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I always envy those who start a career at an early age, stick with it and grown as a result. Almost like walking a path knowing where it would lead you. For me, career was never a natural progression. It was never a straight line. And I wish I could say I had one first job. But when you migrate across this fascinating sphere of diversity, it feels like you have a second birth, a second life and a second chance to have a first job. At least I did.
Entering college in Iran was - and still is- very competitive. Mid 80s were probably the worst. It was when the universities and colleges had re-opened after 7 years of shut down due to revolution. So not only did I have to compete with my generation, I had to knock out those passionate smart adolescents who had been waiting to go to college for Seven years. I managed to get accepted to study Anesthesiology, Midwifery( my first passion) and Chemistry. I was obliged by my family to stay in town and study Chemistry. Meanwhile, I attended the recently reopened English Institute in Tehran to complete my English studies.
Lesson One: What kind of environment do you enjoy working in?
I loved what I studied. Chemistry taught me a lot about life. But working in a lab was a different story. All day long testing metals and putting them through the same processes with the same chemicals in a quality control lab taught me that I couldn't stand enclosed spaces and…
Lesson Two: How much creativity would you like your job to demand from you?
I learned That I need nurturing my right brain.
As I was dragging myself to the metallurgy lab every day, I was finishing my certificate in English. Towards the end of the semester my teacher approached me and asked me to apply for TTC ( Teachers Training Course) and become a teacher. “ But I hate teaching!” I said. “It was never my dream to become a teacher", I told here. I had much bigger visions for my life. “ Just do it one term and if you didn't like it, quit. No one can make you continue.”
Lesson Three & Four: Do you trust your mentor? If you don't have one, find one!
10 years later, I was the most sought after teacher in Tehran, making great money and truly enjoying my career. Teaching helped me recognize and develop my leadership skills. Teaching connected me to young curious minds that opened the space for my free spirit and accepted me wholeheartedly. Teaching taught me how one leader, one influence, can change the course of a life and subsequently touch the lives of generations. Teaching spread the seeds of coaching in the garden of my soul.
Lesson Five: When you do what you love you are in “ flow” and it shows!
Then came the second chapter of my life. Moving to United States and starting from below zero in 2001. I say below zero not only in the financial aspect but holistically. Unless you have migrated to a place with a complete different culture and language all by yourself, it would be very difficult to even grasp the idea of starting below zero.
The second week of my job I was given car keys, a computer, a flip phone and a phone. The training I received was:” Call these numbers and ask them ‘What’s the status of your project?’”. “Ok, but what do I do with the answer?!”. Apparently my people personality had persuaded my boss that my first ever business card should read “ VP of Business Development”. Good bye Chemistry degree! Good bye teaching! Greetings Emotional Intelligence! Greetings communication skills!
Make a long story short, learning the construction industry, design phases, financing routes, government vs private jobs, under & over ground inspections, environmental rules & regulations, technology and above all building relationships in a town I didn't know anyone was not an over night task. Unlike many of my associates I didn't have the advantage of growing up and going to school or church with the decision makers, knowing all the college and national sports teams and following politics. Not to neglect the fact that I was a woman in a male driven industry. I had to work not just on my job but more importantly on proving myself during the time that none of the global events were in my favor; during 9.11, while Iran was in the axis of evil and during one of the toughest depressions in the history of US.
I was put at the edge of a cliff and given a swift push. I had to either fall and break into pieces or grow wings to fly.
I flew, alright. And I didn't even give my wings time to dry. February of 2013 I started my business after putting myself through school again and getting certified as a coach. What's alive for me these days is to shift my narrative and the way I am perceived in my community; from a business developer to a coach. A full circle to where I started as a teacher, almost.
The lessons from this chapter don't fit in a line or a question. It took tremendous resilience to get up every time I fall, find my feet on the ground and make it through. It took a lot of faith to never undermine the power of “ choice”. It took steadfast mindfulness to always believe in the big picture and always, always, move forward with passion! It took mentors who believed in me more than I believed in myself at times. It took a community that cheered me along and stood by me during mishaps. It took guts, listening to my heart and developing my presence. It took wholeheartedness!
I leave you with a poem from Margot Bickel. One of the poets who touched me deeply from young ages alongside Rumi & Hafiz. May you live wholeheartedly! and follow your passion to unfold a career path where you'd never want to retire!
Before my last exhale,
Before the curtain falls,
Before the last flower wilts,
I intend to live fully,
I intend to love without inhibition,
I intend to be.
In this cruel world,
In this era steeped in hatred and grudge,
In this age filled with disasters,
I want to be in the presence of those who need me,
Whom I need,
Who are worthy of reverence.
So that I can discover,
And understand anew,
All that I am,
All that I can be,
All that I want to be.
So that the days don’t pass me by in meaningless void,
The hours become alive,
And the moments gain significance.
When I laugh,
When I cry,
When I am silent,
I am journeying towards you,
Towards the divine.
For it is an unknown path,
Full of thorns,
And ebbs and flows.
A path that upon taking,
Upon which I have already stepped foot,
There is no return,
Until I have seen the blossoming of the flowers,
Until I have heard the rivers roar,
Until I have been awed by the beauty of life.
Now death can find me,
Now I can carry on with the journey,
Now I can say that I have lived.
(Farsi to English translation by NikNaz K. Original Poem by Margot Bickel in German, translated to Farsi by Ahmad Shamlou)