Ep 02. When Corporate Suits Don’t Fit

March 19, 2024

In this episode of Briefing In, we are joined by Lawrence, a golden retriever to his friends and a secret weapon to his clients. Prior to being a VA, he was set on a career path in Finance and was a struggling corporate worker who wanted to make a name in the business world. However, he had to make several career pivots, and the rest, as you know, is history.

Get ready to listen to Lawrence and his empowering journey of self-discovery. Amidst the pandemic-induced lows, he realized the importance of self-care and by prioritizing his well-being and nurturing himself, he began to rebuild his confidence and sense of self-worth. This is an open conversation with Lawrence who shares his story, his rejected applications, and his ticket to the world of virtual assistance, packed with lessons on balancing success and personal well-being.

Lawrence’s Corporate Journey

Lawrence’s professional journey began with a degree in business administration from Far Eastern University, where he initially envisioned a career in the financial markets. His first major step was a training stint in Singapore with Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters, which sparked his interest in the corporate world. Why did he leave you ask? Well, despite the allure of corporate life, Lawrence faced numerous challenges. He worked in various roles, including as a financial marketing trainee, a real estate agent, and even with the United Nations. However, the corporate world proved to be demanding, with high stress and unrealistic expectations taking a toll on his well-being.

Lawrence’s perseverance was evident as he excelled in his roles, particularly in real estate, where he exceeded sales quotas even in a foreign market like Dubai. Yet, the constant pressure eventually led him to reassess his career goals, setting the stage for a significant shift in his professional path.

Chelsea: You were there in the corporate world for like several years, right?

Lawrence: I think it started from 2019 to just a little over a year. But I’ve been through a lot, yes. 

Because I started with a corporate job, I think March 2019. I ended my contract with the Bureau of Customs in March 2019 and I transitioned immediately to the corporate world. So during that time from 2019 to 2020, I had three corporate jobs already. So first, I was a brand ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Lawrence: After a few months, I realized that it wasn’t for me because as a confused young adult, I really don’t know what I want in life. So that’s why I jump from one job to another. 

So yeah, after that, when I realized that being a brand ambassador for the United Nations is not for me, I transitioned from – I think it’s kind of related to my last corporate job, which is a telemarketer for real estate. And then after a month I also realized that it’s not for me.

So I only worked as a telemarketer for a month. Yes. After a few weeks I landed my third corporate job as a real estate agent and as a sales agent. I actually started liking that job from the start because I really like talking to people. Like I’m really extroverted, I enjoy talking to people so being a sales agent I think it’s really for me.

Lawrence: I landed my first two clients – I signed my first two clients on my first week. So my first client was even before I was hired, I was already talking to my clients, so basically I know that I will get the job. So I tried to close a deal even before being hired. So our manager was impressed on my first day working as a real estate agent or as a sales agent. I have my sale already, so after a few weeks or a month, I think a month, he decided that I’m ready for deployment in Dubai.

So that’s when all the stress started. Like monthly we have a quota of 10 million, but when you are deployed in another country, your quota doubled. So I don’t know anyone in Dubai. I have to go to the malls or other places to find Filipino clients in Dubai. We can only sell properties to Filipino. So it’s really hard because I don’t know anyone in Dubai, I don’t have friends. I have my family there, like my aunt, she’s living in Dubai, but she’s not interested in buying a property from me.

So, yeah, it’s hard but fortunately, I exceeded my quota. I think my quota in Dubai is only 20 million, but I hit almost 30M.

Chelsea: That’s insane. 

Lawrence: And that’s when all the stress happened. I realized that I’m liking this job, but I don’t like the stress, the pressure that it’s bringing to me.

Chelsea: Was that the reason you left?

Lawrence: Yeah. My performance also started to dip during that time because the stress and the pressure is really affecting me. Not only physically, but also mentally and financially. Because if you don’t have a sale or if you do not hit your quota, you do not have any salary at all.

And then pandemic happened. That’s when I realized that I need to quit this job because we are still continuing to work, continuing to sell properties even though many of our clients aren’t interested anymore because of the pandemic. So that’s when I realized that I need to find another opportunity.

