on job-seeking...part 2

Some of you may be asking, "Why is Caroline writing a post on such a banal subject?" Answer: this topic has come up frequently in my community of friends over the last year. If you have not experienced job loss or the inability to find full-time work, please understand what a blessing that is! I am certain that job-seeking is a very refining process and can be used for God's purposes in our lives. But, we can be honest about the difficulties and discouragements along the way.

To give you an idea of just how commonplace this issue is, I'll give you a glimpse of my everyday life. I currently work a part-time job at a grocery store. Most of my co-workers on the front end are high school and college students, with the exception of four older women who have full-time positions. Full-time positions are a novelty in blue-collar society, especially following recent healthcare stipulations. So if you are needing full-time work, positions are harder to come by these days. Some of the women I work with are single moms, working part-time at multiple jobs in order to be able to afford their needs.

Take my small group as an example. Within our group, one father was a highly-paid financial planner. He and his wife and three children re-located to Raleigh, just about the time the economic downturn took root here. Because he was the newest employee in his position, he lost his job. It took months to find work, which required him to go on unemployment benefits. Even then, he had to learn generosity with his minimal earnings, tithing especially when it hurt. They lost everything. Now that he has found an entry level position again, he continues his search to find employment which can provide for his unexpectedly growing family.

I could tell you the stories of many others, in similar situations, grasping for opportunities to provide for their families. In your everyday life, I would encourage you to look for opportunities to care for people who are in financially difficult situations. Galatians 6:10 exhorts believers to show goodness to others when opportunities arise, "especially toward those who are of the household of faith." Christians, I believe that we may have more economic difficulties to come, and caring for believers is one way we can put God's love and provision on display for others.

Let me share with you my story. I began looking for full-time positions in October. I knew I would be graduating from Southeastern in December and needed full-time employment in order to pay rent. My parents had generously helped me get through school, and it was time to become financially independent. I applied anywhere and everywhere. I rarely heard back from anyone. If you think I am exaggerating, I can count on one hand the responses I got to over forty applications. Heartbreaking.

What made my search more challenging were all of the extra "meanings" I attached to finding a job: the ability to be independent, to save money to help Rob through school, to be able to move toward marriage, to have a career. Job-seeking took on an impossible weight and brought paralyzing, crushed expectations.

Amidst my despair and frustration, God provided. A family in my small group offered to let me live with them, without charge. They refused any sort of payment. What is even more unimaginable, two families had given me the same offer on the same night. This was the only way I could afford living expenses while job-seeking, and God provided. The C family has taken wonderful care of me. I have a little room and bathroom, two little siblings, a dog and cat. I love this family.

Not only has God provided a home, but He has provided work. Somehow He keeps sending odd-jobs my way. House-cleaning, random-babysitting jobs, picking up shifts. It is incredible how God has used these odd jobs to humble me (honestly, I never saw myself as a house-keeper. He completely changed my heart about it, and I truly enjoy the work!). I know that God is the one who brings me work in His timing.

God has also provided encouragers. THEY ARE VITAL. If there is one thing Christians who are jobless need, it is the truth of God POURED into their lives. Job-hunting can cause people to believe all sorts of lies. I began to despair, thinking that my inability to get a job is completely my fault for picking terrible educational degrees, that I am not hireable, that if only I could get right spiritually God would provide a job, that life is so easy for other people, etc. It's sickening to think of all the ways the evil one tries to warp the truth and steal joy from believers, especially in their darkest hours. THIS is why Christians need to be encouraging each other, speaking truth into each others lives, reminding us of God's promises and presence.

Do I have a job, you ask? No, not a full-time one. But I am fighting each day for a godly perspective and enjoying all the ways He is looking after me, and Rob, and our future. Below are just some tips, if you are in a similar position right now. Don't take these as rules, but rather as encouragement from someone who is experiencing very similar discouragements in job-seeking.

1) Surround yourselves with Christian community and soak up their encouragement and support. Be humble and honest, you don't have it together and that is perfectly fine.
2) Seek the Lord. Be faithful in prayer, even if you feel you are beating down His door and have difficulty hearing Him lead. He promises to strengthen the heart of the afflicted (Psalm 10:17).
3) Tryyy to be teachable. Seriously, if we had a dollar for every time someone offered unsolicited hiring advice, am I right? BUT, many times it is offered out of love and concern for you. Harness the good advice and easily dismiss the hurtful stuff.
4) Keep an eye on that green monster. Jealousy. Yep, watch it like a hawk. The Bible talks about fights and quarrels rising up amongst believers when we covet what others have. Simply put, we get jealous and bitter because we want the blessings we observe that our neighbors enjoy so easily. Instead, go to God with pleas and thanksgiving. Even thank Him for taking such good care of your neighbors, that they do not have to wade the murky waters of job-loss, that they are equipped to help others in need.
5) Give job-hunting your best efforts and trust God is sovereign. This means keeping your theology in check. God has made us responsible, so do everything in your power to apply and search out jobs in the best, most efficient way you can. And at the end of the day, you can know that it is GOD'S JOB to provide you with work. He has been giving humans work since the garden, so believe me, when He has a task for you, He will deliver. Trust Him and His timing.

