In addition to the enormous human toll the 2020 coronavirus pandemic has had throughout the world, the virus has also had a significant impact on people’s careers. Some have seen their jobs eliminated, work projects cancelled, roles furloughed, industries turned upside down, and businesses completely shut down.

After thinking really carefully about who I wanted to feature in this episode of Career Relaunch, I decided that financial controller Liya Dashkina would be the perfect individual. Liya, who’s also a listener to Career Relaunch, decided a few months ago to resign from her job in London and move back to Australia to be with her partner while continuing to work remotely. Her three-month notice period was supposed to wrap up at the end of March, after which, she was planning to explore new career options in Australia.

Then, the pandemic hit.

The sudden uncertainty and upheaval she’s now facing in her career is similar to other stories I’ve heard from clients and listeners who have suddenly had their career plans upended.

I hope you find this conversation helpful as you figure out how to bounce back from whatever setbacks you may be experiencing in your own career during this COVID-19 crisis.

Key Career Insights

  1. During times of uncertainty, you can only focus on what you can control.
  2. Building relationships takes time. Sometimes, you need to go into it without counting on the fact anything will necessarily come out of it.
  3. To be truly successful, you have to be truly invested in what you’re doing.
  4. Try to figure out what drives you, what makes you tick, and what gets you out of bed in the morning rather than just “doing what you love.”
  5. Now that the world has stopped due to coronavirus, it actually enables an opportunity for you to get creative and reassess where you want to take your life & career.

Tweetables to Share

Related Resources

  • Liya mentioned the Business of Fashion is hosting some online events you may be interested in checking out, especially during the coronavirus lockdown.
  • If you are looking for some career resources to guide you during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve compiled useful articles on job hunting and virtual interviewing on my COVID-19 career resources page.

Liya requested I share this poem excerpt, related to some of the things we discussed during our conversation.

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. The adventure is its own reward — but it’s necessarily dangerous, having both negative and positive possibilities, all of them beyond control.
-The Power of Myth- Joseph Campbell

Listener Challenge

During this episode’s Mental Fuel segment, I talked about trying to find your optimal path to living with this pandemic. To decide on something in your career or life to let go of, at least for the time being.

You can absolutely come back to it later, but I’d like you to consider loosening your grip on what you had expected to do, and focus instead on what you may have to do at this moment given the unprecedented times we’re in. And to try to embrace it . . . because maybe in the long run, we’ll all come out of this coronavirus pandemic having reinforced the aspects of our careers and lives that truly matter most.

About Liya Dashkina

Liya Dashkina Career RelaunchBorn in Russia, Liya Dashkina moved to Australia at the age of 15 where she completed her high school and university studies, qualifying as a chartered accountant and a solicitor. In 2010, her job brought her to London, where she spent the last decade working mostly in the finance industry. In 2018, having always had a keen interest in the fashion industry, she made the decision to leave her career in banking to join a fashion media start-up. At the beginning of 2020, she moved back to Australia to be with her partner, whilst continuing to work remotely during this transition. Be sure to follow Liya on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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Episode Interview Transcript

Teaser (first ~15s): It is trying to figure out whether to ride it out and wait a couple of months and then get back to what the original plan was or altering your plans and altering your original idea where you saw yourself.

Joseph: Good morning, Liya. I know it’s pretty early over there in Sydney, so I really appreciate you making the time to come on to the show.

Liya: Good morning, Joseph.

Joseph: I’d like to talk with you today about a few different things, including balancing practical career decisions with your true interests, making a big international move for personal reasons right when your life is flowing, and also what it takes to break into a new industry.

First off, I got to say we’re recording this in early April 2020. This is actually the first episode I’ve recorded in a while after taking a break from the show.

Right now, the main thing on everyone’s mind is this corona virus, which is very much still a global pandemic at this moment and seems to be just getting worse and worse by the day. I actually just heard a few minutes ago on the news that the global cases of corona virus have now passed one million and had more than doubled just over the past week alone.

Here in the U.K., we’re on a national lockdown. This is clearly affecting every single person out there. I was wondering if you could start by painting a picture of your situation there in Sydney, Australia, and exactly what your life has been like the past couple of weeks.

