Recently I’ve had a few conversations with friends who feel like they’re not where they want to be in life, they’re unsure if they are fulfilling their potential or their current career isn’t as financially rewarding as they want it to be. Sometimes I feel like that too and there are days I almost want to pack it in with the creative pursuits and put that accounting and finance degree from LSE to good use you know! (I paid £27,000 for that degree and let’s not include the interest shall we?) We’re lucky to be a generation with multiple avenues to fulfil our potential but sometimes the abundance of possibilities can also be paralysing because we’re constantly comparing ourselves with the possibility of what could be or what could have been.
As I was thinking about this, the words of our mother Khadija to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when he first received revelation came to mind. The Prophet peace be upon him, scared and in a state of distress runs home to his wife who reassures and reminds him that Allah SWT will never humiliate him because of his goodness and kindness.
So how does this story relate to our careers in the 21st century?
1.The Prophet peace be upon him was 40 years when he first received revelation and became a Messenger. It is never too late to do what you want to do and age should never be a deterrent in achieving our goals. I love that phrase – where there is a will, there is a way. Knowing that we have a long career ahead of us filled with changes should be exciting and joyful not anxiety inducing.
2. Every single Prophet had a preparation period before their prophethood started. And interestingly, I read somewhere that all prophets were shepherds at one stage in their lives. This was a role that built their character and in our terms, gave them the ‘transferable skills’ to succeed in the position that Allah would give them later on. No role is completely useless. Whatever position you’re in, even if you’re dissastisfied with it will equip you with skills that you can use or transfer to another area. Adopt a change in perspective and see the work that you’re doing now as planting seeds for the future. The other advice based on the occupation of the Prophet peace be upon him is to throw yourself into challenging roles that will stretch your comfort zone and force you to grow at the beginning of your career. A job as a shepherd was challenging and strenuous but it equipped the Prophets with the patience and compassion they would need to be great leaders.
3. When we’re in doubt about our capabilities, we need people in our corner who know and love us to affirm and remind us about our strengths and potential. There is so much to love about our mother Khadijah, but the intimacy and the love in the words she uses to reassure the Prophet peace be upon him makes me smile every time I think of this story. And if you don’t have a tribe around you yet start one by affirming the people around you.
4. Note that Khadija’s words are all about the Prophet’s character. Character is what brings skills to life. Most interviewers will tell you that they are investing in people and their character especially in an age where a lot of applicants have similar skillsets listed on their CVs. People won’t remember a lot of things about you but they will always remember your character and that is your most important asset.
5. If you want longevity with what you do, it has to be connected to a greater mission that is personal to you. You must also be committed to learning and growth. The first word revealed to the Prophet peace be upon him was ‘Read.’ Trial and error can only get you so far. Learn from people in your field, seek mentors, read all you can, invest in your learning and then take action. And lastly, isn’t it amazing that the Prophet SAW was blessed with a mission (spreading Islam) that illuminated his existing character and his love for people, justice and mercy? The vision and the mission is what will keep you going so spend time on getting clear on why your job/ career matters to you.
Lastly I love these words by Cheryl Strayed on writing but it’s a good principle to hold unto regardless of your field,
“Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.”
P.S. I just want to say that the love story of Khadija RA and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them both) is THE love story of all love stories!
I’ll soon be taking a lengthy break from blogging and social media. Keep me in your duas and I will be keeping you collectively in mine.