Sometimes you just say ‘hi’ to someone and you KNOW that you’re going to get on. That was me at a kids birthday party a few months ago when I met Janine Esbrand. She was just so engaging and present and we soon got talking not just about our kids and how much birthday cake they were going to consume and how we’d deal with the inevitable 4pm sugar crash they would suffer, but also about life, what we did and how we juggled career and motherhood. I found Janine’s answers so insightful and asked if she’d have time for a coffee and a chance to sit down with me, and she found a little window of availability.
Janine Esbrand is the founder of LightBOX Coaching, she also still works as a lawyer and she has two young children. We talked beliefs, motherhood and sense of purpose. I asked her all about where she got her sense of ‘anything is possible’ from and why she believes mums are so powerful. Janine is an intelligent, articulate and engaging woman with a wonderfully driven attitude. Janine worked hard and smart to make it as a lawyer, proving her childhood teachers wrong. She has carried along her path of self-awareness and career satisfaction so that she now blends the roles of mother, life coach (www.lightboxcoaching.com) and lawyer.
With the recent release of The Multi-Hyphen Method book by Emma Gannon, it seems a particularly appropriate time to interview a woman like Janine who is making the multi-hyphen career and life work for her. I wanted to find out more about what inspires Janine, how she has created the career that she’s passionate about and how exactly she blends her work as a lawyer with her work as a life coach. Janine has a website for her life coaching business, LightBOX Coaching, she also has a podcast, a Facebook community and she’s just released her online course which is a four-week course helping women return to work smoothly. I told you she was a woman we need to hear from!
A: Hi Janine, thank you for meeting with me. It’s so nice when we can actually do a face to face. I’m having a cup of tea, and Janine is having a great looking hot chocolate. We meet in a lovely yoga café in Surrey.
I was looking at your website LightBOX Coaching and I found it really interesting because of the focus on helping mothers return to work with confidence. This personally resonates with me as it’s something I am trying to figure out and I seem to be having the conversation with a lot of my friends who feel the same, now that they we are all mothers. I think it’s a really valuable angle to have as a coaching business.
Let’s start at the beginning, have you always been interested in coaching?
I didn’t know about coaching until 2011. What I didn’t realise is that I had always been coaching but I hadn’t realised.
A: So how did it all begin?
It was back in 2011, I went on a mission trip to Africa. It my first trip to Africa and my first ever mission trip. It was an amazing experience where I got to use my legal skills to help people. We gave legal training to communities to tell them what their legal rights were, and to prisoners who’d been on remand for a period of time and hadn’t had access to justice. It was a great experience but when I came back to my job as a lawyer, I realised the work was very corporate; it was helping people to make money. It was really good stuff, but I had just come back from making an impact on people’s lives and now I’ve gone back to this, which is great, but there is something missing. I wanted to be doing more to help people, so I went on a search. That’s when I came across coaching and realised there’s this whole industry where people are empowering other people to achieve their potential and I thought, ‘bingo! This is it!’ Once I realised there was a whole profession around this I knew I had to jump right in.
When I came back I thought, I’m not the same person as I was before.
A: So how did you start your business?
I was on maternity leave in 2016 and I knew I would have space to think through my ideas and getting my coaching business started. In 2016 when my son was six months old I started Lightbox Coaching. I would take calls in the evenings when he was in bed and I’d be doing some admin stuff during nap times. Having a coach for myself at that point was really helpful in giving me momentum. My business coach kept me accountable to my goals. Whilst she was a business coach she was also a bit of a life coach, for instance, if I came to a session a bit low she would help me with that.
After my maternity leave I went back to work part-time as a lawyer and I had coaching clients on the other days and evenings and I was looking after my son.
That was actually working quite well. Then I got pregnant with my daughter and then since having a second baby in the mix that has made things so that I have to rethink how many individual clients I have at the moment because it is harder to manage with the two kids.
I have had to reshape how I run the business now.
A: Did motherhood change your career aspirations
Yes, definitely. When I first came to coaching I just wanted to help anyone with their careers or with their life. But it was when I became a mum I thought, I want to focus the launch of my business. There are so many mums struggling with the transition to becoming a mum, because it is a huge transition. How do you navigate your career after that?
That’s why my focus now is to help mums figure out what their careers beyond motherhood look like. At the core is wanting to help people to achieve their potential.
If you are a coach, you are someone who is inspired by helping people. And the very thing of helping someone is the thing that lights you up and gives you a buzz and so earning money is a by-product. Ultimately, you’re invested in that person achieving their potential.
A: How did you decide on the name for your business?
The name LightBOX Coaching came about because I feel like people need a light to be shone on their potential. Sometimes you then need someone to help you unpack the tools to fulfil that potential. You can achieve so much, you just might need a little bit of guidance. So as a mother, you don’t have to say goodbye to your career if you don’t want to. It is absolutely possible to either go back to the career you had before or carve out something new. As a mum you created life. If you created life you can create whatever you want in terms of your career. It’s about helping you realise that and step into that.
…I should say you co-created life
A: I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like I did the lion’s share of that! Ha ha
A: Were you familiar with coaching before you started looking into it as a career?
No, not at all. I went to a two-day event introducing me to coaching…that took me down a rabbit hole of researching different courses and then I started off with a home study course that I could do alongside my day job. Once I finished that I did some live training that was a lot more hands on and in-depth. Then I realised that so many people do have coaching and there are so many different types of coaches. There’s life coaches, career coaching, sales coaches, mindset coaches.
A: Why do you think having a coach is so important?
If you think about it all the top athletes, they all have a coach for a reason. They all have the potential. – Janine
For example, take Usain Bolt. He’s the fastest man on the planet, he has a coach, and his coaches input is massive in terms of his ability to perform. When you look at it like that it’s the same with our life goals. Having someone external, helps you maximise your performance.
A: Do you have a coach yourself?
Yes! Once I realised the power of coaching I thought ‘I need a coach’. I reached out and got one for myself. I’ve used a business coach and a sales coach. There’s something about having somebody who’s working with you towards a goal, who is keeping you accountable and that is also able to be your cheerleader in that area. That allows you to achieve in a way you might not be able to do by yourself.
A: So how does hiring a coach work? How long and how often do you see clients?
I give clients the opportunity of a free 30-minute chat so that we have the opportunity to see whether or not I can help you based on what you’re trying to achieve. It’s also a chance to see whether or not we’ll be a good fit. From there we’ll look at what you’re trying to achieve. It might be that you only need a one-off session in which case I have clarity sessions or kickstart sessions with people. Or it might be that we need to do a longer programme like a three month or a six-month programme as there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to get you where you want to be.
A: So, if you have a three-month agreement with a client, how often do you touch base?
I meet twice a month, because there’s always work to be done in between and we’re all busy women. I find that there’s enough contact there to keep the momentum going but also enough space to implement what we work on in between sessions. And I’m also available to clients via email in between.
A: Do you find clients come back at different points in their journey?
Yes, I do. Sometimes they come back a year later.
A: Have you always been this drive?
Yes, my mum has always told me from when I was young, you can do whatever you want. She instilled that in me from an early age. The world is your oyster and you can do whatever and that has stuck me, so I think ‘yeah, I can’.
In every stage of my career so far, I have come up against not knowing. For example, my legal career I didn’t have anyone in my sphere of influence. I remember a teacher asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said a lawyer. I remember she said ‘Well, I think you should think of something else’. Her thoughts were that I wasn’t in that area, I didn’t have lawyers around me.
…And I thought, ‘no, you can’t tell me that’. I made it my thing to figure it out. Everything is figure out-able.
