Switching both my job and country during a pandemic
This article is a personal retrospective of my journey from Service Designer to UX Researcher, and from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Barcelona, Spain, during a pandemic.
When you see on LinkedIn or elsewhere in your network that changes are happening to people, and all seems so easy, smooth and flawless: Think twice! As much as I feel grateful and lucky to have had the luxury to give up a job for another in the first place, that’s far from reality. By sharing my experience, I’d like to demystify appearances, as well as to extend — as a hopeful sign — that even in the worst of times, perseverance & courage can get you closer to your objectives more than you might think, whatever your objectives might be.
A few months before the Covid-19 hit Europe, I was increasingly tickled by the idea of novelty in my professional life. I felt a growing need for challenge and for the sense of discomfort that comes with learning new things. Later, when the right opportunity came along — in the middle of a pandemic — I decided to go for it. That meant tough calls to make: aligning on priorities and ambitions for myself and my partner as a couple; navigating the emotional imbalance of giving up a stable job during uniquely unstable times. But it meant also opening the door to a new chapter in line with my goals & values.
#1 When is the ‘right’ moment for a change, anyway?
When my home-country, Italy, got brutally struck by Covid-19 as a first domino block of more countries thereafter, I felt genuine fear. Fear for how that would have impacted my everyday life, my family, and ultimately the job market in my field. My ambition to seek a change in my professional and personal life felt suddenly, highly secondary. I embraced a safety-first mindset and hid my ambitions under the carpet, for a few months.
But how long can you be putting your life on hold? And, what makes a good moment for change?
Anything can go wrong, anytime in life, really. With that crystal clear, I needed to take a stand and after allowing everything happening around me to sink in, I consciously decided to choose a life of hope and adventure. A life where no matter how petrifying change feels, I want to be able not to hold back and to call my shots, to spend my days on this planet breathing, exploring, learning the most I can do of it.
Anxiety and uncertainty surely stayed well present, but I made an effort to accept them as they are so that they wouldn’t be a blocker to my future self. I then embraced with gratefulness the possibility to do a job that can be done 100% remotely and joined Glovo, with a new role, initially working remotely from Amsterdam, where I was based.
There’s hardly a moment that truly feels right when facing a change. Just make it happen, believe in your inner resources whatever happens, and the rest will follow!
Quotations can be cheesy — agreed — but also very powerful. The right one can give you that extra emotional push when you need it most and reassure you that you are not a weirdo.
Realising that someone else before you felt exactly the same, makes it all less of a fuss and odd, just okay.
“Courage is fear walking” by Susan David
My quote-companion above became my personal mantra, whenever there’s something that scares me. Write it on a post-it, stick it somewhere visible, and get your motivational nugget every day you need it!
#2 Stepping up my risk-management level
At first, even if the move decision was taken and I was genuinely more than excited about it, we still had to solve pretty fundamental matters such as what would have my partner done of his job in the Netherlands to be able to live together in Barcelona. Rumbling with my need for security at an extraordinarily unsettled stage, I was feeling often anxious. Spending a lot of indoor time due to safety restrictions was surely not helping me unwind, and for a while, I had quite some trouble sleeping properly.
These ‘rumbling months’ of figuring things out in and out of my mind definitely taught me a lot about how to cope with risk management and how to self-facilitate the increase of my risk tolerance.
By nature, I don’t expect things to go necessarily right and smooth for me all the time. When happy endings (or new beginnings) come along, I’m usually focused on doing well on what’s next for me rather than truly enjoying what I have achieved. So while my friends, family, and colleagues were congratulating me on the next job and adventure ahead, I couldn’t help but cringe about all that I could have failed in pursuing so.
But it’s exactly by accepting and holding on to that uncomfortable feeling with mindfulness, that from struggling with risk coping, I gradually started to feel more at ease with it as a natural step in my path forward.
I later discovered that imagining the most dramatic things smashing down your plan when you feel at the happiest turning point in life, is called ‘catastrophizing’ and it’s a pretty common psychological pattern.
Chances are that you are not the first feeling the way you feel. Touching base with the literature on the fields of psychology, mental health, vulnerability, and wellbeing can not only give you instant comfort but most importantly shape the awareness and emotional infrastructure empowering you to be at the driver’s seat of how you are wired. Reading ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brené Brown felt so good in that phase for me, for example. I could finally connect the dots with many concepts and it felt like getting to know myself one level deeper. Learning how to name your feelings, in all their nuances, will definitely help you navigate their complexity!
#3 Culture eats screens for breakfast
When in my previous job in Amsterdam I started to work remotely due to the pandemic, by that point I had been working with my team for almost 4 years, and we knew each other extremely well. That made the transition quite smooth since we had a solid base of trust and familiarity with our respective approach, skillset, and personality.
At the idea to start a new job remotely from day 1 — with no past to tie it all together — I was ready to face some tough, awkward times, yet hopeful to be surprised.
And I truly was. I went through a great remote onboarding: from the first moment I felt welcomed with warmth and care by a lovely bunch of international, humble, talented people, whom now I feel proud to call my colleagues. The stand-ups in Spanish, weekly and monthly rituals, team lunches, show & tell: in no time I was part of a remote routine that made days fly by with genuine joy to start on the next. Now I’m in Barcelona, I finally managed to move and I’m starting to meet my colleagues face to face, matching our digital selves with the corresponding living hosts.
When there’s solid company culture and common key values are shared by all, you can feel it — even remotely. Culture, when present, gets out of the screen!
Don’t be shy and make an effort to get to know your new colleagues remotely, don’t just wait for a brighter future of Friday drinks and in-person lunch breaks. Create and cultivate the freedom to initiate light-hearted moments like 1-on-1 virtual coffee chats to check-in with each other and share what’s up. Even if full-remote work won’t be a long term plan for everyone, it’s worthy to invest in shaping the conditions for you to thrive and feel good in the day to day, rather than ‘survive in the meantime’.
I believe it’s impossible to fully realise the impact and all side effects of this ‘stillness state’ we are living, at the same pace as reality unfold. All I know though, is that these are still hours, days, months, years worth living, truly. Don’t lose sight of your dreams and ambitions, keep working to get closer to the version of yourself you aim to become, whatever that represents for you.
Push through, own your fears and don’t hold back.
Are you considering a significant change like a career switch or relocation? Are you in the middle of the process or perhaps made it to the finish line? I’d love to hear about YOUR experience in the comments below. What did you find challenging the most and how did you hack it for the best?
And by the way, we are hiring! If you think Glovo might be your next challenge, check out our Careers page or Linkedin. ✨
I’m a UX Researcher / Service Designer who loves investigating people’s needs and behaviours to shape meaningful experiences that put them at the centre. If you have feedback to share, feel free to say hello 👋🏽
Thanks to Sara Sánchez, Katarina Bagherian, Meltem Barcelona, Pablo Serrano, and Sol Degl’innocenti.