Mélanie Blanc-Jouveaux: career transition and narrative coaching
Mélanie is a career counselor in Geneva at association F-information and also in her own practice, called Chapitre Suivant. She supports both men and women in moments of transition in their careers and she also helps teenagers and young adults in finding their own career path.
Bonjour Geneva: Your practice is called Chapitre Suivant, which in English means “next chapter”. You are indeed an expert of starting new chapters in your own career: from human resources manager to literary translator to career counselor... you have a very rich background. Can you please tell us what brought you to each of these changes in your career?
Mélanie Blanc-Jouveaux: My parents were both teachers with no experience in the private sector, and I wanted to be the first in my family to work for a private company. I started with an intense and rich experience in human resources in Paris. Still, part of me wasn’t satisfied.
I already knew that because of my own personal interests and the evolution of the socio-economic world, I wouldn't have a straightforward career.
BG: And then you decided to change...
Mélanie Blanc-Jouveaux: I’ve always been very passionate about literature and the English language. A friend of mine was working for a publishing company and she said, why don’t you become a translator? So I passed some tests and became a freelancer.
A while later, just when I learned that I was admitted to a postgraduate degree to become a professional literary translator in Paris, my husband got a job offer here in Geneva. I commuted between Paris and Geneva for a year to do the degree, which was one of the best years of my life.
BG: When did you realize it was time to start something new (again)?
Mélanie Blanc-Jouveaux: Well, for some years I was still stimulated by the intellectual challenge of translating. Every time you translate a book it’s like starting afresh. It was when I became a mom that I actually felt the loneliness and the dissatisfaction of having to work from home.
I wanted to do something that would get me out there, work with other people and give them some kind of support. I turned back to my first interest that emerged as a teenager: professional orientation. I’ve always been a firm believer in continuous education, and I’m convinced that it’s not true that once you’ve made a choice, it’s a choice for life, you’re stuck with it and you can’t change if you want to or even if you have to.
BG: You’re trained in narrative coaching, which seems fascinating. I guess the way we view ourselves changes completely depending on how we choose to sew together the various elements that make up our past experience...
Mélanie Blanc-Jouveaux: Well, actually you pinpointed exactly what the narrative approach is, meaning that we are not single-storied people. Often, we feel stuck with a label that we or someone else assigned to us, but we can choose to view ourselves differently. The whole process of narrative therapy and narrative coaching is to help people reconnect with their favorite stories so that they can regain a sense of agency.
As the founders of this approach said: “The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem”. You can’t erase the problem but you can make it smaller. You can work around it. Even if it still rears its ugly head in stressful situations, you’re going to focus more on these rich stories that you can tell about yourself through things that you’ve actually done, through values that are important to you and through resources that you actually have. Once you’re connected with what is most important for you, that problem will become less important.
BG: Could you tell us about your work at the association F-information?
Mélanie Blanc-Jouveaux: I’m there to listen and provide guidance in the professional area (there are two of us in career counseling), and I also have colleagues who give legal advice or psychosocial counseling. We are also there to provide information about what's out there in Geneva that could help you. We have a great library that is open to everybody as well as an intercultural network where women can share their knowledge. All women are welcome!