Juliana Rabbi is a remote work coach and recruiter. She’s a full-on digital nomad and right now she’s in South Africa. 

What is South Africa like? 

I’m happy to be here. I came here to attend a digital nomad event. I’m really excited about it. 

It’s just really beautiful, stunning. You have the sea and very cold water, but friendly people, very good food, and prices are affordable. So I’m really happy overall. 

There is this one thing that is surprising to me. There is low shedding or lack of electricity, every day pretty much. I was told it doesn’t happen during the whole year but during some periods of the year. This time it looks like it has been happening for six months already now non-stop. So there is even an app on the phone that everybody downloads. They tell you every day when your region is going to be out of electricity. The way to deal with that is that some apartment buildings have their own generator. So you have fiber optical for internet, for a computer, for calls and all of that, you have everything operating. But there is this four to six minutes that you have no electricity at all. In some buildings, some apartments, some shops, they don’t have that, so they just stay without electricity. 

I went to a shopping mall to buy a SIM card – the classic thing that all digital nomads and remote workers do when they arrive in a new country. So I went there and the shopping mall had electricity. All the shops were open, everything was operating normally. But when it was my turn in the phone shop the guy said: Oh, I cannot sell you a SIM card because the system is not operating. So there are generators for some things but not for everything. So, this part has been a bit challenging. But apart from that I’m happy to be here in South Africa. 

Why are there blackouts in South Africa? 

The locals say it’s because of corruption. The government is corrupt. That’s the explanation everybody gave, but I didn’t get more details about it. 

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Do you plan to travel to all the countries in the world? 

It’s not a goal to visit all the countries, although it does sound interesting. Some girls count how many pair of shoes they have or how many bags. I like to count how many countries I have been to. So, I want to keep traveling. I also go back to countries that I have been to, that I enjoyed, that I have friends in, that I had a good experience and a good time in, and where I was productive at work. So it’s not only about quantity for me, it’s also about quality. 

Did you always travel? 

I was born in Brazil, so the lifestyle I had there was not directly related to travel. I come from a traditional family and the education I got was like you study, you go to the university, you land a stable job and then you’re going to have one month vacation per year and then you can travel. But also the distances in Brazil are very big, so traveling even within the country is expensive. There are low-cost options now, but before it was really expensive because the distances are big. So I didn’t grow up traveling that much. 

It was only when I moved to Spain, Europe in 2006 that traveling became something more affordable because the distances are shorter. I started meeting people that were traveling quite often and then I met people who were traveling since they were kids. That’s so different but at the same time, exciting for me. So I started prioritizing traveling more. And then one thing led to another. I started working remotely, so I had the option to travel more, but I still had a work contract in Spain. So I was still based in Spain at that time. Then I landed a job at a cruise company as a recruiter. So I was traveling to different countries and continents to actually interview the future crew members.

I remember this image. I was in Mauritius, which I have been to four or five times, and it was a beautiful day outside, and I was inside a hotel room interviewing candidates – 40 candidates per day on average, and I remember seeing the window from the hotel room. I saw the sea and I saw the sun. Life was happening outside. So at that moment, something clicked and I wanted to be in charge of my travels.

I went from barely traveling as a child and a teenager to start traveling here and there, then start traveling massively because of work, until I realized that, yes, I want to keep traveling. I want this to be part of my life, but I want to travel more than just because of work or just on holidays and just on all weekends. So I wanted to be more in charge of how I travel, to where, for how long, and in which ways. 

Is there stability with remote jobs today? 

The remote job is definitely a way that you can have more flexibility and stability. And what I mean by stability is that you have a salary that you’re going to get paid every two weeks or every month, so you can plan around that. Sometimes you even have bonuses and other benefits, so it can be even more than the standard salary, but at least you know your monthly income. And there was a choice I made some years ago. There is a choice that a lot of my clients make, and I think it’s fascinating because you pretty much have the best of two worlds. You have the flexibility, you are more in charge of your hours, your schedule, and where you are physically. You also have a team supporting you, so you don’t need to figure it out all alone. Working remotely has a lot of perks. 

For many years I was working remotely and at some point, I started combining my remote job with freelancer gigs. I was combining that with starting my business. So I experienced different stages of remote work. I don’t work as a remote work employee anymore, but now I help people to work like that. My life is pretty much all around remote work; it has been for many years actually. 

How do you become an entrepreneur? How do you know it’s time to start your own business?  

The way I was raised was not at all related to being an entrepreneur and taking risks and having your own business. This was not an option for me. I didn’t know it existed until later on in my journey. 

Then I was working remotely, and the funny thing about working remotely is that I didn’t choose that at the very beginning. There were some internal chains in the cruise company that I was working for and they said I had two options: to be let go or to start working from home. So, I accepted working from home and it’s how it started in 2004. I started enjoying it. I can be productive, I’m in charge of my schedule, and I play with my dogs at the time. But it was still like working as an employee for a company. 

