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Applying human rights to coaching & consulting
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About this webinar

The sixth webinar of the series ‘The Road Less Traveled’ focused on graduates working in coaching and consulting. We discussed how human rights knowledge and expertise is used by our three guest speakers. Which difference do they make for the realisation of human rights through their work? Which advice would they give to graduates interested in similar professions? 



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Aim for slowness! Creativity needs slowness.

Vanessa Trapani


After a degree in Slavic languages in culture in Venice, she studied minority and identity issues in the framework of a MA in European Studies (2002). She completed her PhD studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology in Bilbao, Spain in 2011. After a few years abroad, mainly in Russia and Poland, she worked as a human rights expert at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After moving to Milan, from 2008 to 2016 she has worked as a consultant for the international development of SMEs, with a focus on EU funding. Since 2016 she has become an independent consultant for the social innovation of SMEs and co-founded an NGO called Sloworking, which is committed to spread a work-life balance culture and support women in their professional and economic empowerment.
Alumna of GC Europe
Folllow her on LinkedIn: Vanessa Trapani


Networking is key! Networking is about establishing a real connection.

Niamh Walsh


Leadership and career coach and mentor helping early to mid-career international affairs professionals take the next step forward in their careers. She is Director at the Oxford Coach Ltd. Prior to this she worked in senior advisory roles for the EU delegation in North Macedonia, The OSCE in Vienna and the EU Advisory Mission to Ukraine.
Alumna of GC Europe
Follow her on LinkedIn: Niamh Walsh


Don’t be afraid of mistakes! It is better to keep improving on the way than trying to be perfect from the beginning.

Marco Blanco


Founder, CEO & Principal Solicitor of Child Safeguard. Child Safeguard is an award winning consultancy firm that helps organisations implement strategies to prevent harm and abuse to children through the implementation of Child Safe Best Practices. Child Safeguard advises clients across multiple sectors including Local Government, Sports and Recreation, Education, Performing Arts, Tech startups, and Not for profit organisations. Marco is engaged by law firms to provide expert evidence in child abuse litigation matters. He currently lives in Sydney, Australia.
Alumnus of GC Europe
Follow him on LinkedIn: Marco Blanco


Applying human rights to coaching & consulting

The sixth webinar of the series “The road less traveled” shed a light on coaching and consulting. The three guests talked about the rewards and challenges of their profession; they also shared useful tips on how to set up your own business and advance in your career.


Shape your future self

Vanessa Trapani explained that she looks at the world through the lens of human rights, even though she almost never uses the language of human rights. Vanessa started her academic path and career in Slavic languages and wrote her thesis applying linguistics to human rights. The now independent consultant for the social innovation of SMEs and co-founder of the NGO Sloworking mentioned the difficulties of having a good income when you start your own business. Nevertheless, she would not want now to give up her financial independence: “I feel motivated by the fact that if I work a lot, I can also earn more, it's up to me.” After graduation she felt a lot of pressure to become a human rights defender. First, she thought she was losing a big opportunity to make a career in human rights by not working for an inter-governmental organisation or a well-known NGO. Only later, she realized that you do not need to work for those organisations to have a big impact. For Vanessa, the Japanese Ikigai concept that puts together what you like, what you are good at, what you can be paid for and what the world needs was helpful to find her way. “It must be done again and again to shape and reshape your future self”, stressed Vanessa.


Her pieces of advice for starting a career in coaching/consulting:

“Any good business starts with the awareness of a need, which is not satisfied at all, or could be satisfied better. Look at yourself: What do you need? What would you like to change around you? What doesn’t work? What could be done better?”
“Aim for slowness! Creativity needs slowness, if we run fast all the time, we can’t be creative. The idea of slowness is the idea of being in the right place, at the right moment, with the right tempo; we call it “il tempo giusto” in the music vocabulary.”
“Flexibility and creativity are key if you want to reshape your business.”
“Regarding social media: It is good to foster your visibillity, but there is also a certain pressure to be everywhere. We can’t do that and that is okay. Being present and focusing on some channels or topics is fine as well.

