My third and last conversation in this series is with Ubong Awah, a legal and financial services professional with prodigious public and private sector experience spanning over twenty five years. Ubong presently works as a senior specialist with an international finance and development institution, (and for those who may not have connected the dots yet, is my husband, the ‘U’ in ‘U&I’ ). At the time he lost his job some years ago, he was in his early 40s, and was the sole breadwinner in his family of 6!
ISANG: What were your immediate thoughts when you lost your job?
UBONG: It was totally destabilising as it happened suddenly. I thought that as an executive and part owner of a promising start up, I would have at least three months to prepare for my exit but this was not the case; I had less than one month! I immediately went into disaster management mode. Life had happened and I needed to immediately adjust to the new reality in terms of providing for, and protecting my family.
ISANG: Were you afraid for the future?
UBONG: I was, though I was equally confident of the faithfulness of God to see me through this major setback. You see, I had in the past faced very challenging situations where I I had trusted in Him and found Him faithful. This was no different though the situation was more dire, what with four children and my wife in school (she was back in school after pausing on her career for well over a decade to raise our children), mortgage and debts to service.
ISANG: What practical steps did you take to move on career-wise?
UBONG: The first thing I did was to accept the new reality that I had no job or business to nurture. The second was to prioritize urgent obligations. I am glad that I did this because immediately news of my sudden job loss became public, a dear friend, who sadly is now late, called and asked what my one immediate need was. I was able to quickly present a request: to see my wife go back and complete her masters programme. God used this dear friend to meet the need for a ticket to the US. I started afresh by taking up legal practice that I had left off for over 10 years. I also partnered with a friend to start an advisory and strategy consulting firm initially operating from my home. The library in my home became my office, and sometimes my car doubled as an office, too (yes, we’d travel with a laptop and printer in the boot as we went around looking for jobs). I was thankful for every opportunity to provide service, whether for reward or pro bono, and did it with all my heart and with integrity. Eventually, things opened up and the opportunity to consult for an international finance institution came.
ISANG: Many people are going to find themselves in the position you found yourself in many years ago. What would be your advice to them?
UBONG: Always remember that life is a journey and that it is not unusual to experience some very hard times or to be dealt a bad hand. What is important is not who dealt us the bad hand and why, but how we respond. A good response is to reaffirm your faith in the goodness of God and to commit your future to Him. Guard against bitterness and despair, as tempting as it may be to give in to these. Also, don’t allow the situation to come between you and your spouse and children, or family; if anything, strengthen these bonds and stay united.
On the practical side, quickly make lifestyle adjustments to fit the new normal, and put your hands and mind to work. Think of what you can do or services you have the skills to provide, and put the skills to use. For instance, if you’re a teacher, you could start by providing private tutoring for students, and eventually rent a classroom and organise after-school tutorials for students. Rather than dwell on the past, look to the future and start a new journey with what you have or what you find to do. Remember that, ‘There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes. – William J. Brennan, Jr.’ This is not the time to be fixated on your qualifications and neither is it the time to wait for ‘the right job’. Get down to work with what you have in your hands and be faithful in that. In due time, the right job, and this may be in the form of your own successful business, will find you!
ISANG: Can you share a quote that inspires you and keeps you going even when things may not be going well?
UBONG: The faithfulness of God never ceases; He remains faithful and true even when we are faithless and unfaithful!
ISANG: One last thing – many people are going through an incredibly challenging season especially in Nigeria. There are more reports of suicide than we’ve ever had in the past. I know that you know what it is like to be so overwhelmed by life’s challenges that you don’t want to live anymore. So, I am going to invite you back sometime in April or May for a different conversation, because I would like you to use your experience to speak and give hope to those who are in a dark place and are tired of living.
UBONG: Certainly; I’ll be happy to share, and thank you!
ISANG: Huge thanks to Ubong for sharing his story and giving great tips on bouncing back from job loss. Dear Facebook family, feel free to tag anyone who has suffered a similar setback and may be in need of encouragement and/or may benefit from the tips Ubong shares. Thank you.
P/s: This week, I am sharing texts/ written conversations. Podcasts will be shared at a much later time. You can read the intro to this conversation series here: https://www.facebook.com/isang.awah/posts/10225250907720120
Part 1 featuring
Olusegun Sege Tea Dada
can be read here: https://www.facebook.com/isang.awah/posts/10225250937560866
Part 2 featuring
can be read here: https://www.facebook.com/isang.awah/posts/10225269879074392