Alia Khan is a woman about town – and she has turned her passions into a fulfilling career. You may have seen her chatting up a chef at the newest “it” restaurant to get the story behind the story for her restaurant reviews, taking real estate clients through the hottest neighborhoods in town, or teaching a playful yoga class, but it is hard to keep up!
How did this attorney-turned entrepreneur find the courage to take her first step into uncharted territory? She followed her heart and believed in herself. To learn more about the woman behind Urban Living by Alia, read on…
How did you know it was time to make a change?
I knew from day 1 at my law firm that it wasn’t the right place for me, but hemmed and hawed about actually taking steps towards making a change. Then I lost my father – my sole confidant, mentor, and best friend in the world. And the reality of just how short, unpredictable, and impermanent of a blessing this life is came crashing down around me. After hiding out in Costa Rica for a month to heal, I returned to DC determined to make some serious changes in my life. I started interviewing and networking like crazy, and most importantly of all, I just got out there and tried new things. And of course, there were a lot of misses before stuff finally started to stick, but it’s all part of the journey.
What gave you the confidence you needed to move forward?
My unwavering belief that there WAS a better life for me out there, I just had to figure out what it looked like and build it myself. I knew there had to be a dream job for me out there; it was just a matter of me doing the soul-searching necessary to figure out what that dream job looked like. I can’t think of a way of saying this that doesn’t make me sound like an arrogant toerag (one of my favorite phrases from Harry Potter), but honestly, I just refused to believe that there was NOT a perfect career out there for an intelligent, creative, driven woman like myself. Above all, my faith in myself would not have been possible if it hadn’t been for my loved ones who were so incredibly confident in me and my ability to succeed.
Who/what inspires you today?
Again, not sure how to say this without sounding arrogant: me. I spent the first 28 years of life looking to others to guide me, inspire me, and show me the way. And that DIDN’T WORK. All I ended up with was a job that other people thought I would be good at and a life that other people thought sounded great. None of it was the right fit for ME. So I gave up on relying on external motivations and turned inwards – slowly but surely whittling away at the world of possibilities in front of me until I was able to craft a life that is uniquely perfect for me. And I’m still whittling – that dream is constantly growing and changing, as am I. I’m not the type to rest on my laurels – once I accomplish one goal, I immediately move on to the next. And it’s my drive to achieve that constantly morphing goal that keeps me going.
What are you dreaming about now?
I’m always thinking about the next goal I want to accomplish and the steps I need to take to get there. On a macro level, I have a very exciting vision of what my real estate empire is going to look like and how my other passions – teaching yoga, exploring the dining scene, and performing and enjoying live music – will be able to dovetail into that empire. On a more micro level, I’m about to launch a new marketing campaign aimed at my neighbors on the Hill, and will soon be teaching a weekly vinyasa yoga class on the Hill to better connect with my community. I’m also working on developing a series of real estate seminars aimed at my former colleagues (attorneys) as a corollary to a recently-launched marketing campaign that I’ve been targeting at the community.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
When I was designing my first set of business cards, my former roommate advised me not to choose a typical title for myself. Instead, he told me to make sure to go with something that would be a surefire conversation starter – or at least grab people’s attention. Hence the “Realtor + Recovering Attorney” title you’ll see in all of my branding – he was right, I’ve gotten a lot of positive attention thanks to those two little words, and I’m confident that a lot more people have taken notice of me than would have if my card had just said “Realtor” like everyone else’s!
What do you know now that you wish you would have known when you started?
That it is possible to have a workplace filled with people who you genuinely look forward to seeing every day, who help you grow as an individual and a professional, who feed off of you creatively and vice versa. That there is never any need to put up with a toxic work environment, with feeling undervalued or underappreciated, with working hours and/or conditions that don’t allow you to get enough sleep or have enough time for self care. That I can be a hell of a lot happier making a hell of a lot less money.
What encouragement can you offer someone who wants to make a change but is apprehensive?
Take baby steps – not one big leap. Try different things out – whether it’s through volunteer work or just meeting and chatting with new people who are in roles you think you might enjoy. Do your homework before making any jumps – but don’t just sit and think about what you might like to do. Get out there and actively take steps towards change. Oh, and save up a good nest egg before making a financially risky jump. The last thing you want is to be worrying about money on top of the many, many other concerns and considerations that come along with making a major life change.
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