Red Sofa Interviews

Rachel Brushfield on the Red Sofa

Interviewer: What does a ‘Talent Liberator’ do?

Rachel: I help my clients to liberate more of their talent and achieve an uplifting breakthrough at major career and business crossroads.

Interviewer: You have a portfolio career.What’s a portfolio career?

Rachel: A portfolio career is a future-proof career which you can flex and adapt for changing times. You have different strands to your career, rather than just one thing. Portfolio careers have been growing for a while, fuelled by younger workers wanting to travel and set up their own business and the 50+ market seeking a ‘slope’ rather than ‘cliff’ to retirement. The coronavirus impact is causing many people to have a ‘career reset’, even if it isn’t what they would have chosen. Many people resist change, so forced change often has a positive outcome.

Interviewer: How has lockdown life been treating you?

Rachel: Pretty good and it has been great not to have to travel, although lot of my coaching is done on the phone and Skype anyway.  I have been in lockdown with my husband and our cat, and haven’t had the home schooling responsibilities that many self employed people have had. The Spring cleaning has been very thorough this year! We are lucky to have a garden and allotment, and they have been receiving a lot of tending! I spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting doing house sits and on career retreat, as I write a lot, so lockdown has been not that different- it’s just that the career retreat has been on ‘home turf’, rather than away!

Interviewer: In over 20 years of running your business, how has your business changed over time?

Rachel: Energise was established in 1997, and at the start I did freelance strategy work for communication agencies, defining brands, lots of new business pitches etc, as marketing and brand strategy is my career heritage. I retrained as a coach, and initially did a mixture of executive, life and career coaching for corporates and individuals. I started attracting mainly women professionals wanting a career change and help marketing themselves. People wanting more career fulfilment, flexible working and a portfolio career. Now, the mix is always changing as I have a portfolio career. I am a published author, do content creation, lots of events for membership organisations and women’s networks, I co-run my own network PWHub for senior employed women, all sectors in Oxfordshire, do lots of career coaching with individuals plus talent management consulting for progressive small businesses needing or wanting to change/update their workforce planning. I don’t fit in one ‘neat box’, nor do I want to. I often work with people who don’t fit in one ‘neat box’ either.

Interviewer: Who are your clients?

Rachel: I work with a lot of solicitors as I have focused on the legal profession as a core sector for over 18 years, and lots of professional women at a major career crossroads wanting to change career direction and become self-employed. People come to me when they are ready for change, fed up of being fed up and knowing that they cannot crack it by themselves.

Interviewer: What have been the most radical career changes by your clients?

Rachel: One of my clients who was made redundant set up a business organising cheese holidays! Another client changed from being a solicitor to working in management for an orchestra.

Interviewer: What do you most love about your work?

Rachel: I absolutely love the variety and the fact that I am always learning. I also really love to see my career coaching clients grow in confidence and get clear and achieve their career goals. They come back to me at their next major career crossroads, which is lovely.

Interviewer: What are the best talents of ‘The Talent Liberator’?

Rachel: Listening, questioning, thinking out of the box, making connections, both insights and introductions to people in my network. I have done more events on helping women to ‘blow their own trumpet’ (market themselves) than any other topic. I am also very good at ‘positive reframing’ which has been very useful for the V.U.C.A. (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world in which we live. I can find something positive in the darkest of situations, and help my clients to do too. I am very practical and down to earth too.

Interviewer: What are your 8 tips to create sustainable and fulfilling career success in fast changing and uncertain times?


  1. Build your network
  2. Take responsibility for your own career and make sure that your skills and knowledge are future-proof
  3. Look at trends as they can change quickly
  4. Invest in your career capital (things that make you marketable vs your competitors)
  5. Believe in yourself
  6. Create a career plan A, B and C for uncertain times
  7. Know and follow your values
  8. Get a career coach!

Interviewer: What/who inspired your own career path?

Rachel: Charles Handy who wrote books including ‘The Age of Unreason’ and ‘The Empty Raincoat’ inspired me to set up my own business in December 1996. He questioned why the working day had to start at 9am and end at 5pm. I naturally wake very early and have an afternoon nap, so the 9 to 5 format doesn’t work for my timeclock, or the office world!

More recently Lynda Gratton, a professor at London Business School who wrote ‘The Shift’ in 2011 about the world of work in 2020. I was lucky to read her book in 2011 and have been implementing what she recommends; develop a mastery area, 5 different work strands, create a personal brand and build a large diverse high quality network. Done. More recently, her book The 100 year life is worth reading.

Interviewer: What make you different from other career coaches?

Rachel: There’s only one ‘Talent Liberator!’ Experience – I have been doing career coaching for over two decades. My clients and contacts tell me that what I have to offer is unique. I am an unusual and useful mixture of skills, experience and knowledge because I have always looked at trends and made updating my skills a priority. My specialism is portfolio careers and I have an analytical brain which is also lateral, really useful to help my clients to rethink and see the transferability of their skills, knowledge and experience into new areas. Many people are going to have to rethink their careers even if they didn’t want to. My marketing and branding career heritage are really useful to help my clients to market themselves. A lot of people don’t like marketing themselves or don’t know how.

Interviewer: What do you think will be the long-term impact on the world of work from the coronavirus?

Rachel: I don’t think it will go back to what it was before coronaviris. It has been changing for while, but very slowly. The lockdown has forced companies to rethink and embrace the new. The new normal will be better for the environment and provide greater flexibility for the many people who seek it, including working parents. More people will have a portfolio career.

Interviewer:  What’s the best and worst decisions you have ever made for your business?

Rachel: The best decisions I have made were 1) to have a virtual PA. This has helped me to play to my strengths, reduce stress and build my career capital. Also, 2) regularly spending time on ‘important but not urgent’ tasks and making time to take a step back and think, look at trends and build my career capital. (I am a published author) The worst decision? I took a self-funded 6 month CPD break just before the credit crunch in 2007 and lived off my savings to invest in my long term prospects and get into the talent management and employer branding area. No one could have predicted the credit crunch, just as no one predicted the pandemic. It was a very difficult time, but it has made me very resilient, and that decision and investment is now paying off! I am very determined!

Interviewer: Are you more of a ‘words person’ or a ‘numbers person.’

Rachel: I am definitely more of a words person. English was my favourite subject at school and I write a lot. That’s why it’s great knowing good ‘numbers people’ like Roger Eddowes to help businesses keep a close eye on the numbers!

Interviewer: What’s your favourite inspiring quote?

Rachel: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Alan Kay.

Interviewer: What next for Energise?   

Rachel: Like many businesses, I am looking at how I can re-invent what I do for a more on-line world. I am updating my online products to help more people to re-think their career. Watch this space! That, and hopefully a short break somewhere in the UK to re-energise when we are allowed to!

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