Where are they now – Hazel Martin at Virgin Money Giving

July 5, 2020
Case Studies
Where are they now?  Hazel Martin.

On the path to becoming an executive coach….

Back in 2017, Hazel got in touch with ViewVo (Brave Starts’ old name) as she was curious about life as a business psychologist.


Hazel started out in the Commercial Sector in Marketing, before switching to the Charity Sector in Fundraising and Events, then to Virgin Money Giving in the Commercial Team. Over the past 10 years, Hazel has increasingly developed an interest in the ‘people’ side of the business.  Her desire to learn and explore more about different careers and the reality of what was available out there was really helped by her voluntary work.  She’s done stints at Mind, she’s run workshops for Parentgym and for Action for Happiness which she’s been able to do without having to give up the day job.  In this regard, we want to do a big shout out to Virgin Money Giving for also supporting and helping Hazel have the time and space to do things like this which are critical for people developing a better understanding of what does/doesn’t suit them.

If you can, volunteer and learn – it’s a lot cheaper than a degree!

It was at this point that she contacted Brave Starts and Careershifters*. Hazel wanted to learn more about the field of Business Psychology.  Now, normally, I’d match our client with an expert, but in this case, that expert turned out to be me! I suggested we chatted as I’ve worked as a Business psychologist all my life in both consultancy/in house and now I help steer the profession in my role at the Association for Business Psychology (ABP) as Vice Chair.

A career in Business Psychology?

We had a great call discussing the reality of life as a Business Psychologist.  Whilst it’s a fabulous degree and a wonderful profession, many who choose to switch into this field struggle to make it work.  Why is this?

1. Traditionally, the British Psychological Society has been fairly pedantic about what undergraduate degrees will qualify you for a Masters course which has prevented many from taking this step any further. The Association for Business Psychology offers an alternative route via certification instead of chartership.  It is cheaper, quicker and has a greater focus on mentoring and practical application of skills: https://theabp.org.uk/professional-development/business-psychology-certification/

2. Even for those who do complete a Masters, the sheer popularity of the profession means any employer has a wide range of choice of who they hire meaning many completing a Masters degree struggle to compete

3. Due now to the increasingly ‘associate’ driven model of many of the consultancies, many tend to work with existing networks and those they already know. The chances for newly qualified psychologists to get great work opportunities has certainly reduced over time.

As the profession develops, those who can are crafting their own specialisms: web psychology, cyber psychology, social robotics etc. The world is wide and exciting, but for Hazel the idea of going back to academic study – when most of the Masters courses are still fairly heavily theory based didn’t offer huge appeal.  That combined with having two small children made her feel Business Psychology in its pure sense was probably not going to be right for her.

Retraining Opportunity

At the time, (as luck would have it), Virgin Money were offering employees the chance to train to become internal coaches.  The idea of learning more about individual motivations and drivers for people and combining this with developing a skill set offered Hazel the opportunity she needed which she grabbed with both hands.

Two years on and Hazel and I caught up recently to fill me in on where she is now.  She’s still working towards becoming a full-time coach.  She still works with Virgin Money Giving but this has now been negotiated to three days a week in her Business Development role, but she now spends two days a week devoted to her coaching (whoop!). She works with two clients within Virgin Money over 6-8 sessions as an internal coach and she loves doing this: it’s given her the security of an income and job whilst she retrains, but it’s also giving her the critical experience she needed to know and understand if this work is right for her.  She’s also studying for her qualification through CTI Coactive** before she goes onto applying for her accredited coach status through the ICF. They have a strong focus on the business development side of the work which many people aspiring to become coaches overlook.

Her next steps:

Once she completes her qualification, Hazel plans to explore more options for taking on more internal work at Virgin.  As someone who has been with the organisation for nearly 10 years, she’s in a really strong position to offer insight and support to many of the people working there.  She loves the fact she can relate to the terminology, she understands what all her clients mean when they are talking about promotion processes/sections of the business, so she can spend less time getting up to speed and more time focused on her clients and their individual needs. In the last month, she is now a licensed Firework Career Coach as she is passionate about helping people choose the career that’s the best match for them and overcoming any obstacles that might be stopping them from enjoying their work.

Shadowing at Virgin?

We both spoke for a while about the utility of shadowing and how as people get older and want to change jobs this might be something people interested in a career change can explore.  Recently she met someone doing an internship at a well known newspaper.  Once again, it was someone in their late teenager years who was able to get the opportunity through a contact/friend.  Whilst it’s brilliant there are organisations willing to offer shadowing, it does still feel too often this relies upon a personal connection and youth.  We’d like to see more organisations offering shadowing to career changers.  If you’re working at one and want to offer an opportunity through Brave Starts, do please get in touch.  We have lots of people who’d love the opportunity. As for Virgin – well, let’s see what Hazel can work out for us!  Watch this space 😊

*Careershifters offers an on-line community for people changing careers.  They take you through a series of webinars heavily focused on practical actions and reaching out to people.  We are a great supporter of their programme.

**Hazel rates this qualification: “it’s thorough and practical”.

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Anna Streule

Anna Streule is our Editor and Communications expert