Chelsea: I think it’s so admirable, Lawrence, how you were just brave enough or you just really had the guts to identify when you weren’t happy anymore or when something just wasn’t serving you anymore and be able to continue to move on from that and like look for something else because I do understand the fear that comes with being unemployed and not having the security of a job–a monthly salary.

Lawrence: At that time, I’m scared to be unemployed, but I think I’m lucky enough to have the support of my family. So that’s why I talked to my mom during those times that I wanted to quit my job. And she just told me that I’m still young and I don’t have to pressure myself.

I don’t have to move fast. I just need to enjoy life. And if I don’t enjoy working in that job anymore, then I just quit..

Pandemic Pivot: Embracing the Digital World

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic marked a turning point in Lawrence’s career. With traditional corporate roles becoming increasingly untenable, he embraced the world of digital marketing and virtual assistance. This transition was driven by necessity and curiosity, as he enrolled in online courses to upskill and adapt to the changing job market. His initial foray into remote work was challenging, characterized by numerous rejections and undercompensated roles. However, his determination paid off when he joined Wedding Workflows and started working with his first client, Andrew.

Chelsea: So was Andrew your very first client as a VA or just as a work from home freelancer?

Lawrence: Okay. Actually, in Wedding Workflows, yes he  is my very first client but in the corporate world was actually my uncle. My uncle, who is from Scotland, has his business and he asked me to help him with admin stuff for his business.

Chelsea: Oh wow, so that was like toe dip into that.

Lawrence: Yeah, I have zero experience in remote work during that time. So yeah, that’s why I realized that I need to improve my skills, maybe enroll in online courses and then, after his business went bankrupt because of the pandemic, that’s when I started for virtual jobs, like VA jobs, social media manager jobs. 

And to tell you honestly, it’s not easy. It’s really not easy. I have a lot of rejections. I’m passing my resume or CVs, like, I think 20 times for 20 employers every day. And I’m lucky enough if they reply for an interview. And during the interviews, I know that I won’t pass the interview. So I’m lucky enough to see the job listing and even though the salary is not giving, I tried to take all this push through just to give me a little experience.

I think it’s November 2021.

Lawrence: Yeah. So I started November 2021, and I told myself that I will quit January 2022. But because of Andrew, I really enjoyed working with Andrew. He made my work experience bearable, even though I am undercompensated during that time. So yeah, he made it bearable. So I stayed because of him. And yeah, and then the Wedding Workflows knight in shining armor came to rescue us.

Hi, Rick. Thank you so much.

Chelsea: Yeah, I like that. You kind of went into it with a plan, which was to stay  just to get experience. But it was the clients that saw your value and that really made you want to keep going despite the undesirable working conditions. 

So what was it about Andrew Lawrence, if you can remember, like, what was it about him that changed your whole perception of working for a client?

Lawrence: Yes. I think working in the corporate world, and then working with Andrew, that’s when I realized that I am deprived of appreciation. So for Andrew, even the smallest thing, he would appreciate me. I don’t know. I really love our relationship. Like it’s not a Client/VA relationship anymore. It’s like more of, we’re like friends. So I’m treating his business like my own. 

So basically he hired me because of the livestream business. I handled the livestream business, everything by myself. So from booking clients, sending invoices, making their webpages, and then booking operators, and then after wedding tasks.

Even if Andrew doesn’t have any idea at all about when was the shoot, when was the wedding, he’s confident enough that everything will be taken care of. Like, for example, one time he asked me, a wedding to shoot and he was surprised that there’s also a live stream client during that day and I think he panicked because he didn’t know about this client but I took care of everything from start to finish so I think giving my client extra time really makes me happy like extra time doing what they love.

Lawrence: I think that’s something that not all VAs can kind of see just how much time we allow or we open up for our clients simply by taking care of their emails or by, you know, doing Instagram engagement where they’re able to focus on other things because they know that they have someone that they can trust to take care of that side of the business because everything requires time.

