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Career Advice from a Retired Employer

I’d like to share with you an important lesson I learned about making career decisions when you are a believer.
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For nearly 45 years of my life, I was employed in Human Resources with four global companies. During that time, I interviewed and hired thousands of employees. I’d like to share with you an important lesson I learned about making career decisions when you are a believer.

Most people do a poor job of determining what their boundaries are for their work and personal life. The primary reason for this is a lack of clarity about what they truly value. Many allow others to influence their perception of what is important—better pay, an advanced title or work content.

Few I met had taken the time to assess whether those pursuits actually fit with who they wanted to be and whether the position being considered increased their satisfaction of what they valued. This was not merely an issue for the new hire but a dilemma faced by more seasoned workers, who were now facing big decisions.

Some allow “fate” to determine their career path. They delegate to the organization they work for to chart their career path, or they allow a competing employer to seduce them into a role in another organization. Let me be clear, no companies have your personal values in mind when they present opportunities. How could they? They are simply maximizing the value of their employees to meet organizational needs. There is nothing sinister about this.

The real issue is that most employees have little clarity about what they truly value in life. Even if an employer were to ask them if this present opportunity meets their personal needs, most wouldn’t know how to answer the question. This often leads to knee-jerk decisions, which appear to satisfy one need, but bankrupt true happiness and contentment.

Know what is important to you.

I often saw this when employees would decide to relocate to another geographic area for a promotion. It was seen as accelerating their career or boosting their income. However, the benefits of the new job sometimes paled in comparison to the steep price often paid by uprooting their family and the loss of important support structures in life.

In other cases, high performing employees, who were content in their role and the balance of their personal life, felt compelled to take on new responsibilities which they were either unprepared to assume, or compromised the happiness that they had in their home.

Unfortunately, over the years I saw the damaging toll these poor decisions led to for many employees. Frankly, it is extremely easy to fall into the trap of making compromises to satisfy certain variables of one’s life. I did this myself and I am sure many others have too.

We work more hours than we want. We take on assignments to prove our value to the company. Here’s my simple advice: Know what is important to you. If you have a family, work with them to make a list. Pray for God’s guidance. Put God first and never compromise His place on the list.

When you are faced with a new job opportunity, a promotion, new responsibilities in your current position, make sure that you carefully weigh in your decision what is most important to you as a son or daughter of the Living God. These decisions are critical challenges to who we are and what we aspire to be.

Taking a promotion that involves relocation might be acceptable and even valuable if it is to an area where there is an ecclesia that could use your help. Taking a promotion is certainly not wrong, assuming it does not compromise what you feel is needed for you to meet family and ecclesial responsibilities.

We need to see career decisions for what they are. They are much more than about compensation, a title or an office. These decisions involve our ability to manage life within boundaries that we have set based on what we truly value. Make sure you know those boundaries.

As I have moved to a later chapter in life, I can see many things more clearly now than I did when I was a young worker. Life isn’t measured by the things we possess, our business card, or the accolades we reach in our job (Luke 12:15).

If these things come to us by God’s grace, then we should be thankful for them—they are a gift. But don’t compromise who you are to obtain them. Our God knows us and will bountifully supply our needs. Ultimately, He will reward us when we put Him first.

Dave Jennings

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