Allow yourself to say ‘yes’

Personal journeys fascinate me. Opportunities can be meticulously planned and not work out, or they can surprise you and pop up when you least expect them.

We trundle through life; sometimes we’re on a mission, sometimes we’re lost and sometimes we’re not exactly sure where we’re at. Despite most career advice being so far removed from your emotions, our mood has such a role to play when we’re thinking about where we’re going next, what we’re going to do and what decisions we should make…

I’m a real believer that positivity opens doors.

Fight through difficult times

It’s often the positively delusional people that make the impossible possible. Having said that, many of my life changing moments have come from times when I’ve tested my personal strength and been through more difficult times.

My first year at university was such a disappointment. My course wasn’t right for me and my accommodation didn’t work out. I thought about dropping out so many times, pining to go back to Madagascar — where I had volunteered on my gap year. However, it was at the end of this year, while I was dreading going back to university that the opportunity to start a real development project in Uganda came about.

This could have been something that just passed me by, a friend mentioned that she’d met a Ugandan dentist who was looking to help others in his community. It could have been nothing.

But for some reason, that fire inside me lit up and I didn’t let it burn out.

This opportunity developed into setting up an NGO in Uganda…over the past 5 years, that Ugandan dentist and his friends have provided healthcare to over 6,000 people through NGO Mwenya Uganda.

It’s often the moments when you’re sick of where you are, or what you’re doing, when you can progress the most. When you’re pining for something new, it’s emotionally charged. Instead of wallowing and being bogged down in the negative, on numerous occasions I’ve just taken the chance and thought ‘f**k it!’, I turned the negative energy into creating other opportunities that I can say ‘yes’ to.

I am currently the General Manager of The Responsible Safari Company, a social enterprise in Malawi. I manage a team of 6 staff and oversee all the logistics, finances, operations and community project work at this exciting small business.

I believe that we create our own luck and I’m not a big believer in fate. However, this is the first job where I’ve felt like all my previous experiences were put into a magical dream job machine and with a sudden jolt, it produced this opportunity from no-where!

A walking safari: average weekend activity!

How did I find it?

I was feeling frustrated and I was ready to say yes to a new challenge, I happened to come across it on Escape the City and boom! I didn’t slave away over my application and I didn’t stress about it for weeks, I simply just sent my CV and cover letter on a Sunday evening. Three Skype interviews later, next thing I know I’m on a plane to Malawi.

I’ve worked abroad in education, social work and development over the past five years, I worked in some of the most beautiful islands in the Indian Ocean before getting this job in Malawi.

People often say to me ‘I’m so jealous, it looks amazing’ — but I’ve learnt that if you want something enough and you’re will to put the work in, you can achieve anything. There’s no need to be jealous, and there’s no need to pine after other people’s dreams, it won’t get you anywhere.

You’ve got to figure yours out for yourself.

I’m not pretending to know exactly what my dreams are — I try as much as possible to live for the day, which makes long term planning quite a challenge! Thanks to that magical job machine, for the first time in my life, I’ve found a job which fits ‘me’ and I really didn’t see it coming! The future is blurry, don’t stress about it too much, these opportunities have a habit of popping up if you’re ready for them.

In our emotional ups and downs we can sometimes forget about the overall direction of our professional journey, settling for a job that fills our time and pays the bills.

We work an average of 80,000 hours in our lifetime.

I dread the thought of working 8 hours in a job that I hate, let alone 80,000 hours. Keep that figure in the back of your mind, but don’t be overwhelmed by it.

Think big and take little steps. Give yourself weekly, monthly and annual goals to keep moving forwards. Just remember, when you’re really open to opportunities and ready to say ‘yes’, your life might take you somewhere you had never imagined…

I’m sitting on my terrace of my house in Malawi, four hornbill birds have just swooped by while I’ve been writing this, their flapping and squawking sounds like something out of Jurassic Park.

Nobody ever mentioned this at university careers fairs!

Elizabeth is the founder of The Cool Graduate, a platform of inspiration for graduates looking for meaning, adventure and fun in their post-graduate lives.

Originally published at on May 24, 2016.