Oct 18 2011
This week, my guest is Melissa Roske. She is the founder of Wheels in Motion Coaching, a New York University-trained Life and Personal Coach, committed to helping her clients to achieve their personal and professional goals. Certified by the International Coach Federation (ICF), Melissa is also an internationally published author, advice columnist and relationships advisor.
Hi, Melissa. It’s a pleasure having you as my guest this week. Please, tell the cool peeps a bit about yourself.
I like to think of myself as a Jill of all trades; a wearer of many hats, if you will: I’m an online relationships advisor for TheSite.org, a London-based advice-and-information service; I’m a certified life coach in private practice, in New York; and I’m a fiction writer, currently at work on my second novel.
You work as a Relationships advisor on TheSite.org, a website that offers support and guidance to 16-24 year olds. That sounds like truly important and satisfying work. How does the site operate? Can you describe how you and the other experts interact with those seeking help?
TheSite.org is owned and run by YouthNet UK, a British charity founded in 1995. It aims to be the first place young adults turn to when they need impartial advice and information, in a variety of subject areas. (My particular area of expertise is relationships and family matters.) When a young person writes to us for advice or support, we don’t judge or preach. We simply provide the needed information and advice in an informative, empathetic manner. TheSite.org also provides fact sheets and articles on all the key issues facing young people today, including: sex and relationships; drinking and drugs; work and study; housing, legal and finances; and health and well-being.
Since you began working on TheSite.org, have you been surprised by any the questions you or your colleagues have been asked? Has interacting with the young people who come to your site changed your perspective, challenged you, or taught you something new?
Although I can’t comment on specific questions (we maintain our users’ confidentiality, after all), I would say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. For instance, today’s teens – like teens from decades past – want to be respected and heard, particularly by their parents. It’s funny, but parents often assume that their teens want nothing to do with them; that their presence is unnecessary, and unwanted. I have found, however, that the opposite is true: Teens want their parents to take an active part – and an active interest – in their lives. The problem is, admitting that parents are actually pretty cool is, well… not considered cool!
That’s why many young people turn to TheSite.org for advice. They want to talk to their parents, or to their friends, or to a significant other, but they don’t know how to go about doing it. Our value comes from encouraging teens to start opening up to the people in their lives; to start the conversation and keep it going.
Along these lines, I’ve learned that expressing empathy and concern – to show a young person that I’m really listening – is more valuable than doling out practical advice. It all comes back to: “Young people want to be heard.”
Before working on TheSite.org, you were an advice columnist for teens at J17 Magazine. I know teens ask some crazy questions. I can still remember being one. Can you tell us about some of your most crazy, memorable experiences during this time?
Teens are a lot less “crazy” than you’d think! Most of the questions I received centered on how to cope with friends and family life (i.e., “Why is my best friend not talking to me?”; “Why is my little brother such a pain in the butt?”) You know, your everyday, run-of-the-mill teen problems. Oh, and pimples and periods. If there are two topics that teen girls never get tired of asking about, it’s pimples and periods! And boys, of course. But that’s a given.
I am fascinated by your work as a certified life coach. I know that many people have heard of life coaches, but not everyone is clear on exactly what a life coach does and what she doesn’t do. Can you elaborate?
Simply put, a life coach partners with a client to bring about positive change; to help a person reach his or her goals. The use of the word “partner” is key, as a coach is a client’s equal partner – not an “expert” or guru. The coaching relationship is also very different from a therapeutic one, in which a therapist or counselor is the viewed as a healer, so to speak. A coach and client (or “coachee,” as we say in the coaching profession) are considered equals, and the coach is expected to view his client as creative, resourceful and whole – not as someone who needs “fixing” or “healing.”
If I were to come to you tomorrow as a potential client and ask you to sort out my frazzled life as a reporter, blogger, writer, friend, sister, and husband-seeking woman, where would we start?
First of all, it wouldn’t be my job to “sort out” your frazzled life. It would be yours. As above, I view a client as creative, resourceful and whole; someone who is capable of sorting out his or her own life. My job as a coach is to help get the wheels in motion (hence the name of my coaching business, Wheels in Motion Coaching), by asking a client useful, open-ended questions. In the end, it’s more valuable for a person to overcome her own obstacles than to be told what to do.
I hear you have just finished writing a novel about a woman who may or may not be a little bit like me. Can you tell us about it? Is it autobiographical?
My first novel – which I’m in the throes of editing – is semi-autobiographical, about a magazine editor who is under the thumb of her manipulative, overbearing boss. I used to be an assistant editor at the now-defunct McCall’s magazine, and my boss at the time treated me in a less-than-desirable manner (notice how diplomatic I am?). I figured that I might as well put the experience to good use!
Do you have more books in your head waiting to be written?
I’m currently at work on my first middle-grade novel, which has been an incredibly rewarding – and fun – experience. I won’t give too much away, but I will say that my background as an advice columnist comes in mighty handy. And having an in-house preteen to critique my use of tween lingo (my lingo-tastic 12-year-old daughter) is even handier! ☺
You have a very impressive background. Please, tell us about your 20+ years as a magazine editor/writer.
Boy, that makes me sound so old! You’re right: I was a magazine writer and editor, in New York and in Europe (Brussels; London; Munich), for more than 20 years. In New York I worked at McCall’s, as above, and at Scholastic’s Instructor, a magazine for classroom teachers. In Brussels I was the managing editor of the Bulletin, an English-language news- and entertainment weekly. In London I was a freelancer for J17 magazine, and later, the magazine’s advice editor and columnist. I also freelanced for other publications (The Guardian; The Daily Mail; Mizz; Fast Forward; More) and wrote chapters for several books. This all occurred before my daughter was born, so I had the luxury to be so busy!
I envy your having worked overseas. What were the pluses and minuses of working in both Brussels and London?
The pluses are vast: a chance to experience other cultures; to speak other languages (French in Brussels, “proper” English in London; German in Munich); to meet exciting, new people; to see new sights, savor new flavors… The list is truly endless. The minuses? Navigating the public transportation system; having people answer you in English when you’re trying your best to sound like a native. Very frustrating!
Just like me, you reside in the New York area. New York City is my favorite getaway. Do you have a love affair with New York, too? What makes the city most exciting for you?
I’m a native New Yorker, which makes me a rare breed. I love the fact that the city is such an exciting amalgam of people, sights, sounds, smells. There’s always something going on, 24/7. To say that the city never sleeps is an understatement. It’s on Red Bull!
Social media is terrific, but it can be a great big time vampire, too. What advice would you give to people trying to use social media effectively? Any do’s and don’t’s for the struggling peeps?
When Facebook first arrived on the scene, I was all over it like a cheap suit. The same for Twitter. I’ve since learned that time management is key when it comes to navigating social media. Otherwise, it can be a real time-suck if you let it. I try to check my Facebook and Twitter accounts early in the morning, once during the day, and once again in the evening. I don’t always follow my own advice of course, but I try.
I’ve been forever called picky, but I maintain that we’re all picky creatures. What are you picky about?
I used to pick my nails, but I don’t think that’s what you mean! ☺ I’m actually very persnickety when it comes being on time. If we’re meeting for an appointment, you can guarantee that I’ll be there first. Every time! I’m more predictable than a Swiss train schedule, I swear! I’m also picky about thank-you notes. I send them religiously, and I love receiving them. But I’ve come to realize that not every is as picky about this as I am.
Where can peeps find you in cyberspace?