Women: Follow Your Faith to Success at Work
- 2008 14 Jan
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Amy C. Baker's new book, Succeed at Work without Sidetracking Your Faith: 7 Lessons of Career Excellence for Women, (New Hope Publishers, 2007).
As a working woman of faith, you have the potential to make a significant impact for Christ in the marketplace. Your work isn’t just something you do to earn a living, and you don’t have to sidetrack your faith to do it well. If you follow God’s lead on the job, you can create a career that will glorify Him while bringing you success and fulfillment.
So approach your work purposefully, letting your faith lead you to real success. Here’s how:
Take charge of your career planning. Be intentional about your career rather than just coasting along with whatever happens. Expect that if you own your career and plan it well, you can become more successful, more satisfied with your work life, and increase the significance of your impact on the world around you. Accept the fact that career planning is your job, even if it’s not on your job description. Decide that, whatever type of work you do, you’ll do it excellently and with the purpose of growing personally and spiritually through your work experiences. Think and pray about your interests and talents, and once you discover them, aim for jobs that you enjoy doing and can do well. Look for opportunities where you can affect God’s kingdom through your work. Base your plans on what God reveals to you about His will and timing for your career, instead of the world’s definition of success. Pray for the creativity and courage you need to try new things to grow your career. Don’t settle for second best; dream big dreams and trust God to help you make some of those dreams come true. Expect God to surprise you along the way. Be most concerned about what you can give rather than what you can get. Aim to contribute to the world in the ways God leads you to do so. Strive to reflect God’s love in the marketplace through your relationships with coworkers, customers, and everyone else with whom you interact. As you plan, write down roles you could potentially fill that would use your strengths and challenge you to broaden your skills. Meet with people who do those jobs, and learn what it would take for you to enter those types of jobs. Get feedback on your strengths from people who know you well. If you have a manager, meet with him or her to discuss how you could advance your career in ways that would benefit both you and your company. If you can’t grow much within your current company, think about what other companies you could work for, and what specific jobs you could do. Consider meeting with a recruiter or career counselor for advice. Before you even make any job changes, ask God to help you view your current work from His perspective, focusing on its true significance.
Deal wisely with organizational politics. Acknowledge that every workplace – even Christian ones – are fraught with politics, because every group of people is imperfect and prone to political maneuvering. Don’t be naïve about the office politics that surround you, but know that you can avoid being drawn in by them. Trust that God will use difficult situations to accomplish something good in the long run. Know that the truth will eventually prevail. Whenever you encounter a political situation, ask God to help you discern whether God is leading you to refrain or to get involved (and if so, how). Recognize that, often, the best plan is to avoid becoming involved yourself and simply pray for the situation and all the people who are involved. But, if God does lead you to get involved, carefully determine how the relationships are connected, what the motivations are, and how you should respond in a way that will allow you to be as successful as possible given the circumstances. Recognize that certain things are out of your control; don’t attempt to do more than you can or should do. Whenever someone slights or offends you directly, choose to let it go if at all possible and stay focused on doing your job well. Decide to be guided by God rather than by fear, anger, or ambition. Know that if you respond in the power of the strength God gives you, others will notice your faith and be drawn to it themselves. Ask God to use you to shine His light into a dark situation. Write down strategies for keeping your words and actions pure amidst stress, and practice those strategies with faithful coworkers you trust to be your allies even while chaos swirls around you. Constantly pray for God to help you view political situations the way He sees them, so you can approach them from the right perspective.
Work to please your customers. Realize that, no matter what type of work you do or position you hold, someone relies on what you do and how well you deliver it. Whether your customers are outside your business or within it, strive to do your best to serve them. Make the time to truly listen your customers so you clearly understand what they want. Treat them with respect and kindness. Expect that, when you please your customers, your business will make money because your customers will be loyal and your business will grow because you’ll attract new opportunities. Beyond improving your business – and your own career success, as a result – your service to customers is an important way of reflecting God’s love even in a workplace where you’re not able to talk freely about your relationship with Him. Survey your customers (both internal and external) to learn how they’re thinking and feeling about your service on the job. If you’re in a job position where you don’t frequently interact with end-user customers (such as a management position), make time to listen in on customer service phone lines or go out on a sales call to reconnect with customers. If you sell a product, be sure to use it yourself so you can understand your customers’ experiences with it. Identify your business’s top competitive advantages and consider how you can maximize those with your customers to set your business apart from the competition. Think about the businesses where you’ve recently had bad experiences as a customer. What mistakes made you decide not to go there again, and how can you avoid making similar mistakes in your own business? Consider how you can build a more positive rapport with your customers (both inside and outside of your company), such as by changing the way in which you talk with them on the phone.
