Life coach Karen: ‘I’m better than Peep Show’s Jez’

Life coach Karen Campbell

Life coach Karen Campbell - Credit: Archant

Reporter James Morris meets Highbury’s answer to Jeremy Usborne, the sitcom character whose bungling attempts to help out his ‘clients’ have tarred the name of life coaching

Robert Webb, left, played Jez in Peep Show, alongside David Mitchell as Mark. Picture: Ian West/PA

Robert Webb, left, played Jez in Peep Show, alongside David Mitchell as Mark. Picture: Ian West/PA - Credit: PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

Most people’s only experience of life coaching comes from an unemployed slacker in his late-30s who thinks he’s a musician.

That man is Jeremy “Jez” Usborne, one of the two protagonists of popular Channel 4 comedy Peep Show.

In the eighth season, Jez’s latest “thing” becomes life coaching: helping a client work on an issue that is affecting their life.

Bumbling Jez, played by Robert Webb, forges a certificate and gets down to the job – with disastrous results 100 per cent of the time.

So fans of the show – there are millions – could be forgiven for suppressing a smirk when they speak to an actual life coach.

That is the position the Gazette finds itself in when speaking to 36-year-old Karen Campbell, of Leconfield Road, Highbury.

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But she is deadly serious about the benefits of life coaching, saying: “I genuinely believe everybody should have a life coach.”

Karen, at first, was sceptical. “I agree with people who say ‘life coaching’ sounds so American, and cheesy,” she says.

“But I got into it when I had life coaching sessions myself two years ago. I had been through a really bad break-up with my boyfriend. I felt a little slack, and didn’t know what do with myself. It turned out having that impartial life coach to talk to really helped.

“I was told I would make a good life coach myself. I was intrigued and got the qualifications last year.”

Karen coaches five “clients” over two days, and works in marketing for the rest of the week.

She deliberately keeps her distance during sessions: “My coaching is done over the phone. I do go to events around north London but in terms of my day-to-day work, I prefer the phone because you get more out of people.

“When you meet somebody in person, it’s human instinct for the two people to make judgements about each other, which can be a constraint.

“It’s very different from counselling, which is talking about the past. With life coaching, it’s very much about the here and now, what’s going on in their lives at the moment – whether it’s job issues or relationship problems.

“One example was a lady who has been in the same job for 15 years. In my opinion, she was being taken for granted because of this. She was getting upset but couldn’t even think about approaching her boss to ask for a raise. I worked with her closely to help her build up her case, point by point, and really lift her up.”

But Karen is also keen to point out: “I’m not claiming to be perfect myself.

“As a life coach you want to have ‘been there, done that’ and made mistakes. Everybody has had rubbish times and I pride myself in talking straight.

“It’s about getting to people’s values to help them realise who they are, and apply that to their goals. Nine times out of 10, it’s about building up confidence.”

But the burning question remains: what does she think Peep Show and Jeremy Usborne have done for her profession?

“I love Peep Show. It’s one of my favourite shows and Jez is a great character.

“Life coaching does have this stigma, but when you take it seriously – and are better at it than Jez – it is worthy.

“And plus, it’s not as if Mark [the snivelling co-protagonist] is an honourable character, either.”