Chelsea: I really like that Andrew was able to show you just how important you were, not only to his business, but also to the community.

Yes, actually, even though he’s not with Wedding Workflows anymore, we still keep in touch. Like, he messages each other, like, asking how we are, like, or, for example, during the holidays, Merry Christmas, Andrew, something like that.

So, yeah, there’s still a good relationship between us.

Leadership and Growth: Building Strong Client Relationships

One of the most compelling aspects of Lawrence’s journey is his growth into a leadership role at Wedding Workflows. Despite initial apprehensions about leading a team, Lawrence embraced the challenge with a positive attitude. His extroverted nature and genuine care for his clients’ businesses played a crucial role in his success. Known as a golden retriever to his friends and a secret weapon to his clients, Lawrence’s ability to foster strong, personal relationships with his clients, particularly Andrew, set him apart. He goes above and beyond in his role, treating his clients’ businesses as his own and ensuring quality content in his work.

Lawrence’s leadership style is characterized by open communication, transparency, and a willingness to learn from his team members. He emphasizes the importance of acknowledging one’s weaknesses and seeking help when needed, fostering a supportive and collaborative team environment. His story is a powerful reminder that effective leadership is not just about managing tasks but also about nurturing relationships and creating a positive work culture.

Chelsea: So you’ve really grown so much, not just as a VA, but also as a leader, Lawrence, but what were some challenges you face since taking on a leadership role?

Lawrence: First of all, as someone who’s been led by an amazing team lead. One challenge is, first, I really like talking to people before but kind of stopped public speaking along the way. And then now, I start to lead my own meeting. I think there’s trauma.

Chelsea: Really?

Lawrence: Yeah, I consider that as a trauma. I really got scared talking to a lot of people. Because of what happened to me in the corporate world. So yeah, that’s one of the challenges. I need to be comfortable again in talking to people. 

Another one is, you know, I’m not serious. I think very lightly all the time. I always smile. I always laugh. I always make a joke, but there are some things in being a Team Lead that requires you to be firm sometimes.

Lawrence: Because you know, I’m a golden retriever. Yeah, like a very happy go lucky person. But I feel like being serious is something that I need to learn. And I think that somehow I know when to be serious. And when to make joke, basically.

That’s so important because I feel like when you not just lead a team of people but manage a team of people. You’re not just managing one aspect, you’re managing so many different aspects. You’re managing their time. You’re managing their clients in a way because when they have problems or issues or need support you need to help them. You’re managing their emotions. You’re managing their mistakes. You’re managing their behavior all the while also trying to do your part as a VA also.

Lawrence: So, basically, another struggle that I have is my client, Andrew, is a videographer. So I’m so used to using applications from Andrew, which is a videographer. So when it’s my time to lead the team when it’s my time to help them troubleshoot with their apps. I really have zero idea about big time, about Smart Album, about anything related to photographers. So it’s so hard for me to help them with their issues, the apps that they’re using. So I try to research, just learn the things that they use.

Chelsea: But I think you’re doing a really great job, Lawrence, and I remember in the beginning you said you were so nervous, but look at you now, look at your team now. I don’t think you should undermine all the effort you’ve put into doing your role as a team lead.

Lawrence: And also, my team is really the sweetest. If there’s something that I don’t know, like, for example, troubleshooting a specific app, some of them will help the other teammate. So basically we’re just helping each other there.

Chelsea: Honestly, that’s just how it works, right? That’s like a team dynamic, helping each other out. Because ultimately you all just want to be able to do your best.

Conclusion

Lawrence’s journey from the corporate world to digital marketing and virtual assistance is a story of resilience, adaptability, and continuous growth. Amidst the pandemic-induced lows, he realized the importance of self-care, and by prioritizing his well-being and nurturing himself, he began to rebuild his confidence and sense of self-worth. His experiences underscore the value of perseverance in the face of adversity, the importance of upskilling in a rapidly changing job market, and the impact of strong client relationships on professional success. Lawrence’s story is an inspiration to anyone navigating career transitions, reminding us that every challenge can lead to new opportunities and personal growth.

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