You should not allow a bad career start to determine your life forever

New position, new culture, competition are all challenges that lead to professional growth. [iStockphoto]

My greatest ambition as a student was to become a waiter. On my third (failed attempt) to be a waiter , I asked the lady why she had rejected me.

“It is your personality.” “What about my personality?” I wondered.

 “You have just demonstrated why you won’t make a good waiter. Strong personality traits. It is difficult to order you around and clients won’t feel comfortable giving you orders.” I decided henceforth that I needed a career change.

The lesson here is that we all need to find our niche early, plan our career path or life will be planned for us and most likely, we may not like where you will find yourself next.

Three years later, I had graduated and was desperately looking for a job. After unsuccessfully trying for almost a year in Kenya, an uncle got me a job as a translator for a very wealthy clothes’ trader in Saudi Arabia. My job description was to travel with him and translate as he negotiated his expensive purchases. The job came with an employment visa and a decent salary. I declined.

My uncle was upset. I was very clear in my mind that I did not go to one of the best universities in the world and compete with some of the best students to end up being a translator for anyone. I left for Dubai without a job and hit the road again.

One month later, I landed a job as a trader in the treasury of a bank with half the salary and none of the benefits that the trader had offered me. To me, the bank job was a step in the right direction and the trader’s job was a journey to nowhere and possible frustration.

Today, I am aware that jobs are scarce and young people must accept whatever job that comes their way. Nothing wrong with that if it is clear in your mind that this is a stepping stone for the right job. Take that job and start looking for another job immediately. The mistake many people make is that they get comfortable.

Fifteen years later, they are frustrated and feel that they wasted so many years. Such people do not perform well because there is no passion in them. Passion is a prerequisite for excellence, and you can never be passionate about a job that you do not love.

Fifteen years later when they want to move out, they realise that they must compete with others who have experience in the field that they really wanted to be in – while they were busy translating as I would have been doing.

Secondly, even if you found yourself in the right position and the right job it is important that you do not stay in that position forever. Anyone who stays in the same job for far too long becomes part of the furniture.

When you move, you experience new challenges and chances are, you will get into a new position that you grow into. In the first 15 years of your career, try as much as possible to serve in at least three different companies. New position, new culture, competition are all challenges that lead to professional growth.

Finally, even if fate has put you in a position where you feel like you are stuck in a rut, then create an opportunity to reinvent yourself. Go to school or college, learn something new or improve your skills. It is never too late; you are never too old to go back to school. Being in a learning environment will rejuvenate you and inspire you to conquer new heights.

During my graduation, our entire class stood up to pay credit to a 79-year-old lady who walked in crutches to receive her degree 55 years later. She dropped out of university because of the Second World War.

The worst thing you can do to yourself is not to act and to accept that a bad job is a fait accompli. Reach for the stars. It is your chance to try.

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