The Birth of SmartWorking and Something Exciting
Making a decision to uproot and work abroad is a huge decision; not least when you have a family.
When that move involves changing continents, to a country you have never even visited, in an industry which is new to you, working in a language you haven’t any experience of the challenge increases dramatically; as does the sense of adventure and the fear of turning down what could be a life changing experience.
This is what happened to me and this is the story of what happened when I returned to the UK and the challenges I faced.
The SmartWorking adventure begins
In June 2012 I received a phone call – from an executive recruiter asking if I had considered working in China. As an opener it certainly got my attention. China wasn’t even on my bucket list as a holiday destination and I have travelled – extensively. However, I listened to the brief explanation of the role and the opportunity and said ‘Sure; send through some more information.’
I read the job description. The role itself was pretty straightforward – something I had done before and was confident I could do again. In fact – had it been based in the UK I wouldn’t have considered it – I’d been there and done that. The salary was lower; much lower than the package I had in the UK business I was working with. But the lure of China was too much to ignore and that challenge alone was enough to pique my interest.
Within 3 months I was on a flight to China, leaving the family to pack and follow me 4 weeks later once I had an apartment, a school and a basic understanding of what life in China was all about!
I thought I had a good idea of what hard work was all about…. what constituted a challenge …….what my limitations and skills were. I did not.
I spent almost three years in China before my contract came to a conclusion and learned more about business and about myself than I had in the previous twenty! It was a challenge, an adventure, a life changing experience. It resulted in separation from my family (they didn’t settle and returned to the UK within weeks) and ultimately the end of my marriage. I became very independent and super resourceful. I spent far too many hours working but enjoyed (almost) every second. I faced cultural and business challenges – sometimes both at the same time. I made lifelong friends and travelled back to the UK with a heavy heart, knowing that I would miss my life and work in China. However, I came back confident that all of the new skills and all of that experience would make me so much more attractive to a new employer than I had been before this life changing adventure. Not so.
I was approached by old clients who heard through the grapevine that I was back in the UK and wanted to hire me on a contract basis. This gave me a little breathing space and I entered into a 6 week contract and then a 6 month contract full of enthusiasm and unconcerned that I didn’t have a permanent role. Surely that would come and I would be inundated with offers. For the record I hadn’t actively looked for a job since 1990 when I was headhunted into an office manager role and briefly in 1997 before joining a start up.
The six month contract came to a conclusion and I threw myself into searching for my next challenge.
The frustrations of the job market
My first task was actually finding roles. The jobs boards were crammed full of jobs; but very few matched my skills. It was like finding a needle in a haystack. Hours and hours spent looking through ‘matches’ that made no sense. Time wasted. Hundreds of alerts, many of which bore no resemblance to any job I would be able to do. Head of Sales brought alerts for Head Chef, Head Teacher, Junior Sales Executive. Nonsense. Working from home brought alerts for jobs at the Home Office. If I was receiving hundreds of useless alerts then my guess was so were the recruiters. Again; time wasted. No wonder I didn’t receive anything more than a cursory ‘thanks for your application – if you don’t hear within two weeks you’ve not been selected’. This was especially frustrating when it took me hours to find a suitable role, then more time to complete applications or create covering letters. But if applications were coming in at a rate of 100’s then who has time for a personal response?
I attended interviews for senior roles but all anyone seemed to be interested in was life in China. Not my skills. Not my experience. Not what I could bring to their business. All of that seemed secondary at best. I can talk passionately about China for hours on end. I loved my time there. But it soon became very evident that these interviewers just didn’t ‘get it’. It was like I had just finished a 3 year holiday. Money wasn’t the issue. I had been well paid in China following promotions and restructures. I had been given a bonus on completion of the tenure and had earned enough contracting to take some time out. But I didn’t want to! I wanted to work, to be productive, to be as busy and engaged as I had been in China. I was clear though that I wanted to be close to my daughter. I didn’t want to work away from home, away from the South East, or out of the country. This was also a stumbling block.
Whilst having a conversation with the Executive Consultant who placed me in China, bemoaning the fact that it looked as if I would have to start applying for roles which didn’t excite me – nor offer much in the way of challenge, we started talking about remote working. About how difficult it is for businesses to find talent and about how difficult it is to find the right remote roles. Remote working would suit me down to a ‘T’. I would be able to commit to a career and still make time for my daughter without the dreaded daily commute or living away from home. Before China I had spent hours travelling back and forth to sit in offices sometimes 300+ miles away from home. I definitely didn’t want to go back to that, regardless of the challenge.
We talked about how there was a gaping great hole in the recruitment industry and how remote roles would change people’s lives.
Imagine how much easier my return would have been if I could have already engaged with potential companies; companies for whom location was less important than skills and experience, those struggling to hire talent, with growth outpacing the ability to acquire new office space. Imagine if I could have engaged with businesses across the world, Europe, UK, without boundaries, with the knowledge that I could work from home or hub and not tied to a specific office. That would have been amazing. Aside from expat returnees there were other groups who would benefit; working parents, lone parents, carers, those with disabilities, returning to work after illness, live in remote areas, cannot afford city living or do not want that lifestyle, the list went on and on.
Creating something new
From this grew an idea. From the idea grew a business plan. We researched and found that businesses were already turned onto the idea and were already employing a remote and SmartWorking strategy. Jobseekers were also turned on. The benefits for both parties were numerous, from cost savings and increased productivity to enhanced work:life balance. We wanted to be more than just a database, more than a jobs board. We wanted to be the ‘go to’ place for remote working. We had ambitions to change the way people and businesses viewed SmartWorking and to create a community, a support network and to give everyone the opportunity to work, regardless of their circumstance.
We created Abodoo. A combination of Abode & Do…Work From Home.
Abodoo offers true matching. No more alerts on key word searches, just true skills matching. No more scrabbling around looking for remote roles. We only feature smart jobs. No more weeding out people who can’t or won’t work remotely. Our candidates all sign up for this.
- Employers can see at a glance the percentage match.. they only receive alerts for those over 80%.
- Candidates can only see jobs which match their requirements.
- This cuts out noise and so only meaningful exchanges happen.
We created a system which enables candidates and businesses to track their progress and their activity making two way communication between them easy and online – so even if there is a time difference (as there is for most returning expats) it’s still easy to communicate.
We are now developing further and will soon add free training modules, free forums, access to support services, communities for remote workers…the list goes on.
So – I have found my challenge. I have found my ideal remote role. Helping others to find theirs is rewarding, fun, challenging and a bonus.
We are unique, we look different, we are different. We are free to access. Free to candidates and free to employers. No risk and no charges unless a business makes an offer. Even then they have a 90 day money back guarantee. We are that confident that the matching process will result in long term recruits and reduced attrition.
If only Abodoo had existing when I came back from China I’m confident my return would have been very different indeed. Then again I wouldn’t be doing this! Every cloud….