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From debilitating defeat to empowered elation – when living the dream becomes a nightmare

By Raz WahidMarch 12, 2013British Asian, Jobs, Personal Development, Self Improvement, Unemployment, Values, Work Life Balance

The feeling of dread filled my chest.

Blood rushed to my face.  I wanted to run out of the office screaming.  His words echoed in my head ‘I’m sorry, but we’re not going to be able to pay anyone this month.’


I had left a comfortable job in Bradford; left my family, friends and entire history for the dizzy heights of London, where the folks are unique and the streets are paved with gold.  Could this be happening?  The first month in my first job in this glorious city and I wouldn’t be earning a penny?

The build up

I’m not one to do things by halves.  Back then I also didn’t do much research.  I decided living in Hampstead would be a great idea.  The place just ‘felt right’.  Little did I know….


I’d spent my savings on the deposit for the flat and didn’t have a penny to my name.  Paying the rent was reliant on being paid at my job.  Since the latter wasn’t happening, I knew what was coming.  But I didn’t know what had to be done.  Not yet.

Curled up in the lap of luxury

Walking around little Hampstead that weekend, the trees didn’t look so green.  The people didn’t look so happy.  The wealth was not so appealing. Luxury isn’t so luxurious when you can’t afford to maintain it.

False hope

Two weeks after receiving my redundancy letter, a friend referred me to a friend who was looking for a PA.  Great, I thought – anything to get some pennies in the door.  At this point, I was ready to accept anything, even if it was way out of my skill set.


What ensued was two months of abuse.  My boss was the most scolding, emotionally stunted whack-job I had ever met.  He gave me warm words of encouragement like ‘no-one will ever employ you’ and ‘people like you never succeed’.

And I accepted it to be true.


What did I do?  I remained in his employment earning 90% less than what he said he would pay me.  My self-confidence was not just fractured – it had smashed into pieces.


One grey, rainy Tuesday, it all became too much. I walked out.


I took a break for lunch, and just went home.  He called me; I didn’t pick up.  For two weeks.

He owed me over £2k in salary.  I was in £16k of debt from my credit card, an overdraft and money borrowed from friends and family.

Spending time in that office was not serving me.

Please sir….

That afternoon, I walked to the dole office.  It’s viewed as a place of failure and shame where I come from.  Standing in the queue waiting to be seen, to me, was admitting defeat.

After filling in more forms than my life was worth, I was told I would receive £50 a week to live on.  It would ordinarily be enough if I didn’t have piling debt to pay, as well as the debilitating rent.  And what did I do?  I didn’t switch on the heating, I ate dry cereal for meals, and used all the cash I had to start paying off debt.

One brick at a time.

Home, oh, the sweetness of home

Finding the cheapest way to get there using a service I didn’t know existed, I went back to Bradford for a weekend.

I met a friend who sat with me for over 2 hours in her car whilst I cried until my heart felt like it was bleeding.  My pride was on the floor.  How did I get here?   How was I going to pay off all the money I had borrowed to keep this ridiculous life in London going?

Walking into my mum’s house that night, eyes blurry and heart heavy, something in me changed.

If I had the power to create this, I had the courage to turn it around.

Needs must


I sold books, clothes, CD’s, stuff – to lighten the load and take the edge off the red in my bank account.  Selling it all wasn’t enough, but it was a start.


Negotiating an early leaving date, I moved out of the noose of luxury in Hampstead and into a small room with a single bed in a different part of London.  This house share was my saving grace.  I like people.  Being around them makes me feel alive.


I decided to throw the job-search rule book out of the window.  No signing up for a zillion job boards and uploading my CV onto every website. My approach was more targeted.  Speaking to people I knew, speaking to people they knew.  I like people…..


I eventually got one interview and landed the job, even whilst having the guts to ask for £20k more than I was earning in Bradford.

With this four month gig, scrimping and saving, I put a massive dent into my £16k worth of debt.

Hope.  Sit back.  Breathe.

Using the same method, I landed another job, more permanent this time.  It was the perfect balance of people, location and work.

It was the kind of job I initially moved to London for.


Needless to say, the rest is history.  It’s this history that has inspired me to create this blog and offer the services that I do.

I used those same methods to land a shiny new job in Paris, earning way more than I ever thought I could, and leaving my life in London behind.


To know the people I do.


To share my life with them.

Wholeheartedly thankful

To the friends that supported me and the family that challenged me.  Even when confidence had forsaken me, I was full to the brim with love.


That I can share this experience with you, along with the lessons I have learned.


The methods are repeatable, in all aspects of life.


  • Vishnu says:

    hey, so first of all – if I haven’t said it before, you’re a great writer! This piece is definitely proof of that mixing this post into a poem format. lol a haiku – well, not sure about that but the individual bolded words do have a rythm to them.

    Such a great comeback story of how you were at a very bad place and use your magical super-powers to come back. I’m sure it was some tough times, tough lessons and hardships but you found a way to make a big life and work come-back. Once again, proof that some of our greatest achievements are born in our darkest hours.

