1. Do what you love, love what you do
Most students have never felt the suffocating anguish of being stuck in a job they hate. It is physically, emotionally and spiritually draining. Having endured this during my gap year, I promised myself to never fall into the same situation again.
Our ambition for the high flying life blinds us from imagining the tedium and monotony of being planted at the same desk 14 hours a day, 5 days a week, doing something about as stimulating as a game of solitaire.
We often struggle to believe that it is possible to love our jobs. Truth is, to do what you love is the most empowering choice we can make. Just think about the most successful people of our times. Whatever the industry, those at the top of their game are those engaged in what they love doing.
So the question is, are you willing to do what you love and love what you do?
(Do you even know what you love to do?)
2. Stick to what you are good at and money will follow
Over the past few years I have noticed another characteristic which all successful people seem to have in common. They stick to what they are good at.
This may seem overly intuitive, but what I mean to say is that if you are a cake baking prodigy, then stick to that. If you are a natural public speaker, able to mesmerize the most jaded of teenagers with the intricacies of macroeconomics, then stick to that. The examples of people making millions with the most quotidian of abilities is innumerable
I’m not advocating that everyone make a career out of their hobbies, but to factor in your strengths when choosing a career path. I have seen far too much talent wasted by friends going into occupations inconsistent with their skill set.
3. Rizq is fixed
Ibn Mas’ud narrated that Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.) said to his wife Umm Habiba:
“Verily you have asked Allah about the duration of life already set, and the steps you would take, and the sustenance (Rizq), the share of which is fixed. Nothing will take place before its due time, and nothing will be deferred beyond when it is due.” [Muslim].
A pivotal moment in my life was the comprehension of this truth. Rizq (our monetary and non- monetary sustenance) has already been decided and assigned to us. We will not die until its complete measure reaches us. It means therefore that whether you work for Goldman Sachs or Islamic Relief is inconsequential to your livelihood in the long run. If Allah swt, our Provider and Sustainer, decreed our lifetime rizq to be £1million then it matters not what you do for a living, this is the amount you will receive before your life is up, whether it be through your salary, investments, inheritance, family or your spouse.
Knowing this is utterly transformational. It frees you from the shackles of a mind-set which thoughtlessly chases the highest salary, dragging your battered soul in its wake. Understanding rizq allows us to be bolder with our decisions and to actually have a chance at doing something which we are passionate about, and that can ‘make the world a better place’.
4. Discovering your ‘Calling’ goes a long way
Dear reader, let me ask you two simple questions:
- What was the most stimulating role/job you have ever done?
- What is the one thing which you think you can do better than all your peers?
If you struggled to answer these then it is impossible for you to figure out what your calling is. By calling I mean that special thing which you will leave behind as a legacy, long after you are gone.
I will go out on a limb and estimate that 80% of university students will struggle to answer both questions with clarity and accuracy. The only way to resolve this is to ‘put yourself out there’. We must throw ourselves at all sorts of different, new, and perhaps uncomfortable experiences in order to discover what makes us tick and what our special talent may be.
Many of you will know that I have been at university quite a long time. But this has turned out to be quite a blessing in disguise. In the past 5 years I have accumulated a wealth of experiences, which, apart from ISoc activism and 3 different internships, also include starting a football club, setting up an online business, designing and implementing a mentors network for a deprived sixth form, teaching, developing a social enterprise business plan, match-making, travelling, buying and selling cars, advising friends on property investments, interview coaching, and helping Islamic organisations with sales & marketing. Most of these I would have probably have never done had I graduated on time. The reason for mentioning these is not to boast but to demonstrate the diversity of experiences that one can attain while at university. You don’t need a list like the above, though. Even a handful is enough for the purpose of self-discovery.
I can say with full confidence that I have had the chance to review my experiences and accurately pin point my key strengths, weaknesses and passions. These insights have fully been taken into consideration when I had to decide which path to take as a graduate. I wish to encourage everyone to use this same approach.
Choosing a career based on your skill set and passions is the only way to ensure you will top your field, as opposed to having a career which feels like swimming against the tide.
So please, please, please put yourself out there, get involved and explore your talents!
5. Compromise is foolish
Given all the above, why would any sane individual choose a career path which may be a mismatch of their passions, their skill-set or even a compromise of their moral and religious principles?
Believing that rizq is pre-determined and fixed is a key part of our Islamic creed. Therefore for a believer it makes absolutely no sense to seek this rizq via unscrupulous or haraam means.
It also makes no sense to trap yourself in a job which does not stimulate you. There are very few things more miserable that an unfulfilling job- the place where you will spend almost 100,000 hours over a lifetime.
I hope you will find this short piece thought-provoking and that it will help us to think about work and careers in a more clear-sighted, healthy and pragmatic way.
Ultimately, we seek Allah’s guidance. He is the Best of Planners and the Best or Providers. We ask Him to lead us to whatever attains His Pleasure.