Old Member and coach Kate Jones (Modern Languages, 1988) was the keynote speaker at the first ever “Finding Our Voices” event and dinner in March. The event brought together current and former Queen’s students for an evening of networking and story sharing, in celebration of 45 years of co-education at the College.

Her five “provisional conclusions” about the great questions of life and work were so insightful, funny and encouraging that we asked her to pass them on to our New Old Members especially – and everyone else who is in need of finding their voice – or feet.

Provisional conclusion No 1: The Truth About Planning

Planning is over-rated and knowing is over-glorified. The truth is that cluelessness is one of the best tickets around to a life and career of adventure, stimulation, self-discovery and fulfilment.

I was as clueless when I graduated as I was when I matriculated about what my career might look like. But that has led to three wonderful chapters in my career so far: in social work and probation, in management consulting and in running my own business.

So if you are feeling lost, stuck or clueless about what next, congratulations!  You are onto something.

Provisional conclusion No 2: Life after Finals

Everything is a breeze after Finals. Period.

Provisional conclusion No 3: Defining Success

The second hardest thing (after Finals) is figuring out how YOU define success. Not how your family, friends, university peers or community define it. Not how society defines it. But how you define it.

Or perhaps to put it differently – figuring out how you define fulfilment, or what is enough or what it means to you to live or work well.

A lot of my coaching work is with individuals who are in the process of redefining success for themselves – often in their mid- to late 30s, and realising they want something different. In my experience it has definitely been an evolving process and, I suspect, will always continue to be. Take your time. Savour the questions.

Provisional Conclusion No 4: Invest in Self-Compassion

Self-doubt, anxiety and the inner critic can be one of the most pernicious destroyers of wellbeing in life and work. And one of the greatest derailers of people forging their own path.

So one of the greatest investments of time and energy we can make is in the development of our capacity for self-compassion and self-belief. A poem I sometimes offer to my clients for additional inspiration is Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson.  I love those lines:

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?

Marianne Williamson, Our Deepest Fear

Conclusion No 5 (nothing provisional here): We Need More Women in Positions of Leadership

Women remain under-represented in the world and we need more of them in positions of authority, leadership and influence in order to make the world a better place. 

Did you know that just 5% of FTSE250 CEOs are women?
Or that just 13% of global world leaders are women?
Or that it was only in 2023 that the Royal Academy featured its first exhibition by a solo female artist?
Or that there are more statues of animals in London than there are of women??!

On that note, here’s to 450 more years of women at Queen’s!

Kate’s career has had three chapters to it so far. Chapter 1 was in social work and probation, as a front-line practitioner and consultant in London and Romania. Chapter 2 was in management consulting focussing on deliveirng leadership development and culture change programmes to the public sector at PA Consulting Group. And Chapter 3 has been running her own coaching and consulting business, Neon, where she specialises in building Deeply Human leadership capability in purpose-led organisations. She works with a wide range of clients ranging from Jesuit priests to submarine builders, tech entrepreneurs, humanitarians, lawyers, bankers and more. She also provides fulfilment coaching to dissatisfied professionals seeking big changes in life and work. The golden thread linking it all is a fascination with people and systems and what enables them to change, and a desire to make a difference.