On the move – changing jobs during the pandemic

Emily O’Neill, General Counsel UK at Deminor Recovery Services, shares her experience of moving job during lockdown. Why did she do it? Was it a risky decision?

Person waving at computer screen

As life events go, changing job is one of the biggies. After seven years in my previous role and in the middle of lockdown, I decided to make the switch!

It’s not about you

To set the scene: I had adapted to working from home, had set up home learning for my children, was doing insane amounts of cooking, discovered online group drinks actually work and had increased my already substantial flow of online parcels being delivered when I decided to change job.

Thinking about resigning from my stable, long term role and moving to a completely new company amid so much change was terrifying but I couldn’t pass up the new opportunity I had been offered. For me, the move was all about taking the next step in my career and for my new employer, it was about meeting the growing demand for their services. With widespread furlough and many people facing redundancy, companies who are hiring now will have a sound business case for their recruitment.

In my case, Deminor provides litigation funding which is a counter-cyclical business; when the financial climate is poor and companies are conserving cash to fund their operations and maintain liquidity, there is an increase in demand to monetise a company’s claims using third party funding. Understanding my new industry, the opportunities that it presented and the reasons for my recruitment made my decision easier (as well as the open and enthusiastic communications with my new boss).

Saying goodbye

I hadn’t appreciated the importance of ending a job properly until I was faced with leaving my colleagues without seeing them in person or being able to collect my jacket collection from my office! Leaving previous jobs had meant a small presentation, a card and some drinks with colleagues at the local pub. None of that was possible.

Instead, I arranged online events for different groups of my colleagues. It actually worked really well! I could celebrate with my colleagues in different countries rather than just those in my office. I had breakfast drinks with China (no mimosas, only tea!), early evening drinks with the UK and late evening drinks with the US.

Connecting in small groups also meant that I could really speak to each person (including the added talking points of their home background). It also gave me the opportunity to informally “hand over” to my trainee who would qualify and step into some of my role. I hoped that the Belgian theme to my drinks (a big flag and lots of different Belgian beers) meant that I had instant talking points about my new employer with its main office in Brussels.

The transition

I sent back my old laptop and phone and a courier delivered my new one. Deminor’s HR adviser provided me with extremely detailed instructions to get set up. When I logged in, there were meeting requests from my new colleagues to brief me on systems and cases. The hardest part of the transition was finding a suitable box to pack up my old IT kit.

Week one

Day one was strange. There was no gentle introduction to the role with safety briefings or coffee with new colleagues. I had a mid-morning meeting with my new boss but there were other recurring group meetings in my calendar before that. I didn’t know whether to join or not. I did join and was immediately immersed in the work – it was a fast start!

Social video calls had been set up for me to meet my colleagues. This was brilliant as it meant that I got to meet everyone very quickly whereas in a physical first week, there would always be a few people on holiday or travelling. The calls were group calls which worked well as it gave me insights into the team dynamics.

For me, building remote relationships with my colleagues has been easier than I anticipated. Working remotely for two months before moving helped. Joining a diverse, multi-cultural team who were already dispersed between London, New York, Luxembourg, Milan, Hong Kong and the main office in Brussels meant that they were used to working together remotely and so were used to quick video chats and instant messaging.

Do it!

It’s week four for me in my new role now and I am enjoying my new challenge and getting to know my colleagues. My advice would be to make the move. If the right opportunity is out there then don’t put your career on hold as that opportunity will be gone. Embrace now, keep an open channel of communication with your new colleagues and enjoy the journey.

For hiring managers I would say that you cannot provide enough information. The more communication you can have before day one and putting together detailed instructions for new joiners makes the transition so much easier. Diarising introductory meetings with colleagues and outlining your expectations for day one will also make the process smoother.

I am now recruiting and can put this into action. I am grappling with new questions of location, how will we work in the future (home versus office) and how wide to cast the net in terms of geographical locations of candidates – but that’s a post for another day.

Views expressed in our blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Law Society.

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS