Your Driving Force and Kickstarting Your Career Journey: A Tale of Three Women

I am one of three ladies who tell themselves three words, “we don’t settle!” Hence, last week when my sister said to me that she felt like giving up because of the frustration of not getting a job in the Nigerian health sector, she pushed a trigger button. So, I asked her, “You want to give up? What does it even mean to give up?” My friends had a similar reaction the last time I tried to give up on something big. I had received the rejection mail from the last scholarship, which I was looking forward to in 2019. So, I told my friends I was beginning to look for Nigerian universities that offer any master’s programmes that I was interested in.

Their response was, “Hell no! If you are looking for Nigerian schools, it means you are giving up. We don’t settle, so no giving up. You keep your eyes on your target, intensify efforts, and keep applying. How many schools did you even apply to this year?” Whenever one of us says she is frustrated at her current job and wants to quit, we evaluate and see if something can be done. If not, we support her leaving because we don’t settle for jobs or situations not meant for us.

I guess that as you read this, you would think about how you probably do or don’t have friends who are exactly like this. I get it. My friends are unique, and friends are good, but it is not just about that. It is about our individual inner drive for achieving our goals. It is this drive that we exhibit and makes a stranger astounded by us. It is what people see in you and make them want to give you a try. It is what my friends and I transfer into supporting one another. If either of us lacked this, it would be difficult to pull or push this person. I have other friends who exhibit similar passion, and they generate results. Let’s call one of these friends Mara.

Mara used to be my business partner during my undergraduate programme. She started an advertisement firm, and I was baking cakes, so we were going to work together to market my product. We were pretty serious back then, but now I can’t even remember how that idea died off. What I can remember is she was driven to market anything marketable. To figure how people find this drive, I asked Mara and my two other gang members, let’s call them Tay and Fay, what motivates them to pursue their careers intensely like they do. I chatted with Tay, Fay and Mara, and these are their responses about their driving force and how they started their career journey.

I had a rough childhood and had to learn to be very independent because I realized that I might not get what I want or where I want to be if I kept waiting. I think it was in my 2nd year that I said, “I am not going to wait around for people to hand me things.” I was very hungry that day, I just drank garri with nothing in it. I know this sounds a bit cliché but that’s what spurred me to make that statement to myself. I can vividly remember the exact moment.

So, I started a student advertisement firm with 30,000naira support from my dad even though mom didn’t think I could do it. Well, mom was right. I failed but developed confidence and persistence so, I moved on to other things.

I used to think my motivation was money, the desire for the better things in life, the foundation I have plans to build, the name I want to be autocorrected on Microsoft Words. But now, I just think it’s second nature to figure out my own way. I do not want the comfortable mediocre life, I want to touch lives in a rich way, I want people to know me and what I’ve done, I want to inspire men and women who build everything from practically nothing. So, it’s no longer about the money, I’ve realized I can make enough money to be very comfortable, but to make an impact, I need more money than what can make me comfortable. Currently, I’m in the dilemma of what road to take to make the kind of impact that I dream of. I hope to find this in a saner environment soon.

Finally, I’m stubborn and I don’t believe you can’t do anything unless you don’t want to. Aside from that, you can do anything you wish. I am not trying to be motivational, but that’s how I really feel. It’s why I’ve always taught myself most of the things I know but there are also some things you must learn from others.

– Mara

So for Mara, she could not afford to wait for the handouts. She, however, tried to get one last one of 30K naira from her dad and launched out to try to be the Mark Zuckerberg of Marketing. Lol! She is not there yet, but she is doing great. Let’s read from Fay before we dive into the lengthy read from Tay.

Around my 3rd year of studying two different agricultural courses, I discovered I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I don’t have money so, I felt I was dreaming too big. I crossed it off my list of goals and began thinking of something else I wanted to do. For a long time, I didn’t know what this was hence, I was opened to trying everything else- I tried setting up a jewellery brand, making pieces of jewellery with fabric. I got bored and didn’t even know how to scale the business, so I went ahead to learn hair styling. Halfway through it, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted. So, I learnt fashion designing. This one was interesting because I enjoyed it. But I didn’t like dealing with customers, I saw the issues with customers while still at my boss, so I decided I wasn’t going to practice it full time.

