Jane Parslow

Jane Parslow is a Transitions Coach working with people in MidLife who are wanting to make big changes in their life, for example retirement (or avoiding it!), empty-nest syndrome, divorce, or becoming a carer. 

Through coaching and workshops, she helps people find clarity on their life purpose and develop a plan for achieving it. She then supports them as they make progress toward their goal, overcoming any obstacles on the way. 

She is based in the UK, although she works with people around the world. Her own purpose is to help people achieve the best for the rest of their life.

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.

I had a happy time growing up. Both my parents worked in education, so they emphasized the importance of learning, reading and debating. As a result, I did well in school, and I am passionate about life-long learning. Education certainly doesn’t end with school or university, and developing new skills is a big factor in living long and healthily.

My university course was History and Russian language, which included spending a year in Russia. Experiencing a completely different culture was a great way of developing my curiosity about the world … as well as my resilience! Those subjects were not at all vocational, but they developed my ability to see an issue in the round and to communicate on complex subjects. 

My role model was my mother. At a time when few women worked, and certainly not once they’d had children, she was the only mother in our street who worked. She’d gone back to college when I was 6, to retrain as a teacher, and then got a job lecturing in a further education College. She showed me that anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and that you can overcome prejudices by questioning them and arguing against them.

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.  

I had been consulting and training in project management for over 35 years and added coaching to my services when I qualified in 2010. I had been getting tired of all the travel and wanted to move away from corporate work. Then I reached my 60th birthday in the same year as my father reached 90. I realized that meant that I could have another 30 years of life, and that was too long to continue doing something I was no longer happy doing. At the same time, I knew that I didn’t want to retire.

After a few months of internal debate and discussions with friends and family, I realized that I wasn’t the only person to be having trouble deciding what to do with my ‘golden years’. I decided to change from helping people with big corporate projects to helping individuals with their personal change projects. It’s great to use the experience I’ve gained throughout my career and personal life to help others achieve their life goals.

Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea that made you start this brand? How did such a unique idea strike you, and what motivated you to “YES, go for it?”

As I’ve said, my personal experience of a MidLife Transition was the original trigger. The more I spoke with others about what I wanted to do, the more positive comments I got. It seemed that everyone in the ‘baby boomer’ generation was struggling with decisions about their future. It’s a large group of people, who are living longer than ever and, most importantly, living healthier for longer. If you retire at 66 today in the UK you can expect an average of another 20+ years of life. That’s a long time to do nothing! 

I realized that people are looking to find fulfilment in later life. They see that life doesn’t change just because they’ve reached a particular age, and it doesn’t end when work ends. Knowing I could make a difference to people in later life is a big motivation for me. 

Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?

I am trying to raise awareness that our later years can be a wonderful time of life, with many opportunities. Of course, some people are impacted by poor health and finances, but there are still ways in which they can find fulfilment. 

My background in project management means that I can support people in clarifying their goals, using practical methods to plan how to reach them, and celebrating as they make progress on their plans. 

I know that the biggest regrets we have are about the things they haven’t done in their life, and I want to support others in achieving all they can. I am passionate about helping people understand their purpose, what their legacy can be, and how they can achieve meaning in their life. Age is just a number and should not limit our dreams. 

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

Throughout my career I have been focused on the delivery of services. As a consultant and trainer, I worked as an associate for organisations that did the marketing. When I made the change into MidLife Transitions coaching, it was the first time that I had to do my own marketing. It was a big challenge for me, especially as using social media for marketing was new for me too.

Having tried by myself for too long, I have now seen that the answer is in collaborating and using others’ skills. Even if I can do something, it doesn’t mean I will! So, I have used the services of a virtual assistant (VA) to set up a mailing list and newsletter, and a marketing consultant to help develop a communications plan. On the workshops, I have joined forces with another retirement coach. We hold each other accountable for the task of writing and posting regularly on platforms such as LinkedIn. I’m far more able to commit to tasks if others depend on it, rather than doing it just for myself!

I also belong to several networking groups, where there is support and advice available from others who’ve already solved similar problems. Working for yourself can be difficult, so having various groups around me means that I don’t feel I’m doing it alone.

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level? 

When the pandemic came, I had already been self-employed and working at home for many years. So it didn’t involve as big a change for me as it did for many others. I’d also been coaching remotely since my training, although back then it was mainly by phone, and Skype was in its early days.

What the pandemic did was reassure other people that we could communicate virtually, and it helped my clients become much more comfortable with using technologies such as Zoom. So now I don’t need to persuade them of those benefits. 

I still think, though, that there’s a lot to be gained from coaching in person. During the early days of Covid-19, when we couldn’t meet indoors, I started meeting clients for a walk. I have now built ‘walk and talk’ into my coaching practice. I find it helps people to open up, and being surrounded by nature can bring inspiration and help look at issues with fresh eyes.

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention? 

I think I’m very good at being out of my comfort zone – sometimes through choice, and sometimes because it’s been forced on me! I have a tendency to sign up for things and only worry later about how I’m going to do it. 

For example, I have often been in a position of speaking to groups who are far more qualified than I am. However, I have learnt that my own perspective can be valuable to them. In my early days in project management, I would be teaching groups of experienced engineers, and I usually was the only woman in the room. It could be difficult to prove my credibility. As one of my skills is in presenting ideas in a way that helps people think differently, I hope that I went some way to changing their views of women in project management.

Although I now work in a different field, I still mentor some women in project management. I love seeing how they can grow and develop their skills. Unfortunately, there are still some problems in being accepted in traditionally ‘male’ areas, but I hope that I’ve helped my mentees show how valuable we women can be!

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

I want the world to become more accepting of older people, especially as there are more of us all the time. There are skills and abilities in every age group, and I would love those to be better recognised.

I would like to see more emphasis on collaboration and co-operation, within peer groups and across generations. We ‘oldies’ have a lot of experience and, I hope, wisdom. We understand how the world works and how to operate within it. Younger people have enormous energy, enthusiasm and understanding of modern methods and technology. How powerful could we be if we combine all those skills!

As we all live longer, it’s important to focus on flexibility and adaptation. Serena Williams recently spoke of ‘evolving’ from being a tennis champion into her next career. In a world where the average lifespan is approaching 100, its important that we don’t stay stuck in the choices we made in our teens and twenties. I’m back to that idea of life-long learning, which is vital at a society level as well as for all of us personally.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life? 

I’ve seen that what we see at the time as set-backs can actually be very positive. There’s always the opportunity to learn from what happens, even if that can sometimes take months or years to see clearly. If we take the perspective of a lifetime, huge events in our early years at work get smaller over time. There’s a lot of sense in the old adage of “this, too, shall pass”.

My motto is “One day I’ll look back and laugh at this.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

In the political arena, we’re seeing women leaders step down when their role becomes too demanding. While that can sometimes be presented as showing weakness, I think it’s also a sign that the old, masculine, approach to leadership roles isn’t always the best. When women try to do things the way men have always done them, it can lead to burnout. 

While we’re seeing a growing role for women, and it’s certainly changed since my mother’s day, it’s important that we bring our own perspective to it. There are ways of leading that mean we can be gentler on ourselves, those around us, and the women following after us. Our challenge is to be able to bring those leadership traits into the mainstream … and that might mean it’s down to us to show that they work and are beneficial to our societies.

I also believe that whenever we are in a position of power, it’s our responsibility to make sure that we are helping our successors. We’re still, even in the 2020s, leading the way and it’s great if we can make it an easier path for the younger generations.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

Find yourself a mentor, team up with positive and supportive people. Don’t think you have to do it all yourself, or on your own. And then, most importantly, pay it forward by becoming a mentor yourself.