To former The Apprentice contestant, Melody Hossaini, teaching young people to seek careers according to “who” they want to be when they are older rather than “what” could help them make decisions and live a happier life.
She said: “When we are young, people ask us ‘what do you want to do when you’re older’ – but few ask us the much more important question: ‘Who do you want to be.’ In our lifetimes, we may have several careers, but who we fundamentally are, does not change- this is where everything is stemmed from.”
Being an ex-war refugee from Iran, Melody’s life has been driven more by her determination and courage rather than her desired profession.
“Coming from a background of being born amidst war, to growing up in Sweden and gaining a passion for social justice, and a grateful attitude towards any opportunities that I could take drove me to where I am,” Melody said.
When she was a child her neighbour’s house was bombed and her family fled to Europe. Since then, Melody’s strength has been tested through many terrifying situations such as being bound and gagged and held at gunpoint by burglars and once being abandoned in the middle of the desert.
At the age of 13, Melody and her family moved to the UK from Sweden for a fresh start and would often manage with the limited resources that they had.
“Growing up, my mum saved up for us to see the world and have experiences, rather than the latest Nike trainers. A decision which resulted in us being bullied for not having the latest ‘must-haves’ but one which I am eternally grateful for, as it was those insights and experiences which shaped my passion for people,” she said.
This passion drove her to become the co-founder of UK Youth Parliament the same year, despite not being able to speak English fully. After university at Oxford Brooks, Melody then set up the social enterprise InspirEngage International with no money in her account and only a free email address.
InspirEngage is a leading organisation in skills training and people development. It aims to help people become successful by giving back to society. In addition to supporting self-development through Skills Bootcamps, it also develops social enterprise programmes that can be embedded into school curricula.
Chosen out of around 75,000 entrants, Melody shot into the limelight in the UK as a contestant of the 7th series of The Apprentice. During the show, Melody received negative feedback from host Sir Alan Sugar for being “ruthless”, while her male counterparts were often congratulated for the same traits.
“I noticed on The Apprentice that if a man was driven, it was pat on the back and congratulations for ambition but if a woman was driven, it was often seen as ruthless and negative,” she said.
As the first ever social entrepreneur on the show, Melody hoped to demonstrate another side to the “dog-eat-dog business world” and use her new found platform to further her work supporting “people to find their purpose”.
Thankfully since her time on The Apprentice, Melody has seen a move away from this mentality and has been “doing a lot of work on supporting women and girls to prosper through programmes we run and can see a shift but still a long way to go.”
As a soon-to-be mother of two, Melody also sees room for improvement when it comes to a women’s work-life balance, she said: “We still have some work to do to allow women to stop and have families as well as be given an opportunity to thrive at work.”
Despite all this Melody is optimistic about the world of work for women and added: “In terms of being a woman in business- things are headed in the right direction.”
Even with the traumatic experiences that Melody overcame in her life, she adamantly believes that “real solutions will never grow out of hatred and will only derive when we are practical, tolerant and innovative”.