Posts filed under ‘In this economy’
On a recent vacation to Ireland, I struck up a conversation one evening with a guy in a pub while out listening to some live music. Perhaps it was the Guinness that led him to tell me his story, or maybe he had kissed the blarney stone and been given the legendary gift of gab.
He shared with me that he had gone to Oxford to earn his master’s in history, but he had somehow ended up in the wheeling and dealing world of credit and banking. Here he was, traveling all over the world, buying $30K watches just because he likes watches, and paying off a new home in just a few years. As far as anyone could tell, he was doing grand (a word they use a lot in Ireland).
The truth, he confessed, is that he is quite unhappy and unsatisfied. He explained that he makes a purchase, hoping to satisfy some longing, and it always turns up empty. He sometimes wished he could work in the field in which he had studied back at Oxford. He was happy then. Maybe he could be an archaeologist. That would be lovely (another word they use a lot in Ireland). But the starting hourly-rate for an archaeologist is something like $12. [continue at highcallingblogs.com…]
Pat Lencioni, author of such bestselling books as The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Death by Meeting, recently wrote a guest blog for BusinessWeek entitled Rediscovering Work. In his post, he suggests that we might be moving back down Maslow’s pyramid, away from “the importance of finding deep meaning and fulfillment in a job.” He points out, and I agree, that one positive thing coming out of this current crisis might be people finding “a new appreciation for the simple gift that is work.” I was reading recently that after the Great Depression, people were so relieved to have a job that they placed a high value on work itself. No longer was work seen as a curse; it was a blessing. If this is an outcome of this crisis, I will be thrilled.
His blog post pointed out that people who never landed their dream job will feel better about themselves now by just having a job at all. Even people who did land that dream job and found it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be “can find a little relief and reset their expectations.”
While Lencioni’s post had some interesting insight, I was left wanting. Wanting to know: what are the eternal truths about work that weather any storm? Climbing Maslow’s hierarchy seems a little too simple of an explanation for what’s going on here. Were self fulfillment and fulfilling potential really what was driving people these past 20 years as Lencioni suggests? Or was it something deeper.
As a Christian, I am certain that it has to be something more.
When I read in Jeremiah 29:11 that God has a plan for me and in Psalm 139 that He created my inner most being, my inspiration does not come from a sense of wanting more personal fulfillment. I begin to see work as worship. It’s not about my potential, it’s about what I was created to do and be. It’s eternal.
Maybe the problem is that people are seeking to find identity in their work instead of understanding their vocation. So often, we create a mission statement or envision something special we will be doing with our lives 10 years down the road, and we think that success is tied to a certain job title.
Take me, for example, several years ago, I applied for a job at the Center for Life Calling and Leadership at Indiana Wesleyan University. It was shortly after I had been inspired by my mission to “unleash the dreams of others.” Job title: Lead Life Coach. In a million years, I would not have imagined a more perfect job title. It seemed so meant to be that I was willing to move from San Diego to a tiny town in Indiana. I had the phone interview and they declared that of the hundreds of applicants, they wanted me. They would fly me out for an interview, but it was “just a formality.” (I should write another job post about not counting your chickens until they are hatched!) Long story short, they met me, and I was not the relational personality they had been expecting. The introvert in me shone bright that day.
So what did I do? Well, I started looking for opportunities to fulfill my mission in unconventional ways. I became a better manager. I started volunteer keynote speaking. I counseled people one on one. Heck, I even bought the stepson who wanted to be a vet a beagle and the stepson who wanted to be a pilot flying lessons! My dream did not die. My passion was not tied to my job title. It was tied to my inner most being.
So I do hope Pat’s right and that people do rediscover work amidst this crisis. Actually, maybe what I’m hoping for is a transformation on how we view work. On how we view purpose. And on how we view God.
“People are waiting for someone to come along and fix their life. Hope is the word of the year. Real hope doesn’t come from Washington; it comes from getting off your butt and fixing your own life.” These words by Dave Ramsey floated through the airwaves the other morning as I was getting ready for work.
I was stopped in my tracks and reminded of where my real hope comes from.
In chapter 3 of Lamentations, Jeremiah is walking through the city of Jerusalem after it has been destroyed by the Babylonians. Despair and destuction were all around him. Everything had fallen apart. In the midst of his lamenting, Jeremiah understands that there is hope in the Lord.
In Lam. 3:22-24, he proclaims, ”Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed. Because His compassion fails not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ’The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’”
More often than I would like to admit, I struggle with pride and place my hope in me. When anxiety creeps into my life because I am trying to get my butt in gear and fix my own life, I can rest in the fact that the Lord is my strength and in Him I can place my hope.
I’m not suggesting we just sit and do nothing and expect everything to get better, but I know a lot of good people being affected by this economy who are putting their best foot forward and coming up empty.
When emptiness seems to define your life, remember the story of Elisha and the widow’s oil in 2 Kings 4. The woman’s husband was dead and the creditor was coming to take her two sons to be his slaves. The woman had nothing in the house but a jar of oil. Elisha told her to go and borrow as many empty bottles as she could find. She was to shut the door behind her and pour the oil into the empty vessels. The oil filled the vessels until she ran out of vessels. Elisha then instructed her to go and sell the oil and pay off her debt.
Only when we are truly in an empty place can God reveal to us His deep provisions. Only when we are no longer dependent on ourselves can we really rely on Him. Only when our own resources have dried up can we draw from His special reserve for us. Our emptiness is a gift from the Lord.
Are you running on empty? Have you lost hope? Are you ridden with fear and anxiety? May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
For my friends who are fortunate to have a job right now, I’m going to suggest that there are opportunities right in front of you to do more of what you love and less of what you hate – now more than ever.