The freedom of being your own boss

Active listening, creating relationships and networking are key skills for Niamh Walsh, Director of the Oxford Coach Ltd. As a leadership and career coach she helps human rights professionals to gain clarity about what they want in their careers and how to take the next step. Niamh stressed that having studied human rights has been a privilege for her and that it had a profound impact on her life, both from the point of view of values and from the fact that she works mostly with clients in the human rights field. The biggest reward for Niamh from working on her own is the freedom. “You set your own agenda, you can schedule your time yourself and you can work with the type of people you want to work with”, says Niamh. At the same time, she recognizes downsides such as not having colleagues around or a boss you can address. “You really have to be a self-starter, you have to know your goals and feel aligned with what you are doing”, said Niamh. She believes in the impact that everyone can have and recommends surrounding yourself with people who support you and with whom you can share ideas with.


Her pieces of advice for starting a career in coaching/consulting:

“Don’t go into coaching/consulting straight after graduation. It is important to first gain some experience, work in the field, work in the headquarters, and really know how it is to work in a stressful environment with competing priorities and to work in different cultural environments”
“Do your research to find a niche that is not saturated yet. Think about what can be offered differently, what is needed and missing.”
“Networking is key! Networking is connecting authentically with people with mutual interests.  It is establishing a real connection.”
“To establish a network, ask yourself: Who do I know right now? How can I reach out to them? How can I articulate what I want/need?”
“For the technical challenges: find someone to help you with finances and legal requirements. Good accounting is key. You will see that there are lots of experts specialized in that, so you don’t have to do it on your own. You just have to find the right people to help you.”
“Keep a career diary: Write down in a notebook the projects you worked on, any key skills you have learned, any insights you got, any person you have met that inspired you and you would like to meet again or keep in touch. At the moment of transition, you might not remember all the details. Plus, it will be a real morale booster on days you don’t feel so confident.


Make mistakes and learn

Marco Blanco worked first for the not-for-profit sector and realised that a lot of the time was spent on fundraising that made the organisations quite fragile. He came back to his home country Australia when the Royal Commission on sexual abuse on children was delivering their results and set up his own consulting firm. The Founder, CEO and Principal Solicitor of Child Safeguard had a strong vision and a strong determination. “But I certainly wasn’t able to foresee the challenges to hit.”, he says now. “It took me a long time to understand, but you really have to be prepared to make mistakes and to learn from them.”, says Marco. It was crucial for him to have started first working as an employee, and only later with enough experience and confidence starting his own business. A certain sense of control, creating your own path, a greater sense of freedom and the ability to make important decisions – the rewards of having your own business are very fulfilling for Marco. “Nevertheless, it is important to be resilient and patient, to be prepared to take risks, to know how to manage stress and to be able to identify key people who can help you and give you some guidance.”


His pieces of advice for starting a career in coaching/consulting:

“Show the value of what you have to offer. Put yourself in the shoes of your client and try to frame it from their perspective. Which value does your offer have for their organisation, for their stakeholders?”
“Refer in your offer to the legal framework. Most companies and organisations are only interested in compliance.”
“Use social media to market yourself.”
“I did internships myself, but they can be extremely exploitative. Be aware that some human rights organisations are very contradictory having these unpaid internships.”
“Don’t be disappointed after graduation if you don’t find your perfect job right away. It can take time, you have to evolve into the direction you want to go to. It also takes time to build your brand. Have an open mind and make the most out of opportunities.”
“Try to meet as many people as you can, also in other settings. Different people can bring different perspectives and opportunities.”
“You have to learn new skills when starting your own business. I had to focus on being a sales and marketing person and to learn how to engage with and how to win clients.”
“Don’t be afraid of mistakes! It is better to keep improving on the way than trying to be perfect from the beginning.”


Summary: Milena Österreicher  | LinkedIn

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