Liya: We are currently in a lockdown in Sydney and trying to adapt to this new reality and the new way of living. Sydney is not the worst place to be stuck in a lockdown. I think we’re a little bit behind the U.K. and the U.S. in terms of the timing of lockdowns and restrictions, which seem to be about a week behind the U.K.

It has been an interesting time obviously, a very anxious time for many people, both from a personal perspective and professional perspective as well. It’s just very similar. Everyone seems to be on the same page, just taking it day by day and adapting as we go along.

Joseph: I’m going to try to stick with the typical format I follow on this show. I do want to go back in time, just like I normally do, and talk about your historical career and your transitions, but before we get to that, I just want to stick to this topic of the corona virus for just another moment here.

One reason why I wanted to have you on the show, Liya, is because I know you’ve recently moved back to Australia right before this outbreak happened. You had a certain vision of how things might shape up there.

I know you’re not a healthcare worker—nor am I, nor are either of us on the frontlines of dealing with this pandemic in a way that healthcare workers or delivery drivers or many other people are—but what have you found to be the most challenging part of what’s going on at this very moment?

Liya: I think outside of the obvious, personal things like being away from your family, which I’ve actually found very difficult, because my family are all in Russia still. Even though I have been living away from them for over 20 years now, it is at a time like this that I found it particularly difficult. I feel it very acutely.

In terms of the work situation, there are two things. One is the uncertainty with respect to time. You don’t really know how long you are going to be in this situation, how long to plan for. It makes it very difficult.

Secondly, trying to figure out when you are caught out in a stage of flux, especially in a transition period, it is trying to figure out whether to ride it out and a couple of months and then get back to what your original plan was or to retreat into safety or a more traditional secure job if it does come along, but that means altering your plans and altering your original idea where you saw yourself in the next 12 to 24 months.

Joseph: Yeah, I totally hear you on all of those things you just mentioned. There’s so much in there that I want to unpack. I do want to come back to it, but the one that really struck me was what you mentioned at the very beginning about being far away from your family. I’m also far away from my mother and my sister.

What I found most unsettling about this whole situation and what makes it I think different than being far away from your family in other instances is that you can’t actually go and see them if anything were to come up. If anything were to happen with our parents or people we care about, we can’t actually go and be there with them.

I just found that to be a really unsettling feeling right now, in addition to all those things you mentioned about not really being able to plan for anything at this moment.

Liya: I think that’s the general overarching thing I found about this whole corona virus crisis that the restriction of movement is just something we’re so not used to. We are very used to being in control of most parts of our lives, and this is completely outside of our control. Being told that you cannot go somewhere, being told that you may not see your family for 6 to 12 months at this point for me, it takes a little while to process and understand. I don’t know if I’ve actually fully reconciled it in my mind.

Joseph: I would like to come back and talk about your current situation and the situation right now and how you’re handling it. Just a quick snapshot, what exactly are you doing in your career right now, before we go back in time and then go through your history?

Liya: At the moment, I am still working for my London employer. I’m working remotely. It is a fashion media startup. I was meant to be transitioning, rolling off at that job, and trying to find my next opportunity here in Sydney longer term. That’s where I still am.

Joseph: What a time to try to do that too. We’ll come back to that.

Let’s go back in time now and talk about your time—this is going to be a little confusing, because you were in Australia before, then you moved to London, and then now you’re back in Australia. I’d like to go all the way back to the first time you were in Australia. I know you spent the first part of your life in Russia. What led you to initially move to Australia, before you came to London?

Liya: When I moved, I was 15 years old. I come from a family where it’s a very traditional, rather conservative family in Russia. One of the big things in our family was always education. Both my mom and dad are very, very keen to give their children a better life than they had and give them better opportunities.

When I was 15, they wanted to send me somewhere to study English. Australia seemed like a good idea. I was meant to be here for a year or two just to finish off my high school and then go back to Russia.

