Transitioning from Stay at Home Mom to a First Job

 

 

I landed my first job a few months ago, prior to that I had been a SAHM (stay at home mom) for about four years. Like many other SAHM I had graduated from college and immediately started my family.

I had no idea what I was supposed to do in the real world, my liberal arts degree in  communications was  vague and didn’t give me much direction in applying for jobs. What  I did know was that I really loved working with nonprofits and have always been drawn to that type of environment. So with virtually no experience except for a short stint at a well known Muslim non-profit organization. I started applying to every organization that I could think of. I had a really genius way of doing it (not really) I googlemapped organizations that were closest to me and started sending my resumes to the HR departments.

After a couple of days with no response from various non-profits in the area I started fishing for government jobs on USAJobs.com. As I read about the various positions I dreamed of working in the state department, so I  filled out lengthy applications and thought to myself what a perfect fit I would be.

Unfortunately the State department didn’t see my urdu speaking skills as enough of an asset to hire me. And as many applications that I filled out I got that many rejection letters. My morale was at an all-time low. Nothing seemed to be pulling through for me. I looked for jobs on Government sites, craigslist, Monster and even tried to look into interpreting jobs. This was an incredibly disappointing experience for me. I remember finally applying for a retail position at the mall.

My mom encouraged me to look into volunteering and that’s when I started talking to a non-profit group in the area.  It went well and I  got an  volunteer position to be a liaison for  refugee families that they house in their shelter apartments.

Excited with this new development I called my attorney friend in DC to tell her the good news. She was happy, but gave me some great advice and urged me to volunteer in the office with the communications director, so that I  could use my skills and build up experience in my field which would eventually lead me to a paid position.

I decided to go and talk with the volunteer coordinator to switch my position as my friend has advised. But even before going back to discuss change of plans with coordinator, I ran into a community member  from the Mosque. I enthusiastically told her about  the new volunteer opportunity that had landed my way.

She looked at me perplexed and said, “Why are you volunteering there? We could use you at FAITH Social Services,” a group that  she was affiliated with. Intrigued about a Muslim social service so close to me, I immediately  scheduled an interview with the director and became emerged into a world of social work that has made me both humble and grateful.

I volunteered for FAITH for about 5 months before becoming an employee.  I followed my friend’s advice and started volunteering in the office. Initially I  worked on flyers and little write-ups. Over  time, I  began to get a feel for the organization and started to see how I  could contribute with my communication’s background. I saw that there was a need for a newsletter and I started working on creating a newsletter every month for FAITH.

I began to plug myself into more projects going around in the office and brainstormed ideas with the staff. Finally my youngest was ready for school and I mustered up the courage to ask the director if I could work as an employee. She agreed and I’ve been the Public Relations Coordinator for FAITH for four months now.

The point of this post is to give women who have been SAHM hope that they can work when they choose to. It might take some time to build up your resume and gain that courage but inshallah with these tips it should be a smooth transition:

1. Get the word out – Tell everyone that you’re looking for work: friends, neighbors, community members.

2. Fix your resume – If the last time you  did your resume was in college, it is definitely time to revamp it.

3. volunteer/intern  with the organization that you think you want to work at. Specifically in the department you want to gain experience in.

4. Make your mark while you’re volunteering (establish networks, make yourself an asset  to the organization) ex: don’t just shred paper – think of ways to reduce the paper in the office –> digitalize files and get the okay from the department head. The leadership will applaud your effort and will value your initiative.

5. Don’t get disappointed if you’re not hired after volunteering. The end all is not to get a job, but it is to learn new skills, build up resume and experience. This will be invaluable and will help towards the next place that you go to.

Good Luck, and don’t despair if things aren’t moving as fast as you want them to its all part of the master plan from above 🙂

Aunties in Denial

Say salam to Abeer Khala”, a 1.5 year old came and said salam to me.  At the time it was only my third time meeting this cute (but still random) kid and I had known his mother for hardly a month, yet I became a khala.  (Khala: title given to your mother’s sister in the Urdu language)

How do you become a khala?

1)   Mother’s sister(s)

2)   In the South Asian culture, your mother’s female cousins are also known to be ‘khalas’

3)   In my book my children also call my close long lasting friends khalas as well.

 For that 1.5 year old kid I didn’t fall into any of those categories.  So why call me khala?

 I’m noticing this growing phenomenon of girls my age (ahem late 20s) referring to themselves and their friends/acquaintances as khalas to their children.  I find this  extremely annoying.

 Khala is a major title, growing up we would always hear that your khala is like your mother.  I used to think this is just another one of those Desi notions that probably stemmed from Hindu traditions.

 WRONG.

 This notion actually has Islamic roots, our beloved Prophet (PBUH) gave maternal aunts a high status.

“A man came to Allah’s Prophet (Peace be upon Him) and said: ‘O Prophet! I have committed a major sin. Do you think that I can atone for it?’

He asked: “Do you have a mother living?”

The man answered in the negative.

The Prophet (Peace be upon Him) asked the man: “Do you have a maternal aunt living?”

The man answered in the positive. Allah’s Prophet (Peace be upon Him) said to him: “Be good and kind to her.” (Tirmidhi 1904)

 “The sister of the mother has a status similar to the mother.” (Bukhari #2552)

 After learning that I realized that our Khalas should be given great honor and respect.  Hence the reason why I think to toss around the word ‘Khala” for any other average jo-lie, seems almost degrading to the title.

I think the reason why we end up resorting to khala is because we have a problem with the word Aunty.

Our generation of folks growing up here have given ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ this comical yet negative connotation.

We think Aunties just like to sit around gossip, watch dramas (or create them) and drink chai.  Well, I try to avoid gossip, and I love my Pakistani dramas BUT I don’t drink chai.  I guess I’m a semi-aunty, but nonetheless still an a-u-n-t-y.

Even if I didn’t do any of those things, I’m a married woman with children and their friends will and should refer to me as aunty.  I don’t take offense to that and neither should any other person.

I would not want my child calling an acquaintance ‘khala’ for no reason.  It may just be a title but to me that word means a lot.

If my close friend’s children refer to me as khala then I take it as an obligation to try to live up to it.  To make it a point to ask about their well being, their new hobbies and to acknowledge big milestones in their lives.  I wouldn’t do that for just any kid.

Granted, some of my “aunties” have over time become more than aunties (but less than Khalas).  I still refer to them as aunties but would treat them with love and more respect simply due to the nature of my relationship with them.

Aunty is not a bad word nor does it mean you’re the ‘old’ ‘nosy’ and ‘annoying’ lady from the community whose going around causing havoc.

There are a number of cool aunties out there and I plan on being one of them insha’Allah, or I just might be a typical  aunty in denial