In a work rut? Alice Olins and Phanella Mayall Fine from British career-coaching initiative Step Up Club talk to us about taking new career paths and shaking up your office look

Tell us how the Step Up club started.

Alice: Phanella (pictured, right) and I had very different careers originally – I was a journalist and Phanella was a fund manager. I’ve been good friends with Phanella’s husband for a long time, then I met her at a party and we ended up talking about women’s career issues. I had gone freelance after having kids and wasn’t enjoying it, while Phanella, despite being very successful, was unhappy in her career path. We realised we had very different but complementary skills and decided to write a book for women at a crux point in their careers – that was the start of the Step Up Club.

What does the Step Up Club do now?

Alice: After writing the book, we started talking on panels and met many women with the same story. At a point between their thirties and forties, these women were reassessing their careers, either triggered by motherhood or realising their career wasn’t going in a direction that made them happy. We’ve created an online course and hope to grow internationally in the future.

Why is choosing great workwear important?

Phanella: Confidence in your appearance is very important. Good clothes mean you feel great and influence the way other people perceive you. When I started working as a junior lawyer, we all wore black suits but now you can wear a bright suit, dresses, great separates – there are lots of options. Even if you are not particularly into fashion, it’s worth taking time to think about what you wear to work, as it can have a big impact on how people react to you.

What’s the best way to step up if you’re in career rut?

Phanella: Go back to the drawing board and think about what success looks like to you. You may have followed a particular path thinking it would make you feel successful, but it hasn’t. Consider what has made you happy in the past, what you value, what gets you out of bed in the morning. Once you start thinking about the potential elements you want in a new career, it’s much easier to find potential opportunities.

How has working together impacted your style?

Phanella: We’ve definitely had a big influence on each other’s style. When we started working together I dressed more formally because I was used to working in the corporate world.

Alice: I’m much more smart and polished because of Phanella – when I used to work at The Times in the UK I dressed so casually! I still feel like I’m always the baggier one whereas she is very pulled-together, but we have rubbed off positively on each other.

Editor: Sophie Hines / Photographer: Eva K Salvi / Stylist: Louise Carmel Hall / Hair stylist: Luke Benson / Make-up artist: Lindsey Poole


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