Moving at such a formative age, it was so difficult for me. It was so challenging to adapt and to take on this new life that when I got to a place of comfort, I didn’t want to and uproot myself again. By that stage, I formed friendships and applied for university and decided to stay here for a while. I was here for 10 years before then moving to London.

Joseph: You studied accounting and law at university there, and then you went on to work in a Big Four accounting firm, is that right?

Liya: Yes, exactly.

Joseph: How did you go from being in Australia, working in accounting, to then ending up in London in 2010?

Liya: Because of the combination of law and commerce that I studied, when I went into the accounting firm, I was allocated into the tax division. I was working in expatriate taxation, which means that we were looking after people who were being sent to work in Australia and Australians who are being sent to work overseas.

Through that, I got an opportunity to myself be an expat and experience what our clients go through and be sent to London for a year to work in our London office. It was something that was being offered on a continuous basis to people at my level, and I jumped at the opportunity, because at that stage, I had never been to London.

Joseph: At some point, I know you came over here to London, which is where I’m based. This show is all about transition, so I’ve got to talk a little bit about your interest in fashion. At some point, you decided to pursue your interest in fashion.

You mentioned when we spoke before that being in London fueled this. Could you just explain how did you get interested in fashion, and how did you attempt to get into fashion?

Liya: When I moved to London, I was just so exhilarated by being in a big city, not really knowing anyone and having to make new connections. I looked at it as a positive and exciting opportunity.

At the time, it was the rise of blogging and street style. Through the bloggers’ fair, I had connected with someone who’s a photographer and we became friend. I started hanging out in that environment and absolutely loved it. This is before blogging and street style became a multi-billion pound industry.

I was hanging around there, and I started trying to think, ‘How can I be in this world? How can I transition into this world but still doing what I do and being who I am?’

Joseph: At that moment, was this something that you felt you would rather do instead of working in finance or accounting? Was that becoming clear to you at this moment?

Liya: Yes. I was trying to explore how I could do that and how I can go into that space. I was casting my net quite wide and looking at accounting and finance but also how I could maybe go via the language route.

I spoke Russian. I speak Russian fluently. That’s one of the things that I considered at the time. I found an internship with a fashion house in London. I was looking at sales to Russian client to the CIS region at the time.

Joseph: I know when we spoke before, you mentioned that this initial attempt at transitioning into fashion didn’t actually end up working out. What exactly happened?

Liya: I was young and naïve. To cut a long story short, I ran out of money. London is a very expensive place. I think when you read a lot of this stories and success stories and experiences, people never talk about money.

I hadn’t planned properly. I thought I would be lucky, and I would find a job, not realizing that the industry is actually very, very difficult to get into but also very difficult to stay. The competition is very high. I loved my time working at this particular studio. I’ve made some great friends. I’ve got experience, but I could no longer afford to work in fashion.

I basically realized that I had no choice, and I had to go back into a more stable job if I wanted to afford my rent and my lifestyle, well any lifestyle in London, really.

Joseph: Now, I would be really interested to hear what that was like for you to let go of what you really enjoyed doing and return back to the corporate world. I’m just trying to imagine the dichotomy between those two worlds – the fashion industry, very forward thinking, and then more of the traditional corporate world.

I think I recall you ended up going to Barclays at the time, which is quite an established traditional bank, at least from the outside looking in.

Liya: There were two conflicting views. One is I obviously wanted to be closer to the creative world. One of the things that attracted me to fashion, in the first place, is that the people are so passionate and enthusiastic and creative. Going back into the corporate world, it was a bit of a shellshock. I obviously have the cultural element of my family views and how family viewed my whole foray into fashion.

Joseph: How did they view that?

Liya: Russian culture is very similar to a lot of eastern cultures in that way that a serious job is a lawyer, an engineer, an accountant, or a doctor. Anything outside of that is not a safe and sound career. I think my parents were very worried about me in terms of, they called it, a hobby job. I think there was a lot of pressure and a lot of not wanting to disappoint your family, in that sense.

I basically realized at that point that I didn’t really have a choice. The reality has set in in terms of the logistics of living. It was disappointing, but also at the time, I felt, ‘You know what? Not everything has to be a success in life. Sometimes it’s the experience that really matters.’

