Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

The struggles of moving continents but finding the recipe for a meaningful career: a very personal story

ebbf organized a four-part series of learning dialogues to understand the path to a more meaningful career. We asked why it is so challenging to leave an unfilling job, how we can identify what is important to us, fundamental to then focus towards a more meaningful path, finding and getting into an organization that offers a culture that is more akin to our values and much more.

#ebbfmember Nan Chen shares what she explored and what came up in her own experience identifying and getting into a more meaningful work position.

By Nan Chen

#ebbfmember Nan Chen

You are a miracle created by God, let your deeds not words bring the light to the world

As a college student, I wanted to explore as many opportunities as possible and managed 5 internships in 5 different companies before graduation. This “job-hopping tour” challenged me, moving to a new city every 4–6 months and completing both my university study at the same time. Nevertheless, I never regretted my decision. Being a foreign woman, having just moved from my homeland of China, I struggled with even the most basic of living skills: communicating in the local language.

Speaking poor German or a little bit of French was very frustrating considering how much I wanted to communicate and interact with local people. However, resilience and trust that things would improve often going back to this quote from Abdu’l-Baha, kept me going:

“Tests are a means by which a soul is measured as to its fitness and proven out by its own acts. God knows its fitness beforehand, and also its unpreparedness, but man, with an ego, would not believe himself unfit unless proof was given him.”

Often, when you enter into a new work environment, the desire to prove yourself is very strong.
You want to show you are capable and have the talents to perform the work you are responsible for.
This attitude can lead to self-criticism, and to feeling less confident in taking up your new role in the new environment.

However, I learnt that the approach to your new position, your attitude there is your own choice.

You can choose to see your career path from a helicopter view. That is to say, you can see yourself in the perfect position and time to make a difference for yourself and for the new environment you stepped in. The former CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs said “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do, we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Indeed it was uplifting for me to get into that frame of mind. That I could be the one who people would listen to when needing a fresh new perspective, a different mindset than the rest of the people in that work environment. To be in the perfect position to shed one’s light onto the world you live in.

Take a growth mindset to develop your passion at work

Although it’s our natural tendency to live in the eye of others, one should never underestimate the bountiful value one is endowed with. “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value” Baha’u’llah says in one of his well-known Writings. I take new challenges as blessings that allow me to polish the gems I was given.

In my last 2 positions, I worked with that growth mindset. Namely, treating my work, not as an individual striving for perfectionism, but rather as a continued effort: taking actions, reflecting and adjusting.

A growing process to serve the collective purpose of the organisation and within your team.

Another element that has helped to make my work more meaningful has been to actively ask for constructive feedback from my peers, manager or mentor with questions like “How can I do better?”, “What am I doing that I don’t know or see”, “What am I not doing that could create a positive impact?”
Those small changes and adaptations in my approach rewarded me greatly.
All of sudden, I seem to have found the meaning of the work that I was doing, and a greater wellbeing as a consequence. Inwardly, it lead me to higher satisfaction and creativity towards my job. Outwardly, I have received more positive feedback from my colleagues which confirm my potential in developing my passion in this area.

Find your passion VS develop your passion

“Find your passion, and do what you love” has already proven to be an invalid statement according to a recent Deloitte survey of 3000 US full-time employees. However, simply discovering our passion could lead to bewilderment if not consciously reflecting upon our strength and resources to develop our passion. But how? Herminia Ibarra, the author of the book “Working identity: unconventional strategies for reinventing your career” gives several crafting experiments in finding the best fit strategy to develop our passion in smaller, faster, lower-cost investment than full-fledged career changes.

For example, she suggested to explore and find new, different, potential job opportunities by asking yourself “what if I were to do this for a living?” what would my life look like? How much would I enjoy this scenario?
You then should find a way to test them out by trying different projects, for example, part-time jobs, limited partnerships setups as low-risk ways to diversify a portfolio rather than “big bang” investments to gain your confirmation from exploration; Building up your confidence by interacting and networking with the people who can help us to see and grow into our new selves, people we admire or like to emulate, and with whom we want to spend time with.

A job will be most meaningful when you connect it with a higher calling

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, quoted in her book Lean In. Nowadays, staying in one job throughout your entire career is not anymore regarded as a virtue, as it offers a very narrow way for one to reach your success. Not to mention that you will be stuck in climbing up until the person above decides to or is allowed to move up or move on. However, in the model of a jungle gym, many doors are opened which could lead us to the top, especially for women who would like to re-enter their career after they have taken time off.

Now, when I look back, these valuable 5 internship experiences witnessed my self-transformation from a girl into a woman with courage in both my professional and personal life.

I have harvested meaningful friendships and professional networks in the cities I lived in and becoming my true Self, a better version of me, at the service of humanity.

“The best of men are they that earn a livelihood by their calling and spend upon themselves and upon their kindred for the love of God, the Lord of all worlds. — Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 51.”

When we look for jobs or land a job that we sought with the intention to serve humanity and a wider good, it is our choice to give and develop meaning and purpose to the work we do. This directly contributes to the well being of ourselves and of the community we interact with.
If we deeply examine the work where you want to spend most of your time is necessary, as it helps us make those crucial decisions with more clarity. However, spending too much time worrying about if it will be my dream job could see us stumble and move forward with less intention.

I feel very inspired by one prayer revealed by Baha’u’llah when I need guidance to assist me to make a decision that should be endowed with spiritual meaning:

If it be Thy pleasure, make me to grow as a tender herb in the meadows of Thy grace, that the gentle winds of Thy will may stir me up and bend me into conformity with Thy pleasure, in such wise that my movement and my stillness may be wholly directed by Thee…

I implore Thee, O my Lord… to enable me so to surrender my will to what Thou hast decreed in Thy Tablets, that I may cease to discover within me any desire except what Thou didst desire through the power of Thy sovereignty, and any will save what Thou didst destine for me by Thy will.” Prayers and Meditations. P. 240–241

What do you feel about this prayer? I look forward to hearing your own approach and story of how you are living your search for a meaningful and fulfilling career.




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