The average person today is said to have many careers in his or her lifetime. So planning can be difficult. Things continue to change, and at an increasing rate: companies evolve; jobs are defined and redefined; positions are filled and phased out; entire industries disappear practically overnight while others emerge; and universities constantly retool to support the new skills required.
Add to this the current global unemployment statistics. Unemployment remains high in many countries and projections for the rate of recovery have been reduced drastically. Numbers recently released in the United States are sobering to observers because of what they suggest for the global economy. For anyone basing his or her expectations of finding a job on these statistics, the prospects can seem grim.
But if we look beyond the statistics, there’s some good news. Scrambling for a place amidst a sea of qualified applicants in a zero-sum situation is actually foreign to our God-created and God-maintained identities. It’s helpful to begin with the fundamental spiritual fact that man is created in God’s image and likeness, as Genesis 1 unequivocally asserts. We each have our own unshakable, irrepressible purpose and value, which is anchored in spiritual reality and finds representation in whatever we do.
How is this practical in the real world? Realizing that we have unique, essential value inspires courage and vision, helping us stay on course through deep waters. In his mid-50s Winston Churchill found himself ejected from office in the British government and he remained politically adrift for almost ten years. But this did not keep his innate and inestimable worth from finding needed and powerful expression in the intensity of World War II. He once wrote, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
So what do we give? As the ongoing expression of God (divine Mind, Soul, Principle) we “give,” or express, intelligence, creativity, integrity, and so on. And when the motives for our work are aligned with Mind, we solve problems courageously and wisely, and even eliminate entire streams of problems. We show up on time where we’re needed and work all day. We treat our work as if it were our own, because it really is! We make no effort to extend a job beyond what is needed just for a paycheck. Our identity as the expression of God includes everything it will ever need, as well as gainful, useful employment.
The fear that accompanies unemployment doesn’t aid the process of finding and performing our right work. Fear that we won’t find employment or that someone else can take our job or fill our place is eliminated by realizing that our unique individuality includes its rightful expression and supply, and nothing can ever deprive us of it or keep us from it—or hold us in a job after we’ve outgrown it.
Beneath the turbulent surface of human life, the qualities of God remain constant, useful, and adaptable—qualities such as honesty, persistence, courage, insight, focus, discipline. These are reflected qualities that will always find expression in one’s career path. These are the truly “transferable skills” that will elevate every job we’ll ever have. The Bible says, “A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men” (Prov. 18:16).
When I was first out of college, driving North along Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive, I saw the city to my left and beautiful Lake Michigan to my right. As I considered my purpose, I determined that I would allow my work to be established by God. I had a feeling that yielding to God’s direction in my career would enable my work to be more efficient, more useful, and probably more enjoyable generally. So I began looking for work within the graphic arts industry, which felt logical to me at the time, and approached the process with discipline. I had a good résumé and followed up on every lead. I also contacted a Christian Science practitioner to help me prayerfully focus my efforts. I knew I had value and somehow realized even then that my unique individual talent was not in competition with anyone else’s.
During the process I was rejected by many employers, including some that I was really interested in. But my search continued carefully, actively, and expectantly. Eventually I accepted a job that was far less glamorous than I had hoped, and it paid a lot less, too. But it seemed like the right step, and I began. During my first week of work, an advertising agency that had seen my résumé asked me to come for an interview. I told them I’d already accepted a job and was no longer available. But they asked if I would come and meet their president on Saturday, and I went. He showed me around a graphic arts facility that was amazing. It had everything I’d wanted —slick downtown offices, interesting clients, lots to learn, etc. Then he made this statement, “Just tell me how much I have to pay you to make the change.”
A week earlier I would have shaken his hand and accepted the offer without hesitation. It certainly seemed like a better situation. My current employer hadn’t invested much in me yet, and I hadn’t signed a contract. It wouldn’t be too inconvenient. I’d only worked there five days.
But as I weighed the situation in prayer, it wasn’t human considerations that guided me. I’d earlier determined to let God guide my career. And it was only through prayer that I’d accepted the job I had. So was that a mistake? Did I need to correct it? Did I really trust God completely to guide me? It only took a second for me to realize that I did have complete trust in His direction for me. So I figured I’d stay with the tasks God had appointed for me already, and let Principle move me forward at Principle’s own pace. I thanked the gentleman, politely declined the new offer, and never looked back.
For five years I worked at the job I was in, progressing steadily, developing useful skills and efficient systems, and gravitating into management. Within my first year the business moved into a brand new building, and during my five years with that company my salary tripled.
Eventually I felt I had gone about as far as I could there, and began to think that I could do more. Again, trustingly, I prayed and let God direct. Somehow a job description reached me and as I read it, I kind of “recognized” it as my job. It seemed like it was written for me. I wasn’t particularly eager to do it because it seemed so demanding and because it involved relocation, but I was willing. And after a series of interviews (and lots of prayerful listening!) I was on my way.
So rather than planning a career, beginning with a goal—a general idea of the spiritual qualities to express and to see expressed—and a set of guiding values is perhaps more useful. Then the work we do can conform to the needs of the hour, while the direction never varies, but constantly points to God, our “true North.” In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy shared this about her own journey: “The discoverer of Christian Science finds the path less difficult when she has the high goal always before her thoughts, than when she counts her footsteps in endeavoring to reach it. When the destination is desirable, expectation speeds our progress” (p. 426).
If we can get out of the way and let divine Mind work, we’ll find every detail of our careers unfolding, developing, beautifully. The timing perfect, elegant; the income meeting our need; the experiences rewarding and always preparing us for what comes next.
Article originally appeared in the Christian Science Sentinel, October 24, 2011.
Republished with permission of The Christian Science Publishing Society.