After 20 years in the human resource profession, I turned my sights toward home and more specifically toward home schooling. What a wonderful transition! Now as an observer to the marketplace, it is still amazing to me how enthusiastic young people are to work but still unprepared for what they face in the marketplace. Through sharing a few fundamental coaching points, I hope to see young people land that first job, gather some traction with sound experience and work their way into the job that really suits them.
It's not personal: instead, it's a process.
There are so many new employees entering the job market who haven't quite grasped this yet. When a customer dislikes an order or a supervisor revises a task, the employee takes it all to heart. These heart wounds can cut deeply. Over time, these heart wounds can stifle God-given creativity and eventually stagnate careers.
Let's take a look at work for a moment. Have you ever thought about the fact that the LORD gave Adam a job before sin ever entered the world? Scripture tells us in Genesis 2:15"...the LORD took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." It was Adam's job to tend the Garden. Jobs are not bad things. Work is not our "burden to bear". In fact, work is one of the few blessed things that Adam took with him from the Garden.
God had set forth work in a process: sowing, tending, growth and blossoming, and then harvesting. The same elements are in our marketplace today. Providers sow into producing a product. Research and development teams tend the product with improvements, customer preferences or enhancements. (How many of you own a cell phone with black and pink decorations? a customized ring tone maybe?) Employees provide service to customers. Customers reap these products and sow back into business with finances. Then the cycle starts again.
The cycle revolves around work steps. Each step has some accompanying boundaries: timeframes, quality standards or stage completion. Employees who understand this basic process have a deeper perspective about the marketplace. Recognizing the process, they are more likely to see opportunities to apply God's principles in the marketplace.
Know your role.
Employees who understand this cycle first introduced in God's Word can better understand the next key: their role. Precision in playing one's role in the workplace process is vital to a lasting, productive career.
In a nutshell, an employee's role is to strengthen the process. Employees can ask themselves: Can I make sure that I arrive 5-10 minutes early? Can I learn all I can about the process, the work site, the company I work for, the particular industry I work in? Can I organize my work area for better throughput? Can I keep a song in my heart throughout the shift -- no matter how trying it gets? Can I do one thing just 10% better than the competition does it?
These are relatively simple questions, yet they are keys to success in the workplace.
Know your goal.
This can apply both professionally and personally. Often, employees don't realize the precise goal of their job. Take an employee in a fast food restaurant for example. Is the goal to make a delicious meal or to create a pleasant experience so that the customer will return routinely? Of course, the answer is to have repeat customers. To make a worthwhile product is a noble goal but to create opportunity for future business is a wise goal, both for the customer and for the business. On the personal side, I urge employees to set some personal milestones and long range goals. Those milestones serve to gauge where one is in his/her career. Careers must be managed. There may be a junction point when other opportunities bring goals closer, quicker. There may also be a point when nestling in for a season could be the wisest choice.
Know your toll.
Everything comes with a price. This includes jobs in the marketplace. By knowing the role of the job and the goal of both the job and one's personal targets, employees can know when its time to commit and stay steady, time to invest and learn more or time to seek and take advantage of opportunities elsewhere. When the price has been clearly defined -- whether its time, money, character or growth -- employees can know how, when and why to pay the toll. Entry level jobs provide much needed cash and work experience but often involve routine tasks. The toll might be boredom. Self-employment offers challenges, creativity and flexibility but the toll comes in grueling hours, multiple roles, and having to learn more about the particular business. Given the variety of situations in the marketplace, only the individual employee can decide when the price has been met.
Knowing the role, the goal and the toll those can take balances the stress of work life and personal life. Stress has been described as the point when our reality does not meet our expectations. Marketplace stress has been studied in depth and discussed at length. As Christians, we have an opportunity to display peace and contentment in the marketplace as others strive and stress out.
So, what is the heart of the matter? When employees -- especially young, entry level employees -- have clearly defined expectations about how the marketplace reflects the God-given process, they can work with Godly contentment knowing that their role is ultimately to bless the marketplace. To bless means to enable or to equip.
God enables and equips us today with jobs just as he blessed Adam with a job while still in the Garden. God set a process into motion of sowing, reaping and harvesting with the intention of blessing Adam. So it is today. When we sow blessings into the marketplace, we can expect to reap blessings from that same marketplace through God's tender provision.
Our contentment comes not from having a dream job or a terrific boss or even getting away without having a job at all but it comes directly from our relationship with God as Provider. We cannot look to the marketplace for our success or for our contentment. Rather, we must understand the role of the marketplace in God's process. Galatians 6 says to "make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life...Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith."
Originally posted July 20, 2007
For this article, Sandra Gilmore draws from her twenty-year career in employee relations and job performance coaching. She and her husband, Tom, share their best role and favorite God-given job assignment: coaching their two teenage daughters via home school.