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My journey with Sanctus

The first time I heard of Sanctus I was working in recruitment.

I had a full head of hair and no beard. Precisely the opposite of how you find me today.

It was either 2016 or 2017. I can’t remember exactly when or what it was specifically but it would’ve been the messaging at the time – “we all have mental health” – and the ambition to put a mental health gym on the high street. I’d never seen a brand talk like that before and thought everything they did and said was cool as hell.

I should caveat this by saying recruitment is an excellent career path for many people: you can make a fortune, a name for yourself, and a massive difference to hundreds, maybe even thousands of people’s lives. If I’m honest with myself, it probably wasn’t what I’m destined to do. I was lucky to work a market with relatively large fees, so I only needed to do a couple of deals to keep things ticking over. But I was struggling to stay motivated, or even particularly present during the day.

When I was left to my own devices, I felt like I thrived. When I was made to do what everyone else was doing, I’d zone out and plot my escape.

I was reading a lot of Tim Ferriss at the time: he talks about batching your emails, which was a revolutionary concept to me back then. In agency recruitment, you’re glued to your inbox and under pressure to respond to most messages as they come in.

There were other things, like I didn’t want to do power hours. This is where you try to win business from as many people as possible over the phone in 60 minutes. It seemed like every other agency in the world was doing the same thing at the exact same time. And it felt like a stupid idea to just carry on carrying on. I wanted to do things differently. Spend more time and effort on marketing. I thought there were better ways to reach people than hammering the phones for hours and hours a day.

I was right. I knew working environments existed that I’d be better suited to, I just wasn’t there yet. So at some point I quit my job as a recruiter, launched a pop up food brand the next day, had a break down a few months later, pressed the f*ck it button on my entire life, sacked off all my mates and moved out of London and back into my parents annexe.

I returned eight months later as a writer. All I ever wanted to be and everything I never thought I could.

My first encounter with Sanctus

Fast forward a bit and we didn’t know it then but it’s 2019: the year before the world changed.

I was a few years into being a Copywriter, the chip on my shoulder was visible from outer space, and I’d found the working environment I was after in startups. In so many ways, the antithesis of the corporate environment I just didn’t get along with.

I generally found the way of working is a lot more agile, the work itself was both more stimulating and rewarding, the people are generally a bit cooler and the perks of the job more varied, colourful, and actually beneficial. Case in point: Sanctus have come to our office to do a launch event for us. They explain we now have access to 1-2-1 coaching at work, where you can basically talk about whatever’s on your mind and get the support and guidance of a professional. How cool is that? The office is buzzing. We go out for beers with them afterwards.

I don’t actually go to a Coaching session right away. I end putting it off for a few months, not sure why. Time, I tell myself. Not knowing what to say. Not quite prepared to open up. It gets to the end of the year and the office gets quieter. You start to reflect. The mind wanders and the excuses begin to evaporate.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going in to my first session. I thought it might be a bit… therapeutic, diagnostic, clinical. I was pretty content with my life and didn’t really see the point in going along if I didn’t have anything obvious to “improve” or “fix”.

I don’t need therapy, I’m a big strong boy who can work things out for myself” is the lie you tell yourself. But I went along anyway because I promised myself I would and I guess you have to try these things if you’ve got the opportunity.

I spoke to Agnieska for almost an hour. I probably wasn’t the most open book but we were chatting about where, if anywhere, I would like to see improvement in my life. The only thing I could think of – which I hadn’t been particularly thinking about and wasn’t at all expecting to bring up – was that I wished the relationship with my brother was better. There isn’t much wrong with it, it could just be better.

We went over a model where you basically map out the different areas of your life as they are, and then again as you see them at their full potential. You then ask yourself questions about how you get from where you are to where you want to be. You often find seemingly insurmountable things are actually pretty straightforward when you look at them like that. I still use that model today.

A few colleagues said they couldn’t imagine not having Sanctus Coaching as a benefit and I was starting to see why. Then, like a whole bunch of people, I lost my job. Thanks, pandemic. Sanctus were the first people I thought to get in touch with to let them know I was on the market. They, understandably, weren’t hiring at the time, but that door had been left open.

What I’ve learned since joining

2022 and I had been writing about the recruitment industry for longer than I had been a recruiter. Moving sectors was always an option I wanted to explore. Sanctus had recently closed a funding round, were looking at investing some of it on expanding the marketing team, and like I said, that door was now open.

