Monday, July 25, 2005

Career Change is a Spiritual Journey

Major transitions in our lives, especially those that involve loss, tend to be spiritual journeys. That's one reason I'm attracted to working with people making career changes.

In our culture, career provides a big part of the fuel for our identity -- for who we are. While I think it's a horrible practice -- and a habit I'm working hard to break -- our first question when meeting someone new is almost always, "So, what do you do?" It's like we think that if we can get that answer, then we can understand who they are and neatly file them away in a category.

It's an ingrained part of our culture. We tend to value people by what they do -- by what their career is. And we tend to value ourselves in the same way. If we can put a label on what someone pays us to do, we tend to feel better about ourselves. It becomes a big part of who we are.

When we suffer loss in the career aspect of our lives through job loss -- from being fired, being laid off in a downsizing or reorganization, or being early retired -- we are suddenly faced with having to rethink the question, "Who am I?"

Maybe for the first time we dread having to answer the question, "What do you do?" Having to answer, "Well, I was a __________, but now I'm between jobs" can be a dreaded moment. A major basis for our self esteem has been lost.

We come to some conclusions that we might not have faced without job loss.
  • We recognize that we are not really in control of our own destinies. Even though we've done the best we could and done everything we knew how to do, we've ended up losing our jobs.
  • We understand how important career success has become to our feeling of self worth, to our identity as a person. We know that this should not be what governs our self worth, and begin to re-evaluate.
  • We feel a deep need to connect to a God who loves us no matter what, and who will provide us guidance and meet our needs during this time of loss and crisis.
Again and again as I've worked with people who have suffered job loss, I've seen evidence of spiritual growth.
  • Prayer lives become stronger.
  • Reliance on God's provision, rather than on effectiveness of their own efforts, grows.
  • Time spent in Bible study and meditation increases.
  • Knowledge that their true worth comes from being God's child rises to pre-eminence in establishing their self-worth.
I don't think I've worked with anyone during the past three years who didn't express gratitude for the spiritual aspect of their journey.

Suffering job loss is difficult at best. Having it result in spiritual growth is such a good thing.


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