I was so happy that I actually got to take the leap, experience, find out, and not die wondering. I think we’re so focused with such a results-driven society where everything you do needs to become a success, or you have to achieve a result. In this case, me, I was actually quite happy that I was brave enough to actually step outside of my comfort zone and experience it.

Joseph: It sounds like it was a moment where you really went for it, which I think is really admirable. Those moments in our lives end up being so rewarding and so memorable in so many ways, and yet you had to make this practical move, which is actually quite a salient point that I know a lot of people are thinking about right now – balancing your hopes and your dreams with the realities of the environment.

You go back and you work in banking, and you do that for a few years, and then you started to get a bit of an itch. Can you walk me through what triggered that?

Liya: I spent a few years working very hard and trying climb the career ladder and do all things that you’re meant to be doing. I was actually quite good at it, and I had a very good experience.

After Barclays, I went into a smaller financial services institution in London. That was a really positive experience for me. I really came into my own in my career and started kicking goals and achieving things and really enjoyed it.

But at some point, I think you get to a stage where just hard work is no longer enough. To be truly successful, you need to be very invested and interested and engaged in what you are doing. That was the issue I was facing, that ‘take that next step,’ and to really succeed, I had to go all in.

I think the timing was interesting because I was in my early to mid-30’s. It is a time I think where you tend to stop, take a breath, and assess, and take stock of where your life is and where your career is. That’s when I started thinking, ‘Okay, is that all it is?’

Actually, it’s around that time that I discovered your podcast. I started listening to it. I was binging on it. I couldn’t get enough, because I was getting all these stories of people who are in the same shoes as me. It was very, very helpful. I think it was actually quite inspiring and motivational for me to actually take the leap and start looking into what it is that I wanted to do going forward.

Joseph: You mentioned the word ‘meant to be’ earlier when you were describing what you are meant to be doing, which I always think is a really interesting topic. What should we be doing versus what are we meant to be doing versus what do we want to be doing. How did you figure out where you were meant to be?

Liya: I tried to figure out what was important to me, what drove me. I think it’s misleading to think, ‘Do what you love.’ I think it needs to be a little bit more granular than that.

Once you figure out what drives you—for some people its money, for some people it’s power, for some people it’s purpose—whatever it is, you need to figure out what makes you tick and what makes you get up in the morning. By thinking that, I realized that for me, purpose was very important and what I associate myself with. The why is very important.

I started thinking about that and what I’ve been interested in, and also trying not to start over as such, but try to combine it. Was there any way that I could combine my interest in fashion with what I had already done and the person that I had become by that stage?

I didn’t go on this big job hunt. I actually focused, honed in on this one company that I work for now, The Business of Fashion. I was spending my entire free time either reading their content or listening to their podcasts. I’m really, really enjoying what they were putting out there into the world. They really opened my eyes into some of the issues in the world of fashion that I’ve never even considered.

By figuring out what was important to me, and by figuring out what I was doing in my spare time that didn’t feel like work, that’s how I eventually landed at the conclusion.

Joseph: I think you mentioned before when we spoke, it took six months for you to actually land at the role that you wanted. Persistence is something we talk a lot about on this show. I think it’s especially relevant right now. What were the steps that you took during this time to stay on the radar of the eventual employer that you ended up working for?

Liya: One of the jokes at our company is that I employed myself essentially, because I applied for a job, and I wasn’t really qualified to do the job that was going at the time. I thought, ‘You know what? I’m never going to get this.’

I wrote a letter to the CEO, explaining all the reasons why I was wrong but all the reasons why I should be hired and why I should be in the company. I heard somewhere that in this day and age, you sign an envelope by hand, people will always open it because how often do you get an envelope that is signed by hand? That’s exactly what I did.

Anyway, that lead to them reaching out, and I went for coffee with our head of people and just stayed in touch, and I said to him, ‘Would you mind if I checked in with you every other month?’ Eventually, six months later, a job came up. I applied, and I still had to go through the whole process, the application process. Eventually, it paid off.

The important lesson here is that building relationships takes time. Sometimes, you need to go into it without the certainty that there will something at the end.