At the time I had a great boss, a team I loved being a part of, and the work I was doing made me proud. There was no real incentive for me to leave. But this was Sanctus. A brand I’d been into and followed since the early days. A brand that really stood for something, got right behind causes people were too shy to talk about and brought them into the light.

I felt positive after the interview. When I got the call, there was lots of silently punching the air and holding back tears. I called my girlfriend straight after and cried down the phone to her. She cried too. She knew how much it meant to me.

What I’ve learned since being here:

Sanctus is about so much more than mental health.

It’s the foundation, for sure, but it’s not everything. I know there are plenty of people who use Sanctus to support their mental health and wellbeing. It might be talking through thoughts and feelings or implementing proactive ways of caring for yourself. But it’s also preparing for a promotion at work. Or working up the courage to propose to your partner. Stirring up the motivation to learn a new language, or getting your habits in order so you can save for a holiday. Simply allowing yourself to be happy, at work and in life. Sanctus is mental health, but it’s also virtually everything else you could possibly think of.

Coaching is about so much more than therapy.

I initially thought you’d bring a subject to a session that you wanted to talk about, vent about it for a bit, and then analyse what’s gone wrong in your life and what to do about it. It certainly can work like that, it just doesn’t always. You often find the thing you wanted to talk about is actually less important in the grand scheme of things, and you end up talking about something you didn’t expect. Our Coaches always tell people they aren’t here to prescribe answers: they believe the answers already exist inside us, their job is simply to bring it out. That’s a massive understatement but they do that by asking clever questions, encouraging people to reflect, and essentially holding up a mirror so that we can see ourselves and our situation truthfully, and can come to our own balanced, informed conclusions about how to move forward.

People-first businesses do exist.

I’m not just talking about Sanctus, but the businesses we partner with as well. They don’t usually operate all that differently to regular businesses either, they’re just typically a bit nicer and more considerate. We’re always trying to learn and do more, but in a nutshell most decisions are parsed through a filter of “…and how will this affect our people?” and if we’re all happy with it, we tend to go with it, and if we’re not, we’ll work something else out. It’s cool.

Change is hard but it’s often not as hard as you think.

And when you get out the other side you’re usually in a better place one way or the other. I think deep down, we all know this. I think it’s probably why I was a bit hesitant about going to that first coaching session. You’re committing to making a change, even if it’s just looking at yourself or a certain situation differently. That has the potential to interfere with your perception of reality, which is unnerving. But it’s always worth it. There’s a quote from Seneca which goes “we suffer more in imagination than in reality”. Indeed.

People want to see themselves in content.

You don’t actually need to solve every problem your audience has ever had for them to find your content valuable. You also don’t necessarily need a list of features, a case study, a user testimonial, or a headline stat on every bit of content to make people buy your stuff. People want to feel seen, heard, and valued. Show them you get them and they’ll get you right back. Although that’s more a lesson about life than it is about content in fairness.

Where I am today

I do content for Sanctus. I mainly focus on the written word.

I’ve been a professional Copywriter for 5 years now. And I never believed I’d be able to say that.

One of the things our Coaches do is get people in touch with who they are, what their values are, their strengths and purpose in life. I feel like I’d kind of started haphazardly doing that on my own, and could have probably made a decent go of sorting my life out by myself (he says, with all evidence pointing rather squarely to the contrary).

The analogy we often use to illustrate what our Coaches do in the workplace involves swimming coaches. Doesn’t have to be swimming, pick any athletic pursuit you like. But let’s say you’re already a fairly decent swimmer. Regardless of how skillful you are in the water, you can’t deny working with a professional who has been meticulously trained to help you get better, tweaking the movement of your head or subtly altering the range of motion in your arm, seemingly tiny improvements that ultimately make the difference between success and not, Olympic glory or abject failure.

Coaching isn’t as black and white as that, but the approach is similar. It’s about taking what’s already there and helping you become the best version of yourself. Optimising who you are and unlocking the potential in who you could be.

I feel like that’s where I am right now. If you asked me 5 years ago what I thought I should be doing with my life, or what I thought my purpose was, I’d have probably said “writing about mental health and the human experience”. Very glad I get to do that.

Being a part of a coaching culture, playing a very small part in helping make work better for everyone, and (perhaps selfishly) working on myself were all huge draws for joining Sanctus. The chance to say stuff people all walks of life can resonate with, and hopefully get people into coaching who might otherwise never have given it a shot is currently what I’m all about.