I started traveling more with my job. I started loving it, but I started getting tired of traveling too fast and traveling to places that I didn’t choose. So at some point, I realized I wanted to travel more but on my own terms. This was what actually changed everything. 

I started narrowing down the options. I did not want to take a sabbatical year. I didn’t want to travel as a back-packer and use all my savings. That was in 2018, to be more specific. 

One of the first things I did was ask for help because it was very overwhelming. So I hired a coach. That was extremely important for me – to get clarity, to narrow down the options, to explore the possibilities about what to do next. How can I make money, how can I keep going with my career and still travel? It was almost two years of coaching. Then I started doing the freelancer gigs that I mentioned, then I start having my own clients and I started growing my business. I was working 11 hours minimum per day (crazy times!). The financial part was always a big thing. I didn’t want to touch my savings.  Once I was making enough money from other sources of income, I could remove my full-time remote job. And that’s why I took those two years during which I still had the coach helping me. 

And another thing that I did that helped me a lot with the mindset was attending digital nomad events. I wanted to be surrounded by people who were already living the lifestyle that I wanted to live. I wanted to bring that reality closer to me. I want to be one of them. I started using all my holiday time to attend those events. I would arrive one week before the event in the city, or country where it was happening. 

All those steps together combined helped me to create this entrepreneurial mindset, which was never the first thing. The first thing was always traveling more. 

What are the benefits of hiring a career coach?

Not everybody needs a coach, and you don’t need a coach forever. The way I approach it is like external support to speed up the results that you want to achieve. Normally my career coaching clients are struggling with something. There is a big pain, something that is not really working out well for them, and normally they have already tried everything that they know to solve the problem and it’s not working.

In the beginning, I also experienced that myself. But normally you try. You search on Google. You talk to people who are whatever you want to be. You try to update your resume, you apply for 20 jobs and you get ghosted. You think maybe there is something wrong here. Why are companies not contacting me back? Then you start following people who work remotely on Instagram. You take some steps and at some point, you realize it’s not working or it’s taking longer. 

Then you start feeling frustrated and you start doubting yourself. So these are some of the symptoms that people normally have before they decide to hire a professional. They probably already spent too much time and money like hiring one professional who didn’t help, then hiring another one, buying an online course, etc. Nothing’s helping and some of them are really on the edge of giving up, which is very sad. 

It’s like no, no, don’t give up before you try everything, because maybe you’re just following the wrong path. There is a limit to the things that you know. Because you know what you know. You know the job that you’re trying to do, the area that you have always been working in, the thing you studied – that’s what you know. So landing a job, searching for a job, writing a resume, and performing well at job interviews is a totally different set of skills. There is probably nothing wrong with you as a professional if you cannot land a remote job because landing a remote job is a thing in itself. You require skills. It requires knowledge about the market, and about what remote companies are looking for. People tend to mix it up and say I’m a bad professional, it will never happen to me when in fact they just need the right guidance to get there. 

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Who can work remotely? What skillsets are most sought after? 

The options to work remotely are broader now. Some years ago it was only for the nerd developer with a lack of social skills working behind the computer. But right now, anything from marketers, teachers, designers, HR, accountants, lawyers, and so many other areas. Actually, it’s more like which areas can’t be done remotely. Every company has a marketing apartment, even an IT company, so they need people in marketing. Every company has an accounting department. They need to pay people, so they also have a payroll department. They have the HR people who recruit and train them. They probably have a CEO, in different departments. In any company, you do have the same departments or most of them. Sometimes some of those departments are outsourced. I think that’s an easy way to expand our perception about which kinds of jobs can be done remotely nowadays. Pretty much any of them. 

Very few jobs and professions need you to be there, which is also good because some people like to work in person. They miss going to the office or the day-to-day interaction. So let those people do what they like doing and we can keep doing the remote work stuff. 

Is the future remote or do you think it’s more hybrid?

I think the present is remote. Every time I hear the future is remote, I think no, it’s the present already. Then I need to remember that it’s not the present for everybody. For a lot of people, this option became available during the pandemic in 2020. So for most people it’s actually a very recent reality and some people are still struggling to get there. 

I don’t have a crystal ball; I cannot predict exactly, but I know some people feel more comfortable with a hybrid work environment, which is also amazing if it works for them. And companies should be clear about it, not create false expectations. For example, you apply to this remote job, and then you go for an interview and they say: By the way, you need to come to the office twice a week, but it’s remote. Now the name of that is hybrid. Let’s just name things properly because it makes it easy for everybody. I think it’s going to be a mix of both. Some companies will keep working towards being fully remote, which is my personal preference, but other companies will be hybrid and some people are really happy with that. So I think both options are actually possible to combine. 

What are the disadvantages of working remotely?

First of all, what we had during the pandemic was not working remotely. It was forced. To work from home without previous notice, without that being a choice, without the infrastructure from some companies, and without a proper workspace at home. That is really far away from the real remote work experience and possibilities. In addition, we were all living in fear.