    So glad you started this blog, services and help for others to also make career (and life) come-backs. Really enjoyed reading this post Razwana for style, content and inspiration!

  • Razwana says:

    Awh! Shucks ! Thank you Vishnu for your kind words. Perhaps I can try a haiku format next time….. !

    Do you ever think back to tough times and wonder if you have the strength to do it all over again? We never know what’s round the corner, right?

  • janet says:

    yes, i loved the writing style too! loved how you broke it up in easily readable chunks. and a great story! gives me hope for my current situation and debt. lol. i know i’ll come through 🙂

    • Razwana says:

      Thank you for the comment, Janet! Great to see you here! So pleased you enjoyed the post.

      If you ever want to discuss your situation and bounce around a few idea, feel free to drop me a line at and I’m all ears !

  • Faiza Jabeen says:

    Hey Razwana,
    I really loved reading your blog I have read some of your previous blogs and you are truly an inspiration. Your struggles and bravery really have touched me. They have inspired me to be more courageous in my actions. I am so proud of where you are now but i never really doubted you anyway. Keep doing what you do and carry on being awesome 🙂

  • Vanessa says:

    Wow! What a crazy story! I’m glad you got a good job after all that! Is the end of this article where you are now? Hope all is well!

    • Razwana says:

      Hi Vanessa – it is indeed – I’m living and working in Paris and the London experience is something that feels like is happened to me a long time ago (only 3 years but who’s counting??!!).

      I’ve just taken a look at your blog – have you come across any unexpected journeys in your quest to become an actress/film maker (damn fine quest if you ask me!)?

  • Michael Z Miller says:

    What a great story Razwana! It’s funny, I know just how you felt. I had a similar experience with a boss. Well, she told me that even though I was a manager of 20 people and had worked my way up into the position, that I wasn’t “qualified” for the job. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but I agreed with her. I felt that I wasn’t good enough, or had what it takes to be successful. That’s when my self-esteem was crushed to pieces.

    Fast forward 16 years and I have turned it around. I have a great life. I own several businesses, have a beautiful family, and I have pieced together my self-esteem and confidence and strengthened my soul. Just like you!

    Thanks for sharing your story! It helped me see my own experiences in a new light.

    • Razwana says:

      Thank you for your comment, Michael. Managers have a lot of responsibility, and I’m not sure many of them realise how much responsibility they have towards their employees – especially when it comes to self-esteem.

      Are you managing people now in your businesses? How has your experience with this manager impacted the way you work with your teams?

  • Lisa M. says:


    I love your writing and I very much enjoy hearing success stories! It give me hope that there is something better waiting for me on the other side of this unemployment experience. I am curious as to how you found the position in Paris. Was it through a networking contact?


    • Razwana says:

      Hi Lisa – great to see you here!

      There is hope on the other side. It takes some time. You’ll be writing about your own success/method soon and I look forward to reading it!

      The position in Paris was a mixture of networking and managing clients really well. My current employer is a client of my previous business – when they found out I was leaving the job, they approached me about the position in Paris. And it’s because I was delivering a quality service to them. I had been working with them for 2 years, so the offer was also due to the solid relationships I had formed with them as a client.

      Feel free to drop me a line at Lisa – I’d be happy to bounce some ideas around about your job search.

  • Elena @Healthy Lifestyle Tips says:

    What an incredible article! Very unusual presentation and reading it seems like talking to you. Interesting life experiences. We definitely should listen to our hearts in order to have a kind of life we always wanted and worth living. Thanks for sharing!

  • Gabe says:

    Love the About page and the “longer version” here, Razwana! Inspires me to spend some quality time on my own thrown-together one. Glad to get to know you on here 🙂

  • Paul Acorn says:

    Many thanks for sharing this moving story. Knowing your cultural background I can very much relate to the pain you had to go through. Its tough in any culture but in some its more of a stigma than in others. Many will learn from your shared experiences.

  • Jan says:

    Hi Raz,

    Your story was very moving, it reminds me of when I left home at the tender age of 17 just because I had an argument with my dad spent all my savings on stuff for the flat I was looking forward to renting and having my own space, but only lasted a year but the experience has lasted a life time I don’t know how I done it had a small electric fire for heating getting up at 5am in the morning to catch a bus what did I see in that I wonder!

    I thought I had learned it all and then I had to go back home because I was made redundant and my dad tells me I told you so, AhAh!!! the good old days?

    • Dontcha just love it when parents do that?!

      I’m sure you learned so much from that one year alone that you wouldn’t have if you’d stayed at home. Brave move at 17 !

  • George in Quito says:

    Hi, Raz!
    I enjoy reading your style of writing. And this story rang a few bells. I’m probably at the other end of the age arc from most of your readers, but I’ve kept alive by coming out of retirement many times. This time I retired from being a pastry guy; my friends wouldn’t let me alone until I started writing seriously. I’ve just set up my website (still under construction) and am trying to wrap my head around Scrivener. Then I discovered you. I’ll be watching your blog because you write really well, and it stimulates me. Thank you for inviting me along.


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