I hope these two posts have demonstrated the timeliness of being aware of economic difficulties and how they affect those we love. I hope that Christians, as more of us experience financial difficulty and suffering, will use these experiences to put God's love on display and grow in holiness. I hope you, the discouraged job-hunter, will know that it is understandable this time is so difficult. Be honest, and allow God, His Word, and others to nourish your heart during this phase of life. Seek a heavenly perspective, which assures you, this life is a vapor compared the the eternal glory Christ purchased for you.


on job-seeking...part 1

For those of you who read my blog, it probably goes without saying that long periods of silence mean I am working through something and will return to writing once I have come to some resolve. That is partially the case with this post, but I am certainly not in the clear...yet. What I have found is a new perspective, which has made the last week brighter and restored hope to my outlook. If this post seems gloomy at first, bear with me, I'll get there.

Perhaps it was the way I was raised, thinking that joblessness is simply a code-word for weakness, laziness, or ignorance. I admit, that thought is appalling to me now, but for some reason I always thought that work was simple. You find a job, you work hard: simple. I look back with shame on all the times I have failed to have compassionate thoughts toward those who struggle financially or seem unable to land a job. There are an abundance of factors that play into even the simplest career move, especially in today's world.

Let's discuss logistics. Hiring in our society is no longer a simple matter of walking in the front door of a business, handing them your resume, sitting down for an interview, and being hired on the spot. If you live in a small town or perhaps the town you grew up in, things might still function more simply. But for those who move frequently or live in bigger cities with specialized industries, job-seeking can become much more complicated.

Complications are the name of the game with online applications. Maybe this system was adopted to weed out poor applicants or save the employer time, but online applications may have weaknesses of their own. It is impersonal. The job-seeker spends hours filling out online applications, only to receive a brief, automated response that the computer has, indeed, received your ever-so-personal, data-converted application. You, the job-seeker, are no longer Jana Dough with wonderful people skills and a cheery aspect; you are now the summation of data-entry now grouped with many other e-applicants like yourself.

Not only is e-application impersonal, but it may also be dehumanizing. Honestly, I do not mean this to sound like an over-reaction. But in what other area of life is it acceptable to have someone solicit your time, respect, and attention, only for you to ignore them, fail to respond, or plainly not acknowledge their humanity and needs? Understandably, businesses are likely flooded with applicants for each available opening, and logistically it is probably challenging to speak with each individual. So perhaps this is not merely a problem with e-hiring, but a problem in our tech-savvy society in general. Have we forgotten the importance of acknowledging and honoring human dignity as we become increasingly detached from physical reality and engrossed in nebulous technology? We may be forgetting our people skills and care.

Even though many job-seeking experiences transpire in the manner stated above, there are unique glimmers of hope that have tremendous powers of encouragement. Take Heidi, for example. She responds immediately after reviewing my application. She calls me, hears my voice, and seems genuinely interested in helping me find a position in her company. She sets up interviews and follows-up. If you are in a position responsible for hiring personnel, be a Heidi. Let people know that you believe they are inherently valuable and worthy of your time. As a representative of your company, it shows that your company cares about its employees. And you never know how much your efforts encourage those involved in what can be, a very discouraging process.

In the next post (on job-seeking...part 2), I will be writing about ways to surround yourself, the job-seeker, with godly encouragement, truth, and support. In the section above, I have discussed some of the external difficulties of job-hunting. Now I am moving on to discuss the internal dynamics of the search. Hopefully the discussion of the internal will reach your heart and bring you encouragement, as it has done for me.


the people with a story...

are definitely my favorite. Some people are storytellers, and gosh darn, I enjoy it. My roommate is one of those people, and she can turn any story into a comical saga. Beyond storytelling itself, I enjoy people who have life experiences that dramatically impact who they are today. Frequently I find that the more complicated the story, the more I like the person. There is something intriguing to me about pushing beyond quotidian appearances and hearing someone's heart, experiences, and perceptions.

Maggie told me about The Story of Us in high school, and I think that was the first film that piqued my interest in messy stories. The couple, Michelle Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis, are struggling to keep their marriage and family together. They share memories, seemingly insignificant, that comprise the core of their marriage. There are other films that capture the little, essential details that make a good story; The Family Stone and A River Runs Through It come to mind.

I've realized that not everyone shares my affinity for messy stories. Some individuals are gifted with a lightness in living that seems to soar and lift other people's spirits. Others are consumed by the pieces that don't fit, finding in them darkness rather than hope. But for me, these tiny details of failure, altered plans, glimmers of hope, and turning points, all draw me closer to the storyteller. I believe messy stories make others seem more approachable. "Oh yeah, she's a basket-case, just like me."

Perhaps that makes me cynical, finding hope in the fact that other people screw up too. But honestly, perfectionism is impossible...nobody buys it. I don't buy it. When I try to keep everything in perfect order, I know it's impossible. I know that behind my work and play, I am simply human, trying to make things work and continually wondering if I'm doing things right.

So the next time you're tempted to put on a front and act like everything is a-o-k, remember that your honesty may be more endearing than your perfections.