On this day, 20th of March, last year was my last day in Dubai as a Social Media Content Writer for a big travel company. Fortunately, they got me a direct flight from Dubai to Cebu to seek refuge in my home country, The Philippines and a few days after, my country shut its doors down from the rest of the world.
The 2019 Holiday Factory UAE Marketing team
My Filipino family in Dubai — Discovery Gardens side
Retrospectively, a day before my flight, I was lying on bed in my room, looking up to the ceiling, crying and confused.
Working for a big company and doing the job I am most passionate with are every career-minded person’s dream come true. It was my chance to take my skills and knowledge internationally too.
“Am I giving up on my dream?”
I was thinking of how difficult it would be to get back on track knowing how competitive the market will be. I was terrified of the thought of having to go back to scratch again after experiencing the international limelight and stage, which was challenging and exciting.
I was mortified of the thought of flying back home.
Everybody was telling me that I have to fly back home so I won’t be caught in a lockdown in a foreign country and in Dubai no less which was expensive to live by without work. Every second was an emotional torment and a mental dilemma between my dream and a pandemic.
Nevertheless, my boyfriend at the time, convinced his heart out and advised us both to fly back to each of our home countries. He was in the events industry, I was in travel — industries that took the immediate repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And so, today marks one year of that life-changing experience — I lost my dream job, I was separated from my significant other, I had to move out of the place I was starting to build my own life on. But what has happened during the year of lockdown and quarantine?
Yes, I thrived.
When I got back home on the 20th of March last year, I had NO online clients.
I took a few months off of virtual assistance thinking I wanted to focus on my corporate job and my personal relationships.
So, I had no time to waste. I remember only having 20k of savings left in my bank account, but still, I bootstrapped myself into self-employment, into Virtual Assistance and Freelancing. It was my only option during the quarantine period.
I hooked up with the lowest internet plan I could have. Fortunately, my last U.S. client gave me a laptop as a gift before I left for Dubai and I used it to kickstart myself into the online world.
I refreshed and updated my online profiles — LinkedIn, OnlineJobs.Ph, CV/Resume, etc.
I relentlessly day and night sent out relevant applications to clients and digital marketing agencies and got into a series of interviews and test tasks for the next 2-3 weeks.
Fortunately, in April, I got a part-time Virtual Assistant position with Kimberly Brown of Gr8CollaborationVA, a U.S.-based Virtual Assistant agency.
For me, it was a sign.
I kept on sending out applications because I knew I had to make ends meet here for me, my mom, and my younger brother.
Like your average Filipino child, I have been financially helping my parents since I was 16; so, working twice or quadruple times more is not news.
Fortunately, now, with enough effort, patience, and hardwork, I am working with multiple clients now (looking to keep me for the long-term)!
Ever since I was a child, I have always told my teachers in school that when I grow up, I want to help children and animals in need.
My parents have so much devotion in faith and good education. They did their very best amidst the financial challenges and strived to send me to private schools and to a premier university in college. Of course, I had to assist them with it via gaining scholarships too.
So, back in October 2020, I gave out a trial webinar for Virtual Assistants (VA) and Freelancers and guess what, I got a really good response from the people. I was able to help 3 Virtual Assistants/Freelancers from that trial webinar to find new clients!
In November (on my birthday) 2020, I launched my own podcast for VA and Freelancers, The Rockstar VA Podcast. I was lucky enough to have enough experience and enough professional network to create and launch a podcast. And I’m still gaining and creating more connections online!
And just on February this year, I launched this portfolio website — shielapialago.com that digitally houses all my experiences and initiatives!
And now, I have an online fundraising event that aims to help in so many ways!
The “How To Be a Rockstar Virtual Assistant in 2021” aims to:
- Help New or Aspiring Virtual Assistants to effectively reach out to their first potential client
- Assist Established or Experienced Virtual Assistants & Freelancers aiming to find and get their ideal clients online
- Donate to help the beneficiaries of Children of Asia-Philippines based in Cebu, The Philippines
- Donate for food and medical supplies to the stray dogs and animals of Mayari Animal Rescue Organization (MARO) based in Guadalupe, Cebu City, The Philippines
I know, it’s nuts!
All these efforts have sprung because of my career in Virtual Assistance and Freelancing. But in the bigger picture, all of these happened amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Looking back, I could have been in a different place if I remained stubborn and did not take heed of the advice of a few trusted people. In fact, I would not have been able to create my own digital garden if it weren’t for all the things that happened this year.
A Friendly Reminder
If you have gone through worse, I do still believe that there is a reason for everything that happened and most definitely, a door of a big opportunity is going to open up for you.
Continue to be brave, take a deep breath and step into the challenges of the opportunities set for you. Pro Tip: Identify what you did right and wrong today. It makes you more self-aware but not too anxious as I am!
Create your own “digital garden”, your own virtual space where you can let your plethora of skills and expertise shine!
Things may not make sense at the start, but oddly, the universe has its own complex way of assembling your life’s puzzle.
I hope you made the most out of 2020 because you will never probably have that enough time off to spend with our family, loved ones, and even to ourselves too.
In 2021, you are going to do great and even better than last year!