Joseph: It sounds like this ended up working out. You end up working for The Business of Fashion. We’re almost to the present day now.

You mentioned when we spoke before that at time moment when you were in London and you’re working at The Business of Fashion and you were in the industry and the sector that you want to be in, your life was exactly how you wanted it. Yet, you ended up deciding to move to Sydney.

Could you just explain what prompted you to return to Sydney, and what was happening for you at that time with your life in London?

Liya: Life happens when you’re busy making plans.

I was at a point where everything was going great. I was looking at my life thinking, ‘Finally, yes. This is my perfectly design life. This is what I want to be.’ Then I reconnected with an ex-boyfriend of mine, who is based out of Sydney. For a number reasons, he’s not able to move back to London.

I was faced with a question of choice and choosing. At the time, I looked at it as choosing between a man and a job. That was very daunting for me. Looking back at it now, I don’t think it was the right way of looking at it. My inner feminist felt very guilty because I thought, ‘Well, I worked so hard to get this job. I worked so hard to build this life. What am I doing? Can I actually leave all these behind and choose this other path?’

That was very difficult. That was a tough choice because it’s two things that you don’t necessarily want to be choosing between.

Joseph: You ultimately did decide to move to Sydney. I can just imagine how tough that decision was because I’ve been in a very similar situation myself, as you know, before I moved to London.

How did you envision things going? What were your plans when you decided to move to Sydney?

Liya: I realized that I was not defined by my job or by the company that I work for or even the country that I live in, that I have a choice of how to define myself, and I hold the narrative around that. That was very powerful for me because it wasn’t that, by choosing Sydney, I was giving up on something. I then chose to look at it as an opportunity to potentially reinvent myself yet again roll the dice, go on an adventure, do something different. That’s how I dealt with that.

That was my thinking. I wanted to keep an open mind, see what’s out there. I know that the industry is very different. The fashion industry is a lot smaller. The media landscape is very different here in Australia. I really want to just get in touch with as many people as possible, have a chat, and see where I land.

After having done all that thinking and all of that evaluating, by the time I landed here, I was actually feeling very positive and very open minded.

Joseph: That was at the beginning of 2020.

Liya: Exactly.

Joseph: You’re going to networking events, you’re feeling quite positive about how things can shape up there, and then corona virus hit.

I recall you mentioning before that you actually had already put in your notice with your current company at the time, where the notice period was coming to an end in March.

Liya: Basically, I was meant to do my three months with BoF and finish off here. Hopefully within three months, I was able to find a job. I felt like I really started making progress. Through my networking events, I got in touch with an executive coach who very kindly decided to take me on as a pro bono case and mentor me through my transition here because she’s been through very similar experiences to me.

That has been great, because it taught me that you don’t have to do it on your own. If you surround yourself with the right support network and with people who believe in you and support you, that can be actually quite powerful.

Then corona hit, and everything came to a halt. The whole world stopped. Definitely all the conversations we’ve had were put on freeze indefinitely at this point.

Joseph: This is the last thing, Liya, that I’m hoping to talk with you about before we wrap up with what some of the things are that you’re doing at this moment. How are you dealing with the lack of clarity and the free fall that people feel that they’re in when they suddenly have the rug pulled out from under them for reasons completely outside of their control? How are you dealing with this?

Liya: You have to adapt. There’s no point in sitting there and thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if and only if?’ That’s not how it works.

In any adversity, there can always be opportunity, but you really need to work hard to go and find it. I started to try and see the positives, if there were any, of this situation. Letting go of control, I think that that free fall that you mentioned can be actually incredibly liberating, because all of a sudden, the boundaries have been lifted. You know when people say, ‘If the world was to end tomorrow, what would you do?

Now, you get the opportunity. The world is not ending, but the world has stopped. What are you doing? If you could do anything, what would it be? It allows us to get creative and to find opportunities outside of what you’re doing now. I think it’s a great time to reset, rethink, and to create not just in a little creative way, but just take some time.