Don’t let your job title define you. Understand that you’re not defined by the title on your business card. Ask God to give you His perspective on your work, and help you see that, even though your scope of influence will change throughout your career, He will still use you to accomplish significant purposes. Guard your heart against deriving your identity from your job. Realize that your job can change at any time, but your true identity – as God’s beloved child, connected to Him through Christ – will always remain. Focus on who you are instead of just what you happen to do right now. Don’t let your job become so important to you that it shifts your attention away from God. And whenever your influence decreases on the job, know that it doesn’t mean that you’re worth any less. Expect God to use various circumstances in your career to make sure you’re where He wants you to be when He wants you to be there. So tie your career path to God’s timing rather than your own. Rejoice that you’re part of something bigger than just an earth-bound job; your work has eternal significance when you approach it with faith and give it your best.
Invest in mentoring relationships. Build relationships throughout your professional life that can benefit both you and others for years to come by seeking out some mentors and serving as a mentor yourself. Consider what specific ways you hope to grow professionally. Then think about people you know who are proficient in those qualities and skills – people you admire and could learn from through a mentoring relationship. Approach those who care about you and whom you trust, asking if they’ll be willing to meet with you for a while to discuss what you hope to learn. Explain how they could benefit from the relationship, as well. Work on building a genuine relationship with your mentors rather than just trying to manufacture one. Set measurable goals for what you hope to achieve and when. Create a mentoring plan and write it down. Once each mentoring relationship has served its purpose, end the formal mentoring part of it and continue the friendship as appropriate. Also consider how you can mentor others, such as people just starting out in your professional field, or those in career transition. Think about what you can offer others, and be willing to help them. Remember that you always have something of value to teach someone. If you’re an employee, find out if your company’s human resources department has a mentoring program in which you can participate.
Work with integrity. Make sure your words and actions at work show others that your faith is genuine because you’re living it out with integrity. Strive to be a great ambassador for Christ in your workplace by developing excellent work habits. Refuse to participate in gossip sessions. Refrain from telling dirty jokes, making fun of others, or saying anything else that’s inappropriate on the job. Respond gracefully when you’ve been insulted. Pray for the wisdom to resolve conflict well. Present a positive and professional image to others by dressing with style and modesty. Check the quality of your work before submitting it to others (such as by proofreading your reports and e-mails). Aim to be on time to work each day and all of your meetings and appointments. Strive to meet all your project deadlines. Give your best effort to every assignment. When you don’t know something, admit that it and make time to find out and follow up. Respect your company’s culture. Persevere during challenges, showing others what you’re capable of without acting arrogant. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. See the best in them, overlook small offenses, and be kind to them. As you observe your current behavior, think and pray about specific ways you can demonstrate a higher level of integrity. Then pray about each one, asking God to help you do so. Find at least one other person you work with to talk to regularly about working with integrity; encourage each other and hold each other accountable.
Recognize how your work impacts God’s kingdom. Base the significance of your work not on what you do on the job, but on how you do it. Realize that, if you give your best effort to your job, working in a fast food restaurant can prove just as significant as researching a cure for cancer. Understand that your marketplace is your mission field, and set out to make a significant impact on it. Ask God to help you explore your career choices in ways that will reveal the most creative, effective, and fulfilling options for you to pursue. Pray a clear sense of God’s purposes for your work, and a vision of how you can best fulfill those purposes. As you interact with people while doing your job, let God’s love flow through you to encourage them and help them overcome their sadness and hopelessness. Keep in mind that God doesn’t measure your impact by how impressive your job description is, but by how well you’ve done your job and demonstrated His love for the people you encounter.
Adapted from Succeed at Work without Sidetracking Your Faith: 7 Lessons of Career Excellence for Women, copyright 2007 by Amy C. Baker. Published by New Hope Publishers, Birmingham, Al., http://www.newhopepublishers.com/.
A 22-year career professional and former human resources executive at Dell, Amy Baker is now a professional speaker and writer with her own communications consulting practice, Logos Strategies. Amy speaks and provides professional development training to a variety of groups, organizations, and businesses, from the American Marketing Association to churches. She and her husband have been married nearly 20 years, live in Austin, Texas, and have two children.