But, in all of this starts and ends, the one sense of motivation I had was that I just wanted to do something for myself. I don’t want to be a liability to anyone. At some point, I went into social media marketing because I liked remote working and being a freelancer. Finally, I figured what I wanted. Everything else was going to bore me if it wasn’t filmmaking. So, I came up with a way to earn money that wouldn’t become toxic to me while I try to pursue filmmaking as a career. I went into coding because there was money in it. Then, I stopped because I realized coding will require my full dedication and it wasn’t what I was looking for. Then I started a personal shopping business and I have been consistent since then. It is flexible like I want, and it fetches me some money to support my filmmaking development process. I have also been able to use the social media knowledge which I acquired in this business, and I am now enrolled in filmmaking school.

I guess my drive also increased when I lost my sister. It just felt like I now have more responsibility and the best I could do for my parent was to not become a liability while trying to sort my life.

– Fay

I like to think of myself as a natural independent. However, on deep introspection, I find that some external factors contribute to shaping me into what I have been and what is currently obtainable. My dad is a huge influence. Though multifaceted this influence, I find both the negatives and positives worthy to take lessons from.

1. From my dad’s narrative of being the only graduate in his immediate family and achieving this at later time when compared to his friends and while juggling jobs and raising a family, I constantly reference that time is just a social construct and impossible is nothing. There’s nothing on earth that can stop me from hitting my life’s goldmine even if the timing differs from others.

2. Growing up, I had almost everything I wanted but at some point. Lost some of these things. I got withdrawn from a school I really liked to one that was just there because of the expenses. From this, I learnt that it is not enough to have great plans or wishes. Money is the pathway to many great plans.

3. Till date, my dad despises his eldest brother who was rich during their youths because in my dad’s words, “…he was not a visionary leader. If he was, all of us would be graduates by now.

The two lessons I learnt from this were:
i. Nobody really owes anyone anything. My dad’s rebuttal to this is often “but he was collecting all our salaries then, so why not?!” So, on the other hand, if he took their salaries, it’s be unfair of me to say he didn’t owe them anything.

ii. Their relationship made me feel a sense of responsibility for myself….and by virtue of extension of my kind nature, responsibility for others. My siblings especially.

I hate the burden of hate. I see it in my dad, and it is a sore sight. At the same time, I hate the pressure of being responsible for others. Hence, to strike a balance between these two, I know that I need to have sufficient motivation and potential to earn high. This also helps me be kind at my pace and to the absolute best of my capacity, as far as I have the intent to be this.

4. My parents’ separation in 2009 opened some door for full-fledged poverty which my family is yet to fully recover from. Because of the intricate causality between my parent’s relationship and our economic status, I learnt that your choice of partner is a vital life decision. Although even with your best knowledge, no predictability is guaranteed. So, continue to strive to achieve the best of your capacity so you don’t lose it all if your relationship does not work out.

– Tay

Such great responses from these women. Here are some of the driving forces that can be picked from their stories:

  • Knowing what you want.
  • Willingness to try. Mara started an ads firm. What does she think she is? Fay started and ended different initiatives. This means they invested time, resources, energy and then backed down to try something else. Try as many options as possible. To learn, unlearn, relearn until you find that thing you want to stick with.
  • A can-do mindset. These women framed this same motivation in different words but all they were saying is that you can achieve anything you set you mind on. Time and circumstance may differ when compared to people around you, but you can.
  • No one owes you anything, you are responsible for yourself.
  • Money is important to making your dreams come through so while you pursue what you really want, it is okay to do something else that fetches the money, just like Fay.
  • Independence. Take developmental initiatives for yourself, take your lessons from experiences, and make of it something beneficial for your development and also strive for financial independence because even if you are able to get handout, having some financial support of your own can increases your chances. One time, I wished to change my laptop, so I lamented to someone rich and asked for support. What he replied was, “how much have you saved for this?” Sometimes, it might not be money that proves your independence but rather tangible evidence that show that you are trying your best. Evidence like applying to many opportunities, acquiring different skills, reading and learning about where you dream to be.

I hope you find some inspiration from the stories of these women, find your driving force and act on it to start your journey to where you want to be.

You can also share your story in the comment section, or if you have something really personal, you can use the submission form on the homepage. There also, you will find the subscription form for you to fill to be notified of future stories of different women around the world.

Ask the Question, Don’t Browse It.

I used to wonder why some people would rather ask questions that seem basic than try to find out the answers on their own. Some months ago, I had to confront a friend with this mindset and tell them they were too inquisitive. I knew that it was a good attitude but, I felt like it was an attitude of total dependence and total dependence is not an attitude to which I am subscribed.

Here are two questions for you to begin with:

  1. Would you rather ask a person a question or Google the answer yourself?
  2. Have you ever had one of those really bumpy weeks where everything seems like chaos but somehow, the week ends in an unexpectedly positive way.

I recently experienced a bumpy week full of anxiety, frustration, disappointment, significant humbling moments, disagreement, reconciliation and finding answers to a long-overdue question. By the weekend, I was out of words to describe my state of mind.

The week began with a flood of panic before I made a scientific paper presentation. Usually, we all get nervous before these big days, but somehow, we manage it. However, for me this time, I could not manage my anxiety. I was the first presenter and had this intense pressure to get my colleagues off to a perfect start. To be so good with my presentation.

However, that presentation turned out to be one of my least impressive presentations. Except for the good designs, everything was bland, and I sped through my words, forgetting the need for pauses and emphasising key contents.

Further into the week, I had a disagreement with a friend, and instead of handling the situation calmly, I did not. I let out my emotions as harsh as they came. However, I apologized later.

To close up the week, I received an average grade on a project I expected an excellent result from. I thought I knew the task but, it turned out I did not have the magic to turn my blog writing skill into scientific paper writing skill at the very first opportunity to do so. Apparently, there’s something called a learning curve and asking questions.

Right in front of my laptop, looking at that result and crying, I realized a humbling truth: it’s okay to aim for the best, but it’s also okay to not be the best, and it’s always better to ask when in doubt.

I realized that I have not been asking enough questions. I have lived many of my years like a treasure hunter who only picks clues on her journey and never asks those around if they know about the treasure she is searching for. It is thrilling to jump into bed every night, knowing that I searched for my own answers without asking others for clues or answers. More recently, I’ve allowed myself to dwell so much on my ability to be smart and independent that I neglect opportunities that look like dependence.

I could have asked more questions from my project supervisor. Trying to solely navigate my journey around the world is not better than accepting the ideas that my friend acquired from experience and from asking people. Also, the answer I got to my long-overdue question could have been gotten about five months ago if only I had asked at the time.

Independence is a great skill that is often highly relevant for starting life or a career that we dream of. But, it is important to know when to put away the independence cape and ask for help. It is important to know when to be dependent when to immediately seek human or expert’s clarification about a confusion rather than plan to ask Google.

It is a great thing to know your skills. However, it is even greater to identify when you need to go through a learning curve and while you go through it, be humble to ask for as much help as you can get. Your body and the people who care about you deserve better than you putting yourself through difficult times when all you need to do is ask for help.

The internet is great for providing answers, especially in uncomfortable situations when we are too shy or have no one to talk to. But, there is no big deal in asking people -sometimes, random strangers- for answers when you don’t have the answer to a situation. The smart thing is to gather answers from a few heads if there’s no one expert or to get the answer from an expert.

Moreover, when you get the answer, verify, clarify and most importantly, use it.

Transitioning into Tech

Life to me has always felt like a field full of things to explore. I believe that with the right amount of curiosity and willingness to learn, you can acquire knowledge about almost everything in the world. Even more possible with the presence of companies such as Google and YouTube!

These two big bosses of the internet have made knowledge acquisition available to everyone right at their fingertips. They are the reason why a person like me, who studied Soil Science for five years in the university can easily transition into the tech world simply by being curious enough and ready to learn.

I began with social media. Talk about Twitter, Instagram and the age-long Facebook. Everyone was on these platforms and I was not left out. I had my pages but at some point, I became more fascinated about the different platforms. I watched several YouTube videos and took courses on how I could monetize this holy grail called, Social Media.

Learning how to monetize my social media presence led me into Social Media Marketing. I started out by helping friends build their small business pages for free. Later, I got recommended to other people and businesses by these friends. With most engagements, I worked based on freelance contracts which allowed me to take on as many brands as possible and to have several potential sources of income. A number of the brands still owe me for these services but, I practiced my skills and improved what I had to while I worked with them.

I learnt to use some applications to provide more services to my employers; video editing apps, design apps and, I improved my copywriting skills which helped me with better content creation.

Soon, it appeared like everyone was into Social Media Marketing and around this period, my interest began to peak in the areas of website design and coding.

One day, I came across an offer of almost-free coding classes for women and I applied. Almost-free because I paid 10,000Naira to acquire the resources used during the training. There, I learnt the basics of front-end website development and UI/UX designing.

But life doesn’t always go as planned. I’ve had several distractions from furthering my website development trainings and practices. I’ve started new businesses and taken marketing job roles. However, this year, I am attending a training to get certified on being a UI/UX designer. This certification training is scholarship-based and it excites my friends.

I began taking social media gigs 3 years ago and it’s been a huge learning process transitioning into a UI/UX designer. So, if you are thinking of changing your career, all you need to do is take the appropriate steps and get to work.

Also, remember to have fun while at it.

Submission by: Wems

Big Goals, Childhood and Moving On

For many of us, there’s that one incidence that shapes the rest of our lives. Based on this incidence and other peculiar issues that we’ve witnessed, we make a decision, build a value or reform our thoughts. I’ve told a few persons this story but I’m going to tell it again. The scene is faint in my memory but the message of the incidence was clear. “You have to pass and do well in school before I can buy the things you want.” That was the message from my parent. After she said these words, the next minutes was of me crying and thinking of what to do to get the things I need in life if peradventure, I am unable to make the best grades in school. I got an idea quickly. I told myself I would not ask my parents for so much that they’d have to consider my grades. Since I am not confident of having excellent grades, I would take only whatever they have to offer and on my own, figure out how to secure the other things that I need or want. For instance, instead of asking for new set of under-wears, if mama offers some, I will take them. If she does not, I will take some of my pocket money to buy these for myself.

Moreso, just to prove their idea wrong and to gain the respect that I desire, I would study and make these good grades. I would become a girl that makes good grades and does not ask for help. An absolutely independent woman. I would pay little or no attention to the things that would derail my study plan. This includes fashion or non-academic friendships. I would take on whatever cumbersome challenges I am faced with and do it regardless of how much it saps from me. I would be smart and good at everything.

Over the years, this became my mantra and I lived my years being independent, not asking for help and always trying to prove to everyone that I do not need them. Exception would be boys who provide emotional attention and sexual pleasure. My brain became the most treasured part of me. The way I solved problems, the way I became the poise lady on the street, one of the smart students and the one that hardly asks for help. All of these are attributed to my brain and so I love it and I love to challenge it. But recently, my brain betrayed me. About 720hrs of study and all I could make was a medium satisfactory grade.

I had received the grade from my 3rd compulsory master’s degree module. I got a C+ and the second C that I’ve received within this first semester. Upon seeing this grade, I became utterly broken. This is not the goal. Smart girls don’t make C grades. Not even the ones who teach other people the same modules. A C means average and there is no way I would gladly accept that all my struggles and provings since the age of 13 is to be among the group of people with regular average level of intelligence. Sheer arrogance and pain was all that I felt. I wrote my narrative poem to express the anger of all that I had gone through that week. I hated myself and felt betrayed by my brain. I cried and locked myself out for the day.

Few hours into the evening with my worthless thoughts, I remembered how I began this pursuit for excellent grades and validations. I also remembered how in the previous week I was befundled by the realization that I was clueless about the things I really want to do. It had become obvious that some of my engagements are indeed challenging, demanding and the only satisfaction I derived from them was the satisfaction of taking up  challenging tasks even when they hurt my health.

So, now, I’m thinking, maybe it time.
Maybe it’s time to actually live. To credit myself for living till age 25 with these high expectations and actually achieving a good deal of them. Maybe it’s time to drop the standards of my parents’ validation, to forget the words of all those who thought it fair to tell me that someone else is more intelligent than I am as well as those who thought my bachelor’s was a shitty programme. Maybe it’s time to cave in and stop taking challenges that are far above me just to prove that I can do anything. Maybe it’s time to accept some help and stop trying to do it all on my own. Maybe it’s time to stop judging myself so badly, to stop thinking that I’m responsible for so much. Maybe it’s really time to do all the things that don’t bring validation or accolade from anyone else but give me peace and happiness. Maybe it’s time to stop doing everything just because they sound great and challenging, to choose the things I love and I am really capable of. Maybe it’s time to heal, to not know, to have fun, to cut the standards, to be able to say no because saying yes would only hurt me and to stop wanting to be a hero for others.

Short letter to an ex-boyfriend and to you

Dear ex-boyfriend who studied accounting but was passionately working hard as a footballer,

The truth is that I never understood why you would focus on a passion-led career with no predictable Nigerian market instead of one with a predictable path and income structure. Today, I indeed hope that someday those football dreams came true for you.

To you reading this doing that thing you’re passionate about, not for validation or to prove to others but, because you found passion in it. You chose it without a clearly predictable future. I hope you’re doing okay and are indeed happy.

To you in a situation just like me,

You’re working, setting goals and doing everything,

Not because you really love it but because you’ve spent all your life this particular way and you can’t think of way out. You started with a reason that seemed so valid and right but you’ve discovered that life has more to offer and that your goals are just like the wind that blows heavy, gets the attention of everyone around but later turns void. I hope that one way or another, you find your way to fulfillment and that someday, the road be made easy for you.