The other thing that was interesting is that it’s an incredible learning experience as well, looking at how the businesses are reacting, how people are reacting, what they’re doing, how they’re pivoting, how they’re adapting. First and foremost, this is obviously a human tragedy, and it’s very, very sad. The scope of this problem is huge.

For me, I try to get the most out of living at this time and living through it and taking away some important lessons of how to manage businesses and how to manage your own life and your own mental health.

Joseph: You mentioned earlier that we’re all so achievement-focused and how that can actually blind us to what really matters. I really feel this is moment, as you mentioned earlier, when we’re almost all forced to think about what really matters. Have you had a moment to give that any thought?

Liya: The one big take away is that what really matters is health and your family and the well-being of people around you. That is number one priority.

There’s a lot of fear out there in the world. Fear, initially when you think of fear, you think it’s negative, sentimental, negative feeling. Actually, fear can be good as well. By overcoming fear, it gives you resilience. It creates bravery. Whether it’s fear of death or fear for your health, fear for your job security, all of that eventually, when you overcome it, makes you more resilient.

Joseph: Definitely. I would love to wrap up, Liya, by talking a little bit more about how you are managing some of your own thoughts. I know that one of the things that you’re doing right now is you’re doing a lot more writing these days on LinkedIn. Can you just tell me a little bit more about what you’re writing about?

Liya: I’ve taken this opportunity to focus on building up my personal brand a little bit, because I don’t know when my career will grow and how it will progress.

One of the things that I thought would be good is to write a little bit about my experience. Obviously, a lot of people out there have gone into the world of working from home or smart working, and it’s very new to them. I have been doing this for the last three months, and I realized that actually, perhaps I have something to share that could be useful for people.

I sat down and started writing down my thoughts and my experience about spending three months being so far away from my team and working remotely and what that has been like. I try to put down some tips and observations of this new world of remote, I guess.

Time, I think, is one of the most precious resources. Interestingly, around this crisis, people have time. People are willing to talk. People are willing to connect. Everyone’s very open. That’s one of the things I noticed, and I’ve been trying to do from my end with respect to my career development, I guess.

Joseph: That’s fantastic. We’ll definitely include a link to your LinkedIn profile in the show notes.

One other thing that, I think, you mentioned to me before was that The Business of Fashion also has some events that could be relevant to people right now. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Liya: One of the things that Business of Fashion does outside of editorial and news coverage of the business side of the fashion industry is actually events.

As you can imagine, running events in this current climate is impossible, so we have moved and tried to pivot as much as possible into the digital space. We are running a number of live events where they cover anything from wellness to industry talks to career-related talks

Most of them are actually free, so you don’t have to be a subscriber. I’ve been following all of them myself as well because it’s great to just connect with other people to talk about things and to realize that we’re all in this together.

We also have a number of short online courses on not only fashion but also things like building your career, which is probably one of my favorite courses that we’ve done. It’s run by Musa Tariq, who’s the global head of marketing for Airbnb experiences.

I would encourage everyone to come check us out. As you probably guessed from this podcast, I’m very passionate about what Business of Fashion does. Check us out at, and attend some of our live events.

Joseph: I’m definitely going to do that.

I’ve also noticed that there’s been a major uptick in online virtual activities, which is actually quite convenient right now. There were some in the past, but there’s a lot more of those now. It’s a really convenient way to gain access to and also connect with people you might not have otherwise been able to connect with. Thanks for sharing that.

Thank you so much, Liya, for telling us more about your life, first of all as a financial controller but also how you’ve managed all the various leaps you’ve taken in life into and out of fashion and then back into it, and most importantly the importance of resilience and overcoming your fears during this time of so much uncertainty in the world.

Please stay safe, and I hope things eventually work out for you once things get back to normal. Thanks for being here today.

Liya: Thank you so much, Joseph.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu is dedicated to helping people relaunch their careers and do more meaningful work. As a public speaker, career consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch® podcast, he shares insights from his decade of experience relaunching global consumer brands to help professionals to more effectively market their personal brands.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu helps aspiring professionals relaunch their careers to do work that matters. As a keynote speaker, career & personal branding consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, his passion is helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands.