In summer 2020 I left my job and decided to take a sabbatical. As soon as the UK borders opened, I packed my bags and embarked on a slow-paced road trip across Europe. This was an opportunity for me to clear my head and explore the continent in a Covid-safe way, whilst also starting to make plans for my next move career-wise. With over twenty years’ experience I wanted to explore opportunities for my next Exec level position in a professional services company — no easy feat, as these roles you rarely find floating around LinkedIn!
To secure an Exec role at one of the top global firms, the process involves a series of conversations in which you determine if your expertise matches a gap in their portfolio. Once there is clear intent from either side the formal process begins and includes panel discussions and Board-level interviews. On top of that, you should do your own due diligence via your personal network to really make sure that you are well-informed and are able to take a peek under the hood of these organisations. From initial outreach to final offer this can mean around 30 interactions and can last several months — in many cases over a year. I have never been one to place all of my eggs into one basket, so across this journey I was in contact with not one, but four companies in parallel (yes, I’m also a glutton for pain apparently!).
At first, I was embarrassed to explain my living set-up to potential Partners. Most were anchored and working from home offices with varying levels of related stress, while I seemed to be on permanent holiday abroad. However, I have always been a fierce advocate of being authentic and bringing your full self, not only in my personal life but also in the workplace. So far, I have travelled to over 100 countries, thus experiencing different cultures is a core part of who I am.
Once I became more open about my digital nomad lifestyle, the reactions of my potential Partners helped me assess which company culture felt most suited to me. One firm was nonplussed, and in fact commented that half of their Execs were abroad during the lockdown. Another was intrigued but paid my location little attention. A third did not notice or mention the ever-changing non-virtual backgrounds to my videos. And the fourth appeared more interested in the travel than in me.
My Europe Road trip blossomed into a full-fledged digital nomad existence, and I eventually spent time in 20 countries, including Albania, Bosnia, Egypt, The Maldives, Turkey, Croatia and Dubai. I started to own and embrace my new lifestyle and also share that experience as part of these conversations. I returned to the UK in April 2021 where I completed the last stages of my Executive interview processes and was delighted that three of the four companies made me competitive offers.
I attribute my digital nomad lifestyle as a key reason for my success. Taking twelve months off gave me the head space to truly assess what I need for a long lasting and successful career, plus understand which organisation would be supportive of and suitable for this. Executive interview processes are intense, take a substantial amount of time and should not be rushed; travelling in parallel allowed me to be relaxed and move at the right pace. Finally, experiencing different cultures is a core personal value; embracing new ones while under immense interview pressures helped keep me grounded and forced me to remain authentic.
I encourage anyone needing a ‘jump start’ to their career engine to follow their intuition on how best to do so. Becoming a Covid digital nomad might not be right for you, but if there is a change you need to make to feel more yourself, then just do it! I am now energized and ready to embark on my next Leadership role.
I hope you found this article helpful, for more tips check out my interview with Katherine Ann Byam: Kysha Gibson Interview The Journey for Women with Careers in consulting — YouTube