During my time in Dubai I met up with Raj Kotecha, a speaker I highly admired who had once given a talk at my university. Raj kindly agreed to meet me and offer some much needed career advice.
I had reached an impasse; I was unhappy at my job but was getting nowhere with applications for other employment opportunities. I realised that I simply lacked both the experience and the skill set for the jobs I was applying to and wasn’t sure how to overcome this. It was rather disheartening. I began to wonder whether further education was the solution? Or perhaps undertaking courses online?
I presented Raj with my dilemma.
“It’s the end of the day and it’s just been the best day of your life, you’ve got a big grin on your face. Describe what happened that day” Raj posed.
In all honesty I was completely stumped, no one had ever asked me that before. I didn’t really know what to say. He told me not to think about it too much and say the first things that came to my mind. Instantly I thought ‘interviews’. The best day of my life would include interviewing influential and inspirational people that I have long admired.
“What else?” He enquired.
Again I was at a loss for a few seconds until I declared another passion of mine, writing; more specifically, writing reviews.
“What else?” He prompted.
“Having someone tell me that what I’d written had made a difference in their lives and had helped them for the better” I offered.
“There is no job out there that will give you that Nancy, it doesn’t exist, so create one” Raj declared.
Coming from an affluent background my father had always offered me and my siblings the generous offer to start our own companies with his financial support. However I’d never considered this as an option as I wouldn’t have even known where to begin. These days however perhaps it’s not so much about building your own company as it is about building your own brand and that is precisely what Raj encouraged me to do; to create my personal brand. How does one do this you ask; by creating content. Whether that be through writing blogs or making YouTube videos or sharing their interests and thoughts and photos on an array of social media platforms such as tumblr and pinterest and Instagram and flickr and Medium.com.
“Do what comes naturally to you” Raj proclaimed. “If there were turn tables right here I would be spinning them because that’s what comes naturally to me”.
In that moment I realised the only thing that comes naturally to me, the only thing that has ever come naturally to me is writing. In fact the only other thing that has ever come naturally to me is reading and the two are often intertwined as those who read, or as in my case don’t just read but consume literature as if their lives depended upon it, often tend to write.
I grew up in High Street Kensington, meanwhile my school was based in Roehampton. My father, whose office was located in East Sheen, would often drop me off in the mornings and pick me up after school. One of the first things he would instruct me to do when I would get into the car at the end of the school day would be to begin my reading homework. I remember being about 6 or 7 years old at the time and pleading with him to let me do it later. My father would dictate that it should be undertaken at once so that by the time I got home I would have either finished it or be close to completion. I would then be able to relax and get on with my other preferred activities (these usually included either being glued to Nickelodeon for the rest of the evening or re-watching The Lion King or The Little Mermaid for the umpteenth time) . What I later realised was that my father had just taught me the concept of delayed gratification, a concept I later learnt whilst studying Sociology for my A-levels.
From that point on, my head was often buried in a book. In fact, there is even a photo of me as a child sitting in the corner on Christmas day, intently reading a book I had just received as a present, whilst the rest of my family are indulging in the festivities. Thus, despite my initial protests at my father’s insistence that reading homework came before anything else, he’s the reason I developed an unmitigated passion for books and will always feel most at home in between the pages of a story.
At another point during my discussion with Raj I relayed what I had been up to over the past few years. I’ll admit that I was rather intimidated and nervous so I perhaps rambled and spoke a mile a minute. After what felt like a lifetime, Raj, who had been sat there attentively, revealed that he had not interrupted as he’d wanted to let finish.
“As I sat here listening to you I realised something Nancy, you’re a storyteller. You told me your story. You want to interview people because you want to tell their stories. You want to be the middleman that connects your guests to your audience” He announced.
I had never thought about it before but in that moment he had managed to pinpoint exactly what it is that I do; what it is that I want to do and how I could go about building my personal brand.
I wake up in the mornings and the first thing I want to do is write. Because that’s the medium in which I feel most comfortable telling my stories.
As Whoopi Goldberg says as ‘Sister Mary Clarence’ in Sister Act 2 when quoting Rainer Maria Rilke from her book Letters to a Young Poet;
“Don’t ask me about being a writer, if when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing, then you’re a writer”.
I first met Raj in 2010 when he gave a talk at my university. What I took away from that talk was that I had to figure out my USP. In fact, I hadn’t heard the phrase until that lecture. A couple of days prior to my meeting with Raj in Dubai, I wrote a note in my journal that related to that;
What makes you different? I am different. We all are. I can’t be you, just as you can’t be me. I have a voice. My voice. And my voice tells my story. I can’t dictate whether you listen to it or whether you even take away anything from it. But I can dictate how to tell it.
In that instant during our talk that Raj had characterised me as a story teller, I realised that on some subconscious level, I already knew that. I just needed to hear someone else say it. I needed to believe in myself and in my capabilities and Raj helped me to do that.
“But Nancy, don’t just tell stories, be the story” he urged.
Unfortunately we had to end our talk there as we both had other commitments.
I cannot begin to describe how invaluable I found the advice Raj gave me in that hour to be. So much so that I felt instantly compelled to sit down and write about our time together. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have had the opportunity to meet him and gain some insight into the field I am trying to break into.
Thank you Raj. I will never forget it.