I was born in the Soviet Union the year of its collapse. For 70 years before that entrepreneurs were violently prosecuted by the government for any commercial activity. A person involved in business of any kind was called a “spekulyant,” a disgraceful term and thrown in jail.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, entrepreneurship bans were lifted and people were free to open businesses of their choosing. Even though I personally never experienced persecution of any kind, my parents’ outlook on life was very much affected by the communist regime. I was raised in an environment where financial affluence, entrepreneurship activity, or any other sign of commercially-driven behavior was associated with fear and anxiety and ultimately frowned upon.
I was raised to pursue a “noble” profession like teaching at a university, becoming a lawyer, or being a doctor. Business was a non-existent option…until 2012. That summer I came to the United States as an exchange student to work a sales job at a beachfront kite store in Ocean City, Maryland. What was supposed to be just a fun summer gig changed my life forever.
I won all sales competitions that season with limited English and no background in sales. Getting to know my customers and making their vacation a lifetime memory was the most rewarding experience. I realized I really loved connecting with people then. The store owner encouraged me to pursue business. I practically laughed in his face. I had a highly respected academic career planned ahead.
I returned to Russia and graduated with a degree in Linguistics. I could not, however, forget how fulfilled I felt working in sales. I spent the next 5 years chasing that sense of fulfillment. I did research, I taught at a university, I worked as an interpreter, I earned a Master’s in teaching and immigrated to the U.S.
Life became more complex with my immigration struggles and when I discovered new career interests. I found Career Coaching and fell in love. While I enjoyed teaching students how to build and “sell” their professional brand to employers, I was still missing the fulfillment from direct sales.
In 2018, I started sharing insights from my academic, career and immigration journey on my personal Instagram account. I started helping friends and acquaintances get into top European and U.S. schools and grew my audience to 3.8K. I realized I had a unique combination of knowledge, experiences and talents for which there is a high market demand. I started building my brand and selling my services.
As an immigrant living and working full-time in the United States, I feel that I left a big part of my identity back home. My Instagram business is my way to preserve the connection to my culture, professionally engage in my native language, maintain a robust community and fully live my identity.
My business embodies everything that I am – a career coach, a business owner, a sales person, a content creator, a proud Russian American… I can be it all!
What can you be?
- To discuss your career journey, including entrepreneurship options, schedule an appointment with a career coach here.
- Join us for an Entrepreneurship Panel: Lessons Learned Building a Social Media Business on Feb. 11 at 3.30 p.m. Our speakers will share their journey of turning their passion into successful careers.