In this economy, companies in every industry are thinking about how they can do things differently. Many of them are limiting their new hires for the time being. And as people leave, there are holes.
What is left is an opportunity to redefine your entire job.
First, you need to determine what types of activities you love and which you could live without ever doing again. Spend a week just tracking your activities.
Are there things you are doing that don’t really need to be done to keep the organization moving forward? Are there people around you who would be better equipped to do the tasks you can’t stand (for me, it would be anything that requires math!) Next, stay on the lookout for opportunities to take on tasks that you might really enjoy. Have a candid conversation with your boss about “how you could best benefit the organization” and volunteer to take on a new responsibility when an unassigned project comes up.
I know from personal experience that in a matter of time, you can have a completely new job description – one that really fits your strengths and interests. By slowly inching my job away from research and reports at my first job at San Diego State University, an entirely new role was created for me as a communication manager. In the end, I was not doing anything I had started out doing. I had literally created a job from scratch within an environment where that ‘never’ happens.
I would venture to say that a key way to get organizations growing again is to get current employees into positions where they are most productive and satisfied. It’s a win win all around.
A friend of mine sent me this video clip because she thought it was really funny. I totally agree. But there is also an important lesson here. Sometimes it takes challenging our normal thought patterns and considering issues from a different angle to gain the necessary perspective. There is not always one right answer. What issues at work or in life seem insurmountable? Is there an alternative way of approaching the issue? I bet there is!
Either way, you have to watch this because it’s just plain hilarious.
I’m currently leading a class on strengths. We use the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment and materials developed by Marcus Buckingham and Gallup organization. The premise of the materials is that society focuses so much on improving our weaknesses that we miss opportunities to achieve real satisfaction in our work. By trying to improve our weaknesses, we can possibly reach adequacy. But if we can capitalize on our strengths, we can actually perform tasks with near perfection – we can learn to work with excellence. We can really work the way God created us to work.
To give you an example, my strengths are:
- Maximizer – I like to take things that are good and make them superb (small increments of improvement don’t interest me).
- Achiever – I have a great deal of stamina to work hard. I’m only satisfied with high levels of productivity.
- Learner – I have a great desire to learn. It’s the process of learning, not just the outcomes, that really excites me.
- Focus – I have an ability to stay on track with goals and direction.
- Input – I have a craving to know more. I collect things like books and information.
Past classes have been really transformational. Participants have identified new directions for their current work or even discovered completely new careers they want to pursue.
The interesting challenge to leading this current class is that most of the participants are unemployed. And the reality is that they may not have the luxury of finding that perfect job in the current economic climate. I’ve read some advice that people who are unemployed have an amazing opportunity to go for their dreams. This is great advice. But it must be tempered with the reality of needing to pay the rent or support a family.
So I’ve been asking myself… what the heck are the benefits of knowing our strengths in the current job market? Is this ‘strengths’ philosophy any good for someone who just plain needs a job?
I’m thinking the answer is yes and here’s why:
1. Knowing my strengths can actually shape my job search process. Given my personal strengths, for example, I could set weekly goals for myself and track my success by how much I achieve that week. I might study various industries to identify what types of jobs interest me. There is so much advice out there on how to land a job, but it might not take advantage of your personal strengths. Not everyone is wired the same, and not everyone will have success finding a job the same way.
2. Knowing my strengths will help me in the interview process. In my experience, talking about myself in a job interview in ways I thought the interviewer wanted to hear has left me without the job offer. It was only when I learned to articulate my strengths that prospective employers could picture me in the job and get excited about my potential. I’m confident that knowing what you do well and being able to articulate it will catapult you to the top of the pile. The level of specificity in which you can talk and your confidence will be attractive.
3. I can shape my resume toward my strengths. There are lots of things on my resume that I know how to do, but are they things I loved doing when I was doing them? Why not completely overhaul your resume and articulate all of the things that you have done in the past in terms of your strengths. Consider taking out completely some of the things you dreaded doing. For example, I probably would not highlight roles in the past that required me to have small talk with people I had never met before. Instead, I might focus my job descriptions around my love for managing people, my attention to details in project management, and my ability to bring structure to a creative process. Why not lean toward areas of strength? I imagine this would land me a job that is a better fit.
4. Knowing my strengths allows me to think creatively about alternatives. Instead of looking for work in the exact field of work I have always been in, knowing my strengths allows me to think about what I can do in different fields. Strengths are transferable across types of work. Skills and knowledge don’t transfer quite as easily, but my core strengths can be applied to lots of settings. I can ask myself, what kinds of work require my set of strengths? Reframing the question this way may open up a lot of possibilities.
5. I can volunteer. When we are using our strengths, we are energized. Find areas in your life outside of your work where your strengths can be used. Being reenergized in other areas can offset the drain you may be feeling in your work life. It can also help you hone your strengths and identify the types of activities you really love doing.
6. I can try to use my strengths in any job. You might be thinking that your current job is just temporary until you can find something you really love. Why wait? Are there ways you can look at your current role and find tasks that might be approached in a different way? Are there activities at work for which you can volunteer that might lead you to more exciting responsibilities down the road? I have seen this happen. A former coworker of mine had a job mailing college admissions letters and tracking applications. We were in a meeting one day about how to communicate better with students and someone said, “I wish there was a more creative way to use technology to communicate.” My colleague spoke up and said that she had a degree in multimedia and could create interesting messages using Flash. We gave her a few assignments, and eventually her role was completely restructured in the communication department. And you can’t tell me that this type of thing would never happen at your job because this example happened within an extremely structured, union environment. Anything is possible if you can be intentional about your current work.