x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Find the balance between a satisfying job and a rewarding life

To consider myself successful and find fulfilment, I need to do more than just bring home a paycheque.

"Some of us work to live while others live to work" is one of my friend's favourite mottos. He is of the first bunch, acknowledging that he works primarily to fuel a lifestyle. He perceives the workplace as a means to gain money and attain some level of power through one's rank.

While I respect his honesty, I approach the workplace with a different mindset. I think of it as one of the many aspects of life - something that shares importance with (but does not trump) family, community, friends and one's time to appreciate things outside the job.

During my undergraduate studies, while some of my peers were set on becoming biomedical engineers or history professors, I always felt - and I still do feel - that I would be able to use my skills in multiple fields. Whereas initially I thought this was a problem that indicated some kind of shortcoming - perhaps a lack of focus? - on my part, I've finally become comfortable with the idea that I will probably venture in more than one direction on my career path.

I've noticed that more and more people leaving university fear getting caught in a routine desk job. I think this generation is less willing to settle for less than what they truly desire or dream of. Priorities are also different, with marriage and starting a family happening later as people work to establish themselves first as individuals.

My outlook on choosing a career is affected by my combination of being a woman, a Muslim and an Arab, yet one who has been brought up around the world. As a woman I think of a job as being a crucial part of my life but also as something that I can do alongside raising a family.

Although I have always fought against traditional stereotypes of women, I have nothing but the utmost respect for mothers who either put their careers on hold or find a way to modify them to make their children their priority. Whereas some people mistakenly belittle "stay-at-home mums", they deserve far more recognition from society for all the dedication and effort they put in.

I grew up with a mother who, along with having a job, was able to be home to care for me and my siblings after school. She has now become one of the first female ambassadors from the UAE, which fills me with pride and reassurance that family and career are both options.

While being a mother myself is something that I envision in the future, the Quran teaches us that no one who is physically and mentally able should be allowed to become a liability on one's family or on the state through idleness. Everyone who is capable of it is expected to work, which is seen as "good" or "beneficial" (al-'amal al-salih).

Thus I see work as a necessary and rewarding component of life. It gives me an opportunity not only to earn a livelihood but also to imbue my life with purpose and direction.

Now I'm about to begin my graduate studies. Although I still can't pinpoint a title for a career that I'm striving towards, I know without a doubt that I want to take my education and experience to a position in the workplace that makes me feel I'm doing something meaningful for people other than myself. To consider myself successful and find fulfilment, I need to do more than just bring home a paycheque.

Having had the opportunity to travel the world at a young age, I consider my blessings as a responsibility to give back to my new sense of community, which has become increasingly international the more places I visit.

Fatima al Shamsi is an Emirati based in New York.