Switching jobs in the middle of a global pandemic
Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking at the best of times, but in the middle of a global pandemic it moves to a whole new level. Hear it from our newest consultant Jeff Jonasson.
Here I have summarised my experience of changing employer in a difficult time. How in many ways I was lucky to end up in an organisation with competent and caring colleagues who made me feel part of the company from day one — even though I did not have an assignment yet.
Earlier this year, I was looking for a new challenge. I had been working as an IT consultant for a while, but I figured I had learned all I could at my most recent long-term assignment and felt like it was time for something new.
I made contact with a few companies, but none of them felt quite right. I was not on LinkedIn at the time so it was difficult to know where to look next. Then, by chance, I bumped into an old friend on a Friday night out. I knew he worked for this company Mpya Digital, which I had heard only good things about from other friends. On a whim, I asked him to make an introduction. On the following Monday morning he texted me at 8.30 having already set up a meeting. The next day I had my first interview, and within the week we had agreed a contract.
Looking back, I think I just knew Mpya would be the perfect place to grow both as a person and as a consultant. From the start of the process, it just felt right. When I signed with Mpya back in February, I had some notice to work out at my old job in order to make a proper hand-over, but I felt really good about my decision.
Little did I know that things were about to change rapidly.
Unordinary circumstances at an extraordinary company
My start date was scheduled to be the beginning of April, but by the end of March, the world was locking down due to the Covid-19 outbreak. There was no possibility to take public transport from Uppsala to my new job in Stockholm every day without unnecessary risk. I was simply going to have to start my Mpya career as a home worker. Not ideal when you are trying to establish relationships with new colleagues!
I was also nervous about my viability at the company. I kept thinking: “Last in, first out.” Mpya is relatively small, so I thought they might be vulnerable to any downturn in the economy. But throughout the uncertainty, it became clear that Mpya was not an ordinary company.
One of the things that had led me here in the first place was the fact that Mpya is a flat organisation. There are no bosses, no hierarchy. Instead the company is held together by a collective trust in the colleagues. Transparency is at the heart of everything. My new colleagues could not to one hundred procent guarantee my job’s security, but they the could guarantee that letting someone go was the very last and final option.
I left every conversation feeling more confident than when I went in.
One thing that made life much easier for me, was that I had already been assigned a ‘buddy’ — Jonas — to help me prepare for life as an Mpyan. I found this both very useful and very comforting. Typically, in the run-up to starting a new job, your dealings are all with recruiters or HR personel. But Jonas was a consultant just like me. He helped me get a real understanding of the way the company worked, the atmosphere and the commitment. He made me feel confident I would fit in.
I actually managed to meet up with Jonas — just once — before the lockdown. As we sat down for some burgers and a chat that afternoon, little did I realise it would be the last face-to-face business meeting I’d have for many weeks
Finding calmness in uncertainty
By the time my first day came around, I had also been assigned a ‘crew’. Because you don’t have a boss, your crew collectively shares that responsibility. The initial idea was to have a breakfast meeting at the office with my new crew. But as mentioned earlier, my start at Mpya Digital would have to be remote. So we had the next best thing: a remote breakfast meeting. There was a great mix of people from different parts of the company and the whole thing was very relaxed and not at all corporate. More like meeting some new friends for brunch!
After that my schedule was packed. First, there was the Monday meeting, held online with everyone dialing in. We were given updates on the impact the coronavirus was having on revenue. We were given an honest overview of where we were, where we wanted to be — even the worst-case scenarios. I’d never seen that level of transparency in a company before.
We had daily virtual ‘stand-ups’. This is particularly useful for an IT consultant without an assignment (like me). I’ve seen it before: no-one likes to be ‘sitting on the bench’. It is lonely and frustrating. But because of the situation we are in, projects are ending and several consultants are stuck waiting for the next assignment. What is brilliant, is that these stand-up sessions bring us all together. Even though it is not bringing us physically together, having virtual stand-ups really helped me to feel part of the company, and it also kept me more sane and focused.
At Mpya, if a consultant is not generating revenue for the company, it is important they are building their own experience and expertise, developing themselves and the people around them. For me, it means I always have stuff to do. I feel like I can contribute something meaningful to the greater good of the company.
Without these people I would not have been this calm in an uncertain situation like this.
Of course there is still uncertainty in my role here. For the near future, I am trying to be as proactive as I can. Mpya have given me a major opportunity, so I am determined to work on ways of paying them back. It’s been different and challenging, but my new colleagues are incredibly supportive — even though they don’t properly know me yet! Every day I receive DMs, calls and meeting requests from people who are keen to make sure I am getting on OK.
One thing I know is that without these people I would not have been this calm in an uncertain situation like this. I’m glad that I get to talk to multiple people every day that care about their colleagues. It is easy to have a good work environment when things are going well, but to have that at a time like this is something extraordinary. My colleagues’ passion and encouragement has given me a taste of what the company is all about.
I can’t wait to meet them in person!