The rhetorical question, offered by one of my newest Make Your Mark ambassadors Emily Dow, is a critical one at a time when so many businesses are striving to build and diversify their talent pipelines.
Having experienced the transformative power of coaching, Emily, a financial economics student at St Andrews University, now feels so passionately about its benefits that she’s joined my small group of young ambassadors.
All volunteers, these ambassadors share their experience of coaching and encourage their peers to engage with it, including signing up for a free-to-attend place on my Make Your Mark Winter School.
So, as we enter Europe’s ‘Year of Youth’ to empower young people, what better time to introduce my four newest Make Your Mark ambassadors?
Here they share why they believe there’s nothing more empowering than coaching and why it should be far more accessible at the point it’s needed most – before young people embark on their professional careers.
“I left Susan’s programme in shock,” says Ally Hogg, a fourth and final year accountancy and finance student at Stirling University.
“I’ve spent the best part of my 21 years in education. I’ve got eight highers (Scottish qualifications that can lead to further study), and I’m just about to finish my degree at a university I love, but my 12-week internship with responsible investment management firm Baillie Gifford last summer, of which Susan’s Make Your Mark programme was a highlight, is the most influential thing I’ve ever done for my career.”
Ally explains his shock as three-fold. Firstly, how greatly coaching has impacted him. Secondly, that he’s only just learning skills fundamental to professional success. And thirdly, that too many young people will never get access to coaching and the learning it affords.
“I don’t want to get too emotional but it’s hard not to when I’m so passionate about this. My coaching experience has genuinely helped me… a lot." - Ally Hogg
"I can immediately point to other young people who would benefit from this type of programme – it’s why I became a Make Your Mark ambassador. There was someone out there who understood coaching’s benefits and enabled me to access it. Now I understand that I want to give someone else the opportunity to experience coaching too – a kind of from me to you,” says Ally.
He’s far from alone in feeling this. Recently appointed fellow ambassadors Catherine Hogan and Ross Faulds, have already reaped rewards by applying some of their Make Your Mark learnings and are also passionate about paying forward their experiences.
“I always knew I doubted myself and that my confidence was quite low. But learning about the inner critic with Susan, what it is and that everyone has one has been beyond useful,” says Catherine who is studying business management and social change on her degree apprenticeship with Queen Mary University, London.
“It’s helped me understand just how much I was discounting myself and holding myself back. Susan gave us techniques to spotlight the inner critic and while mine may control my thoughts, I now have tools to prevent it controlling my actions.
I’ve subsequently found the confidence to put myself forwards for more opportunities.”
More recently that’s seen Catherine speaking publicly about her own mental health, including her childhood experiences, with charities such as ‘OK Our Kids’.
Aspiring solicitor Ross, studying at Glasgow University, is also celebrating, having recently secured a training contract with Scotland’s 4th largest independent law firm, Thorntons LLP.
“When I was going for those interviews, my learnings from Make Your Mark definitely helped,” says Ross.
“Susan spent a session going through how to be professional but friendly. I knew professionalism was important but understanding that employers want to see some of your personality and how to do both, that was useful. But Susan also shared techniques to control your thoughts, your breathing, and that helped me feel more in control.
"Interviews can be stressful but being able to calm myself and focus, these techniques made a difference.” - Ross Faulds
Yet Ross has never had any support to develop these non-technical skills, which clearly helped him secure his recent traineeship. It’s why he now believes young people “should definitely be getting support like this.”
It’s a sentiment shared by so many of the 100 or more young people who have already freely attended one of my Make Your Mark student schools, but it’s beautifully expressed here by my newest ambassadors.
“I find it astonishing that nobody’s even vaguely touched on anything Susan’s shared with us during my education,” says Emily.
“Now I’ve had access to this programme and its insights, I feel a responsibility to raise awareness about coaching and make other young people aware that what they are feeling and how they are acting is okay. Why do we have a model that only gives people access to a coach once they’ve succeeded? It makes no sense. Young people need these skills at the outset of their careers.
"I’m not suggesting that every young person should automatically be handed an executive coach for free, but something needs to change. I feel we need to give young people the key to success - and that key is coaching.” - Emily Dow
Catherine adds: “I’m so grateful that I’ve been one of the fortunate ones who’s been able to attend this programme at such a young age. But everything I’ve learned would have been so useful to me, even before this point, when I was doing my A-levels. You must want to improve yourself and challenge assumptions about yourself so it can be an uncomfortable process, but if you are willing to engage, coaching has the potential to benefit all young people, which is why I’m championing making it far more accessible to young people.”
Ross adds: “There are so many sessions you sit through as a student where you are just watching the clock, but with Susan you are engaged the whole time. What she says really resonates. The best way I can describe it is that she is sharing something you’ve always known but you’ve never been able to crystallise into words or anything actionable.”
And Ally has the last word: “There is so much outdated learning in education, we’re still taught things that are never going to serve you or an employer. Just imagine if they swapped that sort of thing with learning some of these critical skills. Imagine how much impact that would have on someone’s life,” says Ally.
"To say this coaching experience has been a huge bonus is an understatement. I’ve become an ambassador because Make Your Mark has taught me a lot about myself, it’s given me the opportunity to be who I want to be and I’m passionate about making it available to help other young people." - Ally Hogg
An International Coaching Federation (ICF) Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with a Master's degree in Voice Studies, Susan Room is one of the rare few qualified to provide voice and executive coaching. This unique blend helps others feel, look and sound confident – improving performance and happiness. Susan’s corporate clients include Baillie Gifford and Financial Times. She launched her Make Your Mark student school initiative at the start of the pandemic and, in partnership with former ICF Global Chair and Master Certified Coach (MCC) Tracy Sinclair, now runs a virtual free-to-attend school annually for students… just like Emily, Ally, Catherine and Ross.