Moving around was part and parcel of my experience growing up. By the time I was 14 I’d moved countries six times, so relocating to Singapore from London in February 2020 should not have been a big deal. As it turns out, everything becomes a big deal when a global pandemic has to be factored into your moving plans. Friends and family were unsure about us moving during a pandemic, but the wheels were in motion. Our apartment had been emptied and we had waved goodbye to our previous jobs.
Not long after settling in, we were hit with a wave of restrictions. Originally, I had planned to meet people through sporting activities (not happening), and socialising with my boyfriend’s new work colleagues (not a chance, unless you count Zoom). Aside from meeting a few people in our condo, it was quite an isolating time, and not the ideal situation in which to look for a new job.
So what to do? No travel, no socialising, no returning home, and no escaping from the lovely man suddenly working from home 24/7 in the spare room. I needed to find something worthwhile to do with my time. I think this has been a familiar feeling for many of us during the pandemic. There must be a more valuable way of spending our time, and there must be something we can do to help others who are struggling.
My way of giving back was probably the most adorable way of volunteering there has ever been. I won’t lie, helping out in a kitten sanctuary is right at the top of the list of “awwwww” jobs I’ve ever had and going into the sanctuary, feeding newborns with a syringe, and watching them open their eyes for the first time was amazing. I felt more connected with the local Singaporean community too, something that had been lacking up to that point. I was involved in all aspects of the sanctuary; kitten-care, accounts, even a bit of DIY floor-laying! In case you’re wondering, no, my lovely balcony-less apartment is not overrun with cats.
Fortunately, coffee meet-ups with wonderful connections in the industry were ongoing, even if not many networking events were taking place. It was a chance encounter with an industry contact that led me to Honan. As tempting as it was to stay with the kittens, an opportunity at Honan and a new, challenging role of Client Manager was calling me. As a result, I’m now enjoying some of the positive elements of working in another country than your own – meeting new people, trying new food, working with clients in different markets, and seeing Singaporean life up close.
As Singapore re-enters its second lockdown, (though we’re not calling it that), I feel more prepared, knowing I have learned the following lessons over the last year:
- Having a separate work environment from your partner/family is vital.
- Setting yourself a routine that involves some fresh air and exercise, not just screen time really helps; and
- Easier said than done but picking up the phone can save a lot of time compared to endless emails or avoiding asking the question altogether!
Ultimately, career development is about more than your job, it’s about how you live your life. It’s about persisting and creating opportunities where you can in difficult situations, finding meaning in how you spend your time, and developing knowledge and skills along the way. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next in the journey!