5 minutes with: Pelin Turgut, Escape School Faculty

Pelin coaches for creative professionals and teaches worldwide supporting individuals who seek to bring more of who they are to their creative projects, businesses and lives. She’s run both the Startup Accelerator and the Career Change programme for the Escape School and in her former life she was a correspondent for Reuters, TIME magazine and The Independent for more than a decade before going on to co-found !f Istanbul, the popular international independent film festival. Pelin shared her take on what it’s like to be a part of the Accelerators, and her own career journey.


Hey Pelin. Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Escape?
I joined the Escape Faculty in 2019. I lead the Startup Accelerator programme with Ben Keene in May and also co-ran the Career Change programme with Skye in February. I’m a storyteller, coach and facilitator.

Connecting the dots looking backwards, what led you to Escape? (What were you doing before?)
My brother was on the Startup programme in 2015 so I’d seen first-hand how transformative the Escape process is. I’m a lifelong creative entrepreneur – founder of a successful independent film festival and international script development lab – and a facilitator so Escape helps me connect my passions: helping people create meaningful work stories that matter.

What’s your favourite thing about running the programme(s)?
I love watching people make the shift from surviving to thriving. They start to take creative risks, becoming more visible, powerful and effective in ways that often surprise us – and them! I also love the sense of community – it’s hard to meet a better bunch of humans 🙂

And what do you find the most challenging?
Everyone’s Escape story is different and unique. As a facilitator, you have to figure out the best way to support each individual, no one size fits all. The challenge is always to let go of any idea I might have about what’s best for the person in front of me and be open to what’s alive in them.

You must have helped to guide a lot of people through major career shifts over the years. What do you think are the three most important things for people to know before making a major change like starting a business or changing careers?
It IS a big change. Expect movement in all areas of your life, not just your work/career.

Create an eco-system that can support you: make sure your partner/family are on board, that you have friends who understand and practices/resources that help you to stay resilient. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. The Escape community is a huge positive resource for this.

Change might not look how you thought it would 🙂 Allow the process to take you where you need to go without being too controlling of what you think the outcome should be. We have participants who start out wanting to quit their jobs and end up happily staying after having radically redefined their work roles, for example. Or entrepreneurs for whom success comes from an unexpected side hustle. Or a random conversation that leads to a great business partnership. It`s rarely a linear process. The trick is to stay focused AND be open at the same time.

And what do people typically find the most challenging about the transition?
Uncertainty and the unknown. As humans, we are so uncomfortable with this.

How can people circumnavigate this challenge?
Stay well-resourced. A community like Escape, friends and family who ‘get it’ and mentors are invaluable. We are not meant to do this alone. Stick with whatever keeps you nourished and healthy in terms of lifestyle, avoid what we call energy drainers. Trust the process!

There’s such a huge range of coaching services available – from one-to-one mentoring, online courses and programmes built around community. How can people figure out which route is most suitable for them?
I’m a big believer in the power of community. We gain so much from the support and inspiration of being with others who are in the same boat. It also helps us stay accountable. Personal coaching or mentoring is really helpful to go deeper into individual questions when needed. Ideally, a mix of the two.

Are there any trends, new ideas or businesses that you find particularly exciting/ inspired by at the moment?
Creativity is a word that keeps popping up both for companies and as an individual capacity that employers are looking for. As a writer and storyteller, I find this very exciting.

I found the Extinction Rebellion movement really inspiring. Already ‘climate emergency’ is filtering into how many decision makers are thinking about their business.

A corollary of that is that we are all waking up to the fact that the businesses we create need to bring meaning, to us and to the world. This is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ as we are recognising that the resources we use need to be regenerative in terms of positive impact. Hence, the power of an authentic story!

What are you working on outside of your Escape faculty role?
Writing a book on how stories and fairy tales can help us navigate everyday life. I run a coaching practice for creative professionals that is always inspiring.

What are you reading at the moment?
The Overstory, by Richard Powers. Radical Honesty, by Brad Blanton.

What podcasts are you listening to?
The Moth.

What’s the last thing you learned/read/ listened to that you want to share with people looking to make a career change?
I just listened to an On Being episode with the wonderful, recently departed poet Mary Oliver.

Her best advice to young poets – and I think this applies to anyone looking to move into more meaningful work – is to build a discipline, to make a regular appointment with our creative self that we stick to. To make a habit of giving our best labour to our projects, rather than everyone and everything else!

Pelin will be leading the next cohort of Escape’s Career Change Accelerator. To find out more about how the programme can help you to take control of your career and design a life that works for you, take a look.

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