When you work remotely you can work from home. It’s one of the options, but you can work from a coffee shop. You can work from another city where you are visiting or living. You can work from a friend’s house and spend time there. You can even work from a different country or a different city. So it’s definitely much more than working from home during a pandemic context. 

What turns recruiters off when interviewing candidates for remote work?

When you meet someone and you notice that the person doesn’t really care at all about the job; the person is just there because of the money. So the person didn’t bother getting to know anything about the company or the position. Or the person doesn’t seem to be motivated for the job, or the person doesn’t really engage which is pretty much like the mindset when you work for the government. You’re there every day and you know, sign up at a certain time, you sign off and that’s it. 

This is something that turns recruiters off. I understand that it’s not your business and that you’re not the owner because when you apply for a job, you’re an employee. So your commitment level is not as if you are the owner of that business. Companies want you to take ownership of that. They want you to dream together more than just hire you to just do a certain set of tasks. Companies want to see it’s worth it to invest in you because you’re going to grow with us, you’re going to help us to grow, and you are going to commit and go one step ahead. I always tell my clients, even if you’re applying for 20 jobs at the same time which probably is the reality of job seekers, when you go for a job interview, do your homework.  Get to know the company and the position to see if you’re excited about it because you might figure out once you dig more that you are not really that interested. It’s going to show in the interview and it will have an impact on the way they see you as a candidate. 

How to stand out when looking for a remote job?

That’s what I do with my three months coaching program. I go deep into all those things. I don’t have only courses, I actually also have coaching programs, mentoring, and all of that. So different formats to work with people. 

But in a very superficial way, I can say try to match your application documents with the job requirements as much as possible. So instead of having a generic resume that you use to apply to all the jobs, have a master one, but then you tailor it to make small adjustments before you apply for every job, because that will increase the chance to be seen as a good candidate. Robots behind websites are screening the 500 applicants for their job and they come up with 50 that actually a human will check. So aligning that will help you to stand out. Also. 

Also, check if it really makes sense to you to go for that company and for that job because the recruitment process is taking way longer now. I think people still don’t trust it too much, so there are more steps to see if the person is really the right choice for the job. Be more careful and more intentional with finding the jobs and the companies that make sense to you, that are aligned with not only what you want to do as a job but also which remote companies will allow you to have the lifestyle that you want to have. Some companies will allow you to work from home and have flexibility in your schedule, which can be amazing if you, but if you want to be able to travel and work at the same time, you need a remote company that allows you to do that. 

There are so many different kinds of remote jobs and flexibility levels that you can have. Instead of just start applying, do your homework and get familiar with all those options to see what really makes sense considering the lifestyle that you want to have. 

How can Juliana Rabbi help remote job seekers?

I use the knowledge I got working as a recruiter for fifteen years, so I know what companies are looking for. I know what a good resume looks like. I know how to stand out in a job interview. I know the job seekers’ struggles. I know how to guide people in the process. I combine all of that and I have different programs and courses to help people to land a remote job faster. They range from online courses to intensive mentoring. The most extensive and exclusive program that I have is a three-month coaching program where I help in all the steps that you need to land a remote job and I am with you in the process. I also have my YouTube channel, which is a free option. There are more than 88 videos about remote jobs, job interviews, how to use LinkedIn, career change, and all of that. So it’s also a very good resource for people to get to know me a bit better. 

Tell us a bit more about you and comedy improv.

I started seven or eight years ago. I’ve been doing amateur theater and improv theater for 12 years in total. I noticed that my English level was getting a bit rusty. Then I moved to Ireland for a while to improve my English level. So when I went back to Spain I wanted to do things that will expose me to speaking in English on a daily basis. And that’s when I found amateur theater in English. Then when I moved to Barcelona, I found improv comedy, like improvisation theater, which is another side of the story, and it’s so much fun. I made great friends , I learned about being on a stage and getting answers fast, even when you don’t know what is happening. You can’t read all the people’s minds but still work as a team. Voice projection, stage presence and all of that which is so helpful for life in general because you still need to figure out what you are going to do; you need to embrace the situation and keep going. So it’s actually very resourceful for life in general and very fun. I love it. 

What’s one piece of advice based on your life experience? 

My piece of advice would be to do the things that make sense to you, even if it doesn’t make sense to people around you. What I mean by that is when I was living in Brazil, I never really fit completely into the society, into the priorities, into this thing about going to the university, graduating, buying an apartment, having a mortgage, getting married to have kids and having a stable job until you retire. So I was the black sheep and I was not fitting in. People didn’t understand my needs. So when I started traveling when I moved to Spain and was exposed to other things, I found out there are other people who think like me. This is possible. So I started trusting what I had always felt and I made career and life decisions that would allow me to live like that. Connect with what makes sense to you, the lifestyle, and how you want to spend your time and stick to it because most likely there is a way to live like that. You just need to ignore some people’s feedback and be friends or learn from other people who have a different approach to life. 

That’s great advice, Juliana. Thank you so much for your time.