“I’m currently unemployed”
“I’m looking for a job”
“I’m on the market for new opportunities”
I’ve spoken to many people young and old who stated these words, visibly uncomfortable with their confession. I’ve also been one to say these exact same words as I intentionally tried to deduce whether my saying I was job-hunting would sway the conversation for the better or worse from that point on.
The first time in my adult years the thought of being one of the many who were not waking up to report to an institution of employment was when I returned to Zimbabwe on January 27th 2007. Brown-eyed, enthusiastic and clearly misinformed, I thought my return to my home country would hail in the marching band and the pom-poms. It would only be 8 months later that I would report to a “proper job”, with a salary at the end of the month, after months of freelancing and interview attending. I was single and living at home with my parents who were so incredibly elated to have their baby girl home, but the reality of it was that it was hard, simply because it felt like people viewed me to be “less than” for not having a constant source of income from a job when the conversation came up.
That season of transition was effectively when I embarked on the truest form of soul searching. Months of being feeling hyper-misplaced and not knowing where I fit in socially, lightweight depression as I reminisced my days of feeling “moneyed up” as I drove down Peachtree street in Atlanta, only to come home and try to make sense of how much home had changed since I had left for University at the top of the decade. For one, there were simply no jobs for young university graduates and entry level candidates; and much less of those who had spent a good bit of time outside the borders of Zimbabwe. It was all a lot to take in and I fought hard to keep from buckling under the pressure of not knowing how things were going to pan out for me.
Prayer, my parents’ commitment to helping me pick up the pieces of the visibly broken young woman that had returned home from overseas and the aunties; lots of them who spoke into my life as if I was their own daughter on the mend – helped foster my willingness to work on the person I wanted to be. Out with the old and in with the new it was going to be, and boy! What a journey.
A family relocation to Zambia in 2013 did it again for me. There will always be seasons in life when you need to take stock of where you are and what role you can play to fix yourself. I was a new mom and new wife, dealing with a host of emotions as I desired to truly come to understand what in fact I was created for. Enter the question of “purpose and work”. Could the two co-exist?
I took to writing – a lot. Others journaled. I learned how to blog and from there I discovered that a good bit of healing was available to me if I purged my thoughts on my keyboard. That blog became Quintessential F, which is now a movement that chronicles faith through the eyes of African women in my circles; women I have had the great pleasure of connecting and walking with as WE ALL worked at discovering who we were called to be.
The beginning of this new decade brought with it more shifts and adjustments. After a tumultuous year wherein I witnessed the “interesting, albeit less favourable” side of humanity in a corporate setting, as at today I spend my days helping individuals and small organisations with communications strategy and content strategies. I am “unemployed” in the sense of not waking up to a 9-5 job, but let me say, the entire experience of having the opportunity to do life on my own terms has really shifted my thoughts on finding your purpose in your work. Allow me then, to share with you three revelations the first few weeks of 2020 have taught me about doing life intentionally, as I navigate my current season of transition from the now…to my next big thing:
1. A job isn’t your end all be all, but rather a means to direct you to your purpose. I’ve enjoyed the incredible privilege of connecting with full time freelancers, writing for publications across the globe, working on a new anthology which will launch soon, hosting a workshop that sold out, speaking at events hosted by other women’s groups, launching brands for individuals who’ve been afraid to start their own thing for the longest – all in the past 6 weeks and through my brand Reinvented Today. And let me tell you, I am the happiest I’ve been in a long time. My husband has been encouraging me to take my gift seriously and monetize it, but that whole “you need to have a job” rhetoric had messed with my ability to do so.
I do need a job – or rather, a steady stream of income. I have enjoyed the incredible privilege of working on some of the most exciting campaigns and brands as a publicist, and that brings me a good bit of joy and excitement as a creative. Also, bills do not pay themselves…sadly. But seasons of transition have forced me to ask myself whether my job in any way, shape or form, contributes to my purpose or life’s mission.
Have you ever worked with someone whose eyes twinkle when they talk about what they do or are working on? That! That is everything. So whether you have a 9-5, have a side hustle or are trying to do both – in seasons where there are shifts, explore every opportunity to reevaluate whether what you are doing is of service to your greater calling. I don’t know what the Heavens have lined up for me next, but I am definitely enjoying the process of discovering what that could be!
2. Few companies will ever value your gifts like you do, so it’s on you to do that and use them for growth. So here’s the thing; some of my most professionally rewarding experiences have come from working in organisations that were willing to leverage my skills beyond the job description. I was fortunate to work for a PR agency where there were big on letting their consultants get the job done their way, as long as no fundamental rules were broken and business was carried out with honesty and integrity. I am a keen negotiator and have been able to excel in my PR career because I believe I’ve mastered the art of persuasion through connecting with the people I work with beyond the professional reasons we are all gathered at the table. I’m big on building relationships so we all view the task at hand as something we are all vested in. But, that’s a difficult feat to achieve if professional relationships are impersonal and that “connection factor” is limited.
Like most employees, I have also worked with some rigid, dictator-like bosses who did little to inspire enthusiasm in their teams. And the result? People left. Eventually we all do when we do not feel valued by the organisation or the managers we work for or with. Eventually we all move on when we feel like our myriad of skillsets – or gifts – aren’t appreciated and our bosses are gnawing away at our concept of self-worth. But again, such an experience also becomes an opportunity to redefine your sense of self, even at the workplace. The gaps between one role and the next have always helped me think through the reasons I opted for a change, and what I would ask for in future jobs. These seasons should they happen to you, should offer you an opportunity to do the same too!
3. An employment gap helps you garner clarity. What do you really want? Is it more money, flexible hours, growth, power? As much as change can be drastic, it offers a compelling opportunity to really hone in on what your goals are as you work towards living a life you can be proud of. Too many of us are caught up in the busyness of life, or rather, the panic of thinking about what life would be like without you sitting at that desk with those spreadsheets, graphs, Power Point slides and copious amounts of coffee to keep you from falling asleep.
If you find yourself on the hunt for a new opportunity out of the sheer need to survive, look after your family or fund your dreams, use the quieter moments to actively think through what you really want. You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. If you aren’t happy at your current place of employment, perhaps it’s time to move on. If you are in a great working environment yet feel like there’s more out there for you, take time to explore what that looks like for you. Extraordinary doesn’t come with accepting the ordinary. Extraordinary comes with being clear about what you are doing, why you are doing it and constantly working towards being amazing at it!
With the shifts in world economies making retrenchments a reality for a lot of people, you or someone you know may experience seasons of unemployment. Don’t panic. If you are hungry to growth, getting that slip or fighting through a new search may actually set you well on your way to finding your purpose. Enjoy the ride! You’ll be surprise to learn a little more about yourself and your purpose in those seasons of searching.