My journey to success in America was not what I imagined it would be. Before I left Nigeria, I was overjoyed at the prospect of all that was ahead of me but I wasn't prepared for the hardships. What followed were some of the most difficult years of my life, where I faced constant rejection and disappointment, before I finally found my purpose.
In 2005, I moved to America to pursue my version of the American dream. I had just graduated from Babcock University, with an undergraduate degree in Computer Science and at the top of my class. I was going to marry the man I loved, discover a new country, and find good use of my degree in a career I enjoyed. I felt buoyant with possibility.
I soon realized that the reality of America was not all that I hoped.
After settling into married life, I decided to venture into the American job market. I was confident that my degree combined with my prior experience at Shell Nigeria and KPMG Nigeria would allow me to have my choice of jobs.
I searched for months, growing more and more despondent with each day that passed and I was still without a job. Months soon turned into years without so much as one job opportunity. Despite my previous internships, every prospective employer pointed to my lack of experience as a reason not to hire me.
I was disappointed but still determined. I consulted with several people in the industry and each one told me that I lacked American education. I felt as if everything I achieved before I came to American meant nothing to American employers!
Pregnant with my second son, I enrolled in an American school to get my masters degree. It was a very difficult time in my life. My course load was heavy, and my instructors showed no sympathy towards me when I struggled with the pains and sickness of pregnancy.
I was determined, and my difficulties did not defeat me.
I graduated with a 3.8 GPA, once again near the top of my class. When I finally got to touch my degree, it was like being able to hold my future in my hands. Since moving to America, my enthusiasm had been dampened by all the rejection I faced. Now, I felt the same hope as I did on the day I left Nigeria.
I was not prepared for the disappointment that was still in store for me. The financial market had just collapsed when I entered the job market again. The level of rejection I faced far surpassed what I had experienced in my first years in America. I applied to twenty jobs a day, used my networking skills, got invitations to interview and prepped as well as I could…and still, not one job offer.
It was devastating. I had poured years of my life and all my effort into pursuing a corporate job, and the disappointment of being judged not good enough was overwhelming. Then, my husband asked me a simple question: “Why do you want a corporate job?”
I had never asked myself that. I had just always imagined myself as the corporate type: dressed in power suits, attending important meetings, and holding prestigious briefs. I didn't question whether I would enjoy doing any of those things; a corporate job just felt like the only option.
Can you turn any of those passion into a business?
But I had followed all the rules, done everything I possible could, and I hadn't secured a corporate job. Did God have a better plan I could not see? After much soul searching and prayer, I decided to stop pursuing a corporate career. Again, a simple question from my husband: “What are you passionate about?” The answer came easily: shopping and helping people. “Can you turn any of those passion into a business?” he asked.
At first, the question stumped me. How could I possibly turn shopping and helping people into a business? Then I realized I had already been doing a combination of those passions for years. I had helped my sister start her business selling American products in Nigeria. I had helped friends and families shop in the US from Nigeria. Every time, I had exceeded their expectations
Shortly after discovering this new idea for a business, I was invited to a professional women’s conference at Rice University. I was privileged and inspired to meet women who were excelling in their areas of business. It dawned on me that I could be successful doing something I loved, too. Instead of chasing after American companies and contributing to their dream, I could build my own dream.
If you find yourself chasing after a corporate career, ask yourself why.
I reached out to a woman I regularly networked with and asked her to start a company with me. We called it Heroshe: “meaning”. I had found my meaning. People who were happy with my previous service referred me and business took off faster than I could have imagined.
Now, a corporate career seems unimaginable. I wanted a corporate job so badly that I never stopped to ask myself why. If you find yourself chasing after a corporate career, ask yourself why. You have a purpose within you greater than you can imagine. Don’t let anyone else place limitations on what you can achieve. All those years of applying for jobs, I let other people tell me “no” when I should have just told myself “yes”.
Yes, I can be happy.
Yes, I can be successful.
Yes, I can have a career that I love while still having time to enjoy my beautiful children.
If you find yourself in a similar situation as I was or are in a corporate job you don’t enjoy, believe that you can have a different life. I want to help everyone find the same freedom I did. I understand the fear, pain and depression that come from rejection and disappointment. Since starting Heroshe, I have helped several people establish their own business. If you ever need advice or encouragement, please reach out to me.
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