The one thing I never want in my old age is regret. I try as much as I can to choose courage, to get out of my comfort zone and explore. As a woman of faith, I really trust that what is mine will come to me. It will not get lost in the mail or end up somewhere else. It comes to me. In the same way, the doors I shouldn’t be walking into remain closed because God already sees my end from my beginning and He will therefore order and direct my steps.
A few years ago the office I worked for, in Nairobi Kenya was shut down. The business results the company was hoping for did not come in the time frame the business owners had expected. Most positions were made redundant. The company being a multinational company with branches in other countries, they offered relocation to other countries to some employees. Some were offered roles in different functions. I was on an expatriate assignment at that point. The first obvious option for those who were expatriates was to go back to your home country and take up a role there. I could therefore go back home to Zimbabwe. There was a role for me there. I was also offered several other options, one of which was to stay on in Kenya as an expatriate in a different role and function. This second option was conditional. It was dependent on me getting my work permit renewed.
Even with these options available, I still wanted to see what else was out there. Disruptions like these aren’t pleaseant, but they also present an opportunity to reimagine a different career life and future. With this in mind, I began my job search. I wasn’t desperate because I had my options available even though the other one came with conditions. I was carefully looking for a role that would offer growth but also allow me to make a difference. I wasn’t going to just take the first role that came up.
I found a role with a completely different company that ticked all my boxes. There was only one issue. It was in South Africa. This meant it was also subject to me getting a work permit. What a predicament! To make the situation even more dicey, I couldn’t apply for the work permit for my South African job offer from Kenya. I needed to go back home to Zimbabwe and make the South African work permit application from there. I could have easily done this, except my passport was required to be submitted to accompany my work permit application. If I did this, I would not be able to travel back to Kenya to continue working as I waited for my South African work permit. If I was going to take up the South African job offer, the only option was for me to resign from the role I had in Kenya, go back to Zimbabwe and apply for a South African work permit which wasn’t guaranteed.
I could have decided to stay with the job I had in Kenya. After all I already had excellent expatriate benefits. I however knew if I stayed, i would have regretted it and wondered what could have been all my life. With no guarantees that I would get a South African work permit, I still resigned. Left my comfortable expatriate job in Kenya, went back to Zimbabwe and began the process of applying for a work permit. It was a 3 months wait.
I was reflecting and thinking about that part of my life the other day. As they say, in hindsight, everything will make sense and the dots always connect. I wrote a few lessons from this experience that I would like to share today.
1. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s the ability to still do it even when you are afraid. I was afraid. My husband was worried too. We have three children to look after so this wasn’t any easy decision to make but we made it. In case you are wondering how we came to that decision, we prayed and we sought God. There was no explicit voice from Him to tell us exactly what to do. There were different signs that we were in the right direction. One was that my Kenya work permit wasn’t renewed. That door was closed and I was okay with that. Through it all, we had peace that we were in the right direction. Yes there was a certain fear, but there was also overwhelming peace through it all.
2. In the multitude of counsel, there is safety. My husband and I had people that we trusted that we could discuss what we were going through. Not only were they praying with and for us, they were also offering guidance and counsel.
3. Trust God to keep doors that you shouldn’t be walking into closed and locked and open the doors that you should be walking into. In my career, my faith has been an anchor. I do excellent work consistently but I also trust God to also order and direct by steps. I wasn’t disappointed at all when the Kenya work permit wasn’t renewed. For me, it was clear I was not being rejected but being redirected.
4. Don’t wait for the inevitable to happen in order to start applying for other roles. Even if you are happy with your current role, there is nothing wrong in exploring to see what else is out there. This removes desperation and gives you time to evaluate offers properly and not take the offers that might not be good for you.
5. Multiple streams of income are a must. Your job only determines your salary and not your income. In the 3 months that we were waiting for the South African work permit, we opened alternative streams of income that still help us as a family today. The pandemic in 2020 further highlighted to a lot of people the importance of alternative streams of income.
6. There are people whose opinions shouldn’t matter to you. I met former work colleagues during the 3 months in between jobs phase who could not understand my choices and the decisions I was making. I wasn’t worried about other people’s opinions. Not everyone should have a right and access to give their opinions on what you should or shouldn’t do. You need your own inner circle and “board of directors” who can determine and help you make decisions. In the same way corporates don’t take guidance from every Tom, Dick and Harry, neither should you. Be very clear on whom you allow to speak into your life and determine the direction you take.
The doors that were supposed to open did open for us. My work permit for the South African offer was issued and we have been here really enjoying this country which is only a 90 minute flight from home. You can trust God to order and direct your footsteps and get you where you need to be.