Like most of us in the corporate world, she also had a constant fear of losing her job to either the office politics or performance related or in extreme cases due to redundancies or shut downs. As a result, she often feared saying “No” to taking on more and more responsibilities. What if I refused to do a task and they ask me to go or they pull down my performance rating?
She had career aspirations and was chasing against the most common HR question, “where do you see yourself five years from now?” She wanted to grow and lead and be in a position of authority in a field of her choice. At times, she sacrificed her personal time to accommodate the extra responsibilities as she could not say “No”, for fear of being left behind or worse let go.
But things changed one day when she found herself to be a jobless, single mom dealing with an incurable medical ailment of her child that had eaten away her entire savings, leaving her penniless with a housing loan EMI, credit card bills, building maintenance, school fees, insurance premiums, all charging at her at full speed.
She had never felt this helpless before and unless she won a lottery there was no easy way out. Now she could have sat down and waited for someone to rescue her or roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty.
She made peace with the fact that she will be overdue in her bills and her credit rating will be impacted. She made a list of important bills which needed to be paid first and those where she could wait for a few months. She then started applying for jobs. Any jobs – within her experience, outside her experience, below her experience and above as well as long as she got a job first. From being on her way to becoming an Assistant Vice President, she now took a contract job to do reporting which was way below her capabilities and in a field, which was totally foreign to her.
She kept her ego aside and dived right into it. Needless to say, she was overqualified and within months promoted to take charge of the team. Even though she wasn’t sure if she would have this job after six months, she still invested the time to learn about her new field, talk to people and slowly built her reputation in a field that was new to her. The organisation she had joined had amazing opportunities and she ensured she took advantage of them. Soon she was asked to join the overseas branch which was again offered to her for one year.
She hesitated, weighed Pros and Cons, and decided to grab the opportunity. But she was a single mom, so should she uproot her child and go together only to come back after one year or leave her behind with family and visit her when she could? She decided, “Not without my child”, took a big risk and both of them went overseas. Life was tough without a support system, but they made it work and that 1 year has now turned to 5 years.
She has learnt to say “No” when she is overwhelmed. She learnt to ask tough questions – “If I take this additional work, the existing book of work deadlines will be missed, is that ok with you?” OR “I already have this book of work, if I take this new task, which existing task should be de-prioritised?” And surprisingly, her management came to her aid. Earlier she would have kept quiet and struggled to complete her work, but now she can balance her work and not compromise on her time with her child.
She realised she could survive even when she had nothing so tomorrow even if she loses her job, she knows she will survive. It will be difficult as hell, but she knows she can start again. She overcame her fear of losing her job.
Shaheen is a free-spirited person who loves to smile, smell the flowers and live life to the fullest in each moment