Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Humility incompatible with job search?

Don't sell yourself too short.  Market yourself.  Doesn't that sound just a tad too much like human merchandising?  How does a believer make peace between the virtue of humility/modesty with the need to toot one's own horn in search of employment? And does anyone else take issue with the overwhelming dependence on networking to find a job nowadays?  Isn't that no different than simply saying "it's not what you know; it's who you know"?  But the Lord tells us that "since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly" (Romans 12:6). It would seem that there's nothing wrong with acknowledging our skills, since these are gifts from God.

Well, this summer I had a mini-panic attack as I tried to make sense of my existence after most of my classes were cancelled and I was forced to realize that I was heavily underemployed, a statistic.  I actually stooped to the level of using my gender as an excuse for opting out of the working world.  I kid you not - I researched stay-at-home-wifeness to see if there was any way I could bring myself to simply measure my worth as a human being by the cleanliness of our house and the satisfied stomach of my husband.  We don't have children, which was precisely why this proved to be extra hard.  "If we had children," I would muse, "I wouldn't give it a second thought.  All moms are working moms!  There's nothing more fulfilling and useful to the world than teaching and raising a new human being to be a follower of Christ!"  But you see, it wasn't a stay-at-home-MOM that I was considering being, because for that one requires the role of parent and the blessing of a child.  A stay-at-home-WIFE is an entirely different story.

Paul said "whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men" (Collosians 3:23). But I checked, and it does NOT take 5 full working days to clean, cook, and run errands.  At least it didn't take me that long, even when I was trying to be quite diligent about it.  Therefore, I was left with a lot of time that I was not using for the Lord.

In  my research, I agreed that if a couple is sufficiently well-off financially, there is no reason to judge either of them for choosing to assume traditional gender roles, with the husband as breadwinner and the wife as bread-baker.  The wife can then use her spare time to volunteer her time with any number of charitable organizations.  Or she can further her education, with the hopes of either utilizing it in the future for employment, volunteer work, or childrearing.  But this requires first and foremost an honest look at the couple's budget.  If the money isn't there, and the wife is perfectly capable of gainful employment, I simply do not see a legitimate excuse for burdening the husband with the entire material well-being of the household while the wife does nothing to help.

This is precisely the position I found myself in.  I had not given enough thought to God's counsel for such as me: "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7). My social anxiety literally caused me to freeze in fear at the idea of having to search for another job, a full-time job, a job where I could earn enough to supplement our income.   The number one reason for this reaction?  That I would have to "sell myself" to potential employers.  I would have to focus on how great I am and what an asset I could be to the company.  This just didn't jive well with my shy personality.  Ok, I have skills, but they're not necessarily any better than those of others.  Why should I try to pretend otherwise?

Funny thing is, at one point while growing up, my goal was to be considered an expert.  It didn't much matter in what field or under what circumstances, just that it would be common knowledge that there was no one better than me in X.  This came flooding back to mind as I discussed my resume at a job fair yesterday with a very kind and informative woman who specifically told me to rate myself as an expert on federal job questionnaires.    I at first objected, but as I listened to her explanation, I realized that their idea of "expert" and my idea of "expert" were different.  My idea was not based in reality.  The people who are best at what they do are actually fully aware of their competition and their short-comings.  The expert I had hoped to become didn't exist.  But what job fair lady was offering me was much more attainable.  Her definition of "expert" simply meant that I had some knowledge of a given topic and could explain via a story how I utilized a given skill set or accomplished a given goal.  By this definition, I could be an expert in a multitude of fields!

What's more important, I could, in good conscience, highlight my accomplishments as needed, for the greater good of finding gainful employment and contributing to the household, so long as I remembered that "it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phillipians 2:13) - God, not me.  It's only conceited to talk of one's accomplishments if in the process one denies God's role in the achievement.

And so I am taking a deep breath.... and embarking on the journey of seeking where the Lord would have me go.

Psalm 32:8

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you."

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