*Kiss on the cheek* welcome to the company…*kiss on the cheek* onboarding session…*kiss on the cheek* new coworker…*kiss on the cheek* training…*kiss on the cheek*…team lunch. While the kiss on the cheek is a cultural greeting here that I love, it was a bit overwhelming on Day 1 of my new HR technology role in Argentina. There were so many new people to meet, so much onboarding to be done, and on top of that, deciding: “Do I go in for it or not?!” Well, this was just the beginning of drastic change – months full of challenges and discomfort branching outside of my comfort zone along with months of learning and growth. But wasn’t this what I came here for?
Change can be overwhelming. This isn’t always a negative thing, but people often view it as scary and intimidating. When going through significant change, you might crave familiarity and comfort. However, once it calms and you settle in, you’ll be able to reflect on all of your learnings and growth. Then gratitude follows. The difficult things become easier, your biggest fears calm and you come out stronger than before.
You could say that is a brief summary of my first few months living and working in a new country. It involved a lot of deep breaths and a “You’ve got this!” mantra. I was overwhelmed with a flurry of new people, a new work culture, and the challenge of a technical role that involved almost 100% self-training. I said I wanted a challenge, and oh boy, did I get one. I entered the role thinking this was my dream job in my dream location. Despite this, in my first few weeks, I had a gut feeling that something didn’t feel right. Why wasn’t I excited to walk in every morning? Why did I feel so out of place? Where was the passion? I quieted the messages from my intuition and reassured myself that this would all come in time. After all, I was still una nueva (a newbie) and these feelings are surely part of any learning curve.
However, months passed and my inner voice only grew louder. I found myself fearing walking into the office door in the morning. I was taking quick bathroom breaks to get a good cry out before my next challenging technical call. I rushed out the door at 7 to make my evening tutor sessions, still with a long list of open items to finish later that night. At my Spanish sessions, I was too mentally drained to get out much more than a “Hola, como estás?” “Estoy muy cansada.”
I’ve talked about the familiar “stuck” feeling I’ve had in the past that was my signal to make a change. However, this felt different. I felt out of place and out of alignment. The tech workplace had once felt like my home, but now I felt like an outsider.
The New Year rolled around and I kicked off 2019 with a serious self check-in. As I drafted my intentions and goals for 2019, I realized that I’d need to make some big changes to accomplish the list I had set out for myself. About two years before moving to Argentina, I fell in love with the self-development space. I read books, followed blogs and utilized the tools I gained to better myself, create mindset shifts, and make significant changes in my life. My fascination with the coaching space led me to take myself on as a personal project, starting with the move to Argentina. I documented all of the struggles, challenges, and realizations with the hopes of later using them in a coaching practice for others. As I sat down to write my intentions for 2019, I wrote out “complete a coaching certification program.”
It was time for a reality check. I knew there was no way to enjoy an abroad experience, complete a coaching certification, and work in a role that often required 10-11 hour days. So, I decided to dig deep into the root cause of why I felt out of place and unhappy in my current role. I realized a huge part of my struggles in the role came down to misalignment of values and lack of mission. While the company offered an amazing HR platform, it did not have a mission working towards a greater social good, and I wasn’t seeing the larger impact of the work I was putting in each day. I also felt that some of the company’s practices had contradicted my values of honesty, transparency, and empathy. For the first time in my career, I realized how vital mission and values alignment were to my happiness and success in a role. After the harsh realization that none of this would change, I knew the only answer was to leave.
Leaving a stable role in your home country is scary, so you can imagine how terrifying it is to leave a role in a foreign country where your community and friendships are centered around work. However, over the years I’ve learned that my biggest dreams and aspirations have been on the other end of the most terrifying leaps. So, after a lot of thought and reflection, I leaped once again. Thankfully, I kept my friendships with colleagues and hustled to find a temporary job teaching English online. Going from corporate calls to video lessons with young children using basic English was certainly a change of pace. I also started coaching local candidates on interview preparation in English. The energy and fulfillment I get from coaching confirmed that it is the right path for me, and I’ve added, “find a 100% remote role that aligns with my passions and values, and allows me to work towards a coaching certification” to my 2019 intentions. My end goal is to become a certified coach and support others in finding work that aligns with their passions and values. I’m hoping to help them get there sooner than I did; however, there has been beauty in the growth from the journey. There is still a long road ahead, and it has in no way been easy. Nonetheless, it’s the huge risks and challenges that lead to the greatest rewards. So here I am again, in a cafe, feeling full of gratitude. The first step was taking the leap; finding my purpose has followed. Soon I’ll be lucky enough to help others face this fear – everything they want is just on the other side.
Feeling out of alignment in your current work situation? Here is my advice:
- The first step is to find the root cause of your unhappiness. Is it lack of growth? Drowning in work? Values misalignment? Narrow in on the causes and assess if there are changes that you or others could make to improve the situation. Be extra thoughtful and introspective; it’s possible that the unhappiness stems from external circumstances and not the work itself. If it is work-related, a mindset shift or a conversation with your Manager or Human Resources partner can lead to positive changes. Maybe it’s moving into another role at the company that is a better fit. Or, maybe it’s taking on a new exciting project. If these attempts do not help to improve the situation, it’s likely time to start looking into other opportunities.
- If you realize that a change out of the role and company is necessary, make a plan. Perhaps you can balance working in the role while searching for another opportunity. However, sometimes (as in my case), the workload is too heavy to balance out a thorough job search. Maybe you can survive on savings for a bit while you look into new opportunities. If not, find a temporary role to cover the bills while you search for your next opportunity. Living abroad, online English teaching proved to be a good fit for me. Don’t let your ego get in the way! I am currently doing drastically different work in pursuit of my dream career. As mentioned above, high risk leads to high return. This may mean taking on a contract/temp role, freelancing for a bit, Uber driving, working in hospitality, etc, etc. If you’re unhappy in your current situation and truly want a change, you need to hustle to make it happen.
- Keep the faith! I cannot tell you the countless tears I’ve shed, the number of times I’ve questioned myself, and the endless fears and doubts. Then a reminder pops up that shows me I’m on the right path, like a new candidate for interview prep or a potential opportunity. It will be terrifying and tough at times, but ultimately you will grow and be happier where you end up. Whenever I have these feelings, I remind myself of when I felt helpless, unhappy and trapped in a role that didn’t feel right. Then it also helps to recount the times that were hard that paid off, like the challenge of initially making the move to Buenos Aires. I’m reassured that while it is difficult, I am taking steps in the direction of my dreams and a more happy, fulfilling career.
- Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Friends, family, and your network are your best resources during a job change or career transition. Talking with others about your job search can open new opportunities that you would not find on your own. Also, they can provide helpful resources, advice, and support in your search.