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I Want Your Job: Happiness expert

'Instant results are very thrilling'

Alex McRae
Thursday 25 October 2007 00:00 BST

Alexandra Watson, 38, is a life coach and "happiness expert" based near Ascot in Berkshire.

What does a "happiness expert" actually do?

I teach people how to get where they want to be, by coaching them through a step-by-step programme until they reach their full potential. I think that there's a formula to becoming happy, and the key is high self-esteem: a lot of my job is teaching people how to become bigger than their problems. My clients can be executives, athletes, entrepreneurs, performers or big corporations.

What's your schedule like?

It's quite varied. As well as coaching, I might be running a company seminar, working on a book, or doing a television programme. I could go from coaching an X-Factor finalist to working with an Olympic athlete in the same day. Sessions can last from an hour to an entire day. In the first session, I ask the person where they are now, and where they want to be – and then we work out what they need to do to close the gap. I try to break the journey down into interactive steps, so it's not overwhelming. Most of the time, people get where they want to be pretty quickly – otherwise, I'm not doing my job properly.

What do you love about it?

The best thing is seeing results. I've had people stand before me in tears, but once I've given them a practical exercise, the cloud lifts, their eyes start shining and they look completely relaxed. Those instant results are very thrilling. It's great seeing longer term results, too – when people have goals to work towards, they can change their mindset, and ultimately their life story.

What's the hardest thing about it?

What I find most frustrating is not being able to get to everyone. I see people who could really benefit from learning emotional management techniques, but haven't even heard of them. I've had some tough audiences, where I've been sent to a company to give a seminar and I find a group of people standing with their arms folded, looking like they don't want to hear what I have to say. We're up against so many happiness myths – such as that having a boyfriend, or being famous, is the key to happiness.

What skills do you need to be a great life coach?

You have to be able to walk the walk. You have to have your life in order, and be living to your own full potential, before you give advice to others. You also have to be able to listen on a deep level, and to read people. You need always to remember that it's not about you, it's about your client – so there's no room for egos. You should also be an expert on all aspects of personal development.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a life coach?

You should start from the ground up. There are plenty of schools offering solid life-coaching qualifications, so it's worth getting a diploma first and then getting as much experience as you can. Then you have to put in the hours – you can improve your intuitive skills, but you've got to practise. After that, you can choose to specialise in a particular area. I chose happiness, because I think all success starts from there, but lots of people focus on financial success, entrepreneurialism, or motivational work.

What's the salary and career path like?

There are no limits in this profession – no one will tell you how much you should charge, so it's up to you to think big. Starting out after life-coaching school, you could charge about £70 an hour. As you gather experience, your fee will increase. You can also gain income through books, seminars, personal appearances and personal mentoring.

For more information on training and careers in life coaching, visit the UK International Coach Federation at www.coachfederation.; the Coaching and Mentoring Network at; or the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development at

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