Fifteen years ago I met my husband Marc while stuck in traffic during a bomb scare. I was driving in Washington, D.C., not far from the White House. In the corner of my eye, I saw a very handsome young man in a great suit waiting for his car in valet parking.
Luckily for me, traffic got stand-stilled that day due to an abandoned suitcase that the D.C. Police had to investigate as a potential explosive device. Once this man got into his car, no one would allow him into traffic. When I pulled up, I gave him a big smile and motioned that he could go in front of me. He wove into the middle lane, unrolled his window to say "hello," and that is how we met. Traffic was crawling, so we continued our conversation. We agreed to meet at Cactus Cantina for dinner that night and the best fajitas in town. Two years later we were married, and I am filled with gratitude for being stuck in bad traffic on May 27, 1997.
Five years before this encounter, the role of fate had already changed my professional life, also for the better. I was working for Inc. magazine, the publication for growing companies and Steve Mariotti, founder of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) was to be the keynote speaker at the Inc. 500 luncheon. The rest of my department didn't go to this conference in Des Moines, Iowa, but I essentially snuck my way in. I had volunteered to take photographs and promote Inc.'s line of videos and software for entrepreneurs. Little did I suspect at that moment how this encounter with Steve was going to change my life and my professional trajectory for the next 20 years.
In his remarks, Steve shared that he moved from Michigan to New York City to open an import-export firm. Steve moved the audience, including me, as he spoke about how fulfilling it was to be president of his own company, and how a world of opportunity opened to him. Starting his own business and being president had done a lot for Steve's self-esteem, allowing him to commence a journey of personal transformation.
Steve's path had a chance encounter that forced him to confront his personal fears, and propelled his path to success as a social entrepreneur.
In 1981, while jogging in New York City, Steve was roughed up and robbed by a group of teenagers. He didn't understand why those kids had to push him around for a few dollars. "Why didn't they just try to sell me something?" he wondered.
Channeling pain and building a surprise success
Steve decided to face his fears and channel this pain productively. He built in the South Bronx a pilot program imparting everything he had learned from his MBA courses at Michigan, but modifying it to make it accessible to low-income youth. The success of his program gave Steve the confidence to launch NFTE in 1987. Today NFTE has year-round programs in markets across the U.S. and in 10 other countries. The organization spurred by Steve's fateful run has now served over 500,000 children through an entrepreneurship curriculum that has been often referred to as a "Mini-MBA" course.
When I heard Steve's story in 1992, I sat there in the audience and was dumbfounded and inspired. At that moment, I knew I would find a way to help NFTE grow. I waited in line afterward and spoke to Steve and made a commitment to myself to get involved and to say yes to this great mission.
I studied and followed the path of a social entrepreneur: an individual who builds with two bottom lines in mind — financial and fulfilling a social mission. Five months later I was building NFTE Boston and New England full time, and soon I became the youngest executive director in the organization serving over 25,000 youth in the Washington, D.C., region and helping scale the program to several more U.S. cities from 1992 to 2012.
In Judaism, the word for meeting your soul mate is "Bashert." It also means "destiny" and "fate." By being stuck in traffic that day and by working the conference I was not supposed to attend, I was fortunate to experience two huge Bashert moments in my life. And because of those experiences, I believe now that many of my encounters with people and opportunities are meant to be and "fate."
If you are looking for a job, whether actively or passively, imagine you are running in a marathon called My Job Search. Understand and plan that you will run with various people for different lengths of time. Maybe they don't have a job for you right now, but envision they are taking some role to teach you something or guide you to a moment of fate. Realize that the people you meet every day in offices, planes and trains are each getting you further in miles to where you need to go to find your dream job.
This means saying YES! to meetings, to introductions, to attending conferences and networking events, and yes, maybe even encountering a bomb scare that will play a role in shaping your future.
In July of this year, I turned the page in my career and decided to become an entrepreneur teaming up with an great leader I really admire to help people help their friends get jobs using online technology and social media. We are fast-tracking moments of professional "fate" that are already happening in other people's lives.
During your journey to find your next career be open to the possibility that you might also find your soul mate, spouse, a great new friend or a great future client along your path. Carpe Diem!