I researched where I needed to go and what I needed. I connected with the right people. I found a mentor who helped me with my application forms. Before I found my mentor I wasn’t getting anywhere, I was getting rejection after rejection. I knew if they met me they’d like me. It was hard to keep getting rejections. I couldn’t understand. My mentor helped me re write my CV so I got three interviews and had two offers and so was able to choose which firm to go to and it was my mentors guidance which helped me.
There was no pressure from my parents. My mum’s thing was that she wanted me to leave school and not get pregnant. She wanted me to go to college but there was also no pressure to go to university. I don’t know where my drive comes from, but I know this is my strength.
How has motherhood changed you?
I think motherhood has made me realise that however driven I am, I can’t control everything.
Before my children I would figure out how to do something and do it. I can’t do that with my kid. My children don’t follow the rule book they do their own thing. I’ve learnt to chill out a bit, a bit more, go-with-the-flow. I have learnt a lot; I’ve learnt patience and I have learnt unconditional love. I have learnt so many things I didn’t know before.
For example, the sleep. I remember my mum saying, ‘he’ll sleep through at three months’. I got to three months and I went back to my mum and said, ‘why’s this baby not sleeping through the night?’. My mum said that she gave me a bottle to sleep through the night. I said, ‘I’m entirely breastfeeding, so when will this baby sleep through the night?’
My mum then said, ‘I’m sure by the time he’s eating solids he’ll be sleeping through the night’.
We got to six months and no. What’s going on? My son didn’t sleep through until he was thirteen months old. I realised, one, I needed to throw the books out the window and two, this baby is different to any other baby and so I need to learn him. I needed to let go of the timeframes I had around things. I learnt patience and to accept that I can’t control time frames.
I realise this situation isn’t going to change, so the only thing that will change is my mindset. I started to look at the situation entirely differently. When we were up in the night and it was so quiet and so dark and my husband was sleeping it was actually quite nice and even though I’m tired, I’m going to miss this.
So, now with my daughter who is still waking up in the night I think ‘well, we’ll just do this for a little bit longer’.
What’s your situation now with two babies and your career?
Now, after my second baby I’m building my coaching business and I’m also working for a fuel company as a lawyer I do a couple days of week. I’ve bought a portfolio career. I like practicing as lawyer and I like my coaching business so I’ve managed to merge them both and build a business around my family.
What’s the grand plan for your business?
My vision is that I will have a coaching and consultancy businesses, globally, helping individuals with their careers and launching their business for women who want to return to their corporate career or start up their own business. I also want to help organisations nurture and retain their talent, so that they don’t have their really talented mums leaving because there’s not enough structure or support for them.
I’m also going to be launching a membership site which will be a platform that will help me reach more people than I could one to one. Through that platform I will be offering coaching to individuals and guidance on their career path, plus how to juggle career and motherhood.
I’d love to be working all over the world, speaking at different events empowering women.
Do you mean empowering women, in terms of their career?
Yes, in terms of their career but I understand it’s all holistic so there are so many different aspects to us as a woman and your career plays into that.
If you could write something on a billboard what would it be?
You can, if you think you can.
Tell me about this smooth return course I’ve been reading about on your website?
It’s a four-week virtual course that I created to help women transition back to work after maternity leave with confidence. I created the course to help people transition because I realised how people lack confidence when you’ve been out of the work. The course helps them with the mindset to get prepared to go back and also looks at the practicalities of juggling work and family life so they go back confident and ready to start life as a working parent.
A: Do you have a link so that I can read more?
Yes, here it is
A: Anything else I should check out of yours?
I also have a podcast on my website and available through iTunes. It is called Careers Beyond Motherhood. Here’s a link
I also have a Facebook group you can join. It is also called Careers Beyond Motherhood. It is a community of like-minded women who want to build careers they love whilst raising families. Here’s the link
A: Isn’t Janine inspirational! I feel so grateful to have met her and had the chance to interview her for the blog. I feel certain that her philosophies and her courses could be of great use to many women out there. Do check her out. She’s wonderfully approachable, down to earth and filled full of good guidance.