She probably has no idea what the words mean - downsizing, outsourcing, layoffs, buyouts. Why should she? She's only 4. Still, though this Sunday School student is years away from exploring the job market, she gave me the best perspective I've heard in a long time on work and careers: "It isn't what I do," she said, "but what I be, huh?"
Companies worldwide are constantly rethinking their core business, reviewing the bottom line, and then implementing new profit- driven policies - policies that can change the present and future lives of hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, almost overnight. It's the kind of decisionmaking that conjures up restless and sleepless nights, especially for those faced with an evaporating job.
Getting a pink slip can feel like having to start all over again, especially for someone who's had the security of a position for a reasonable amount of time. Some find it particularly unsettling when their employment income has met everyday living expenses and even allowed them to put aside a little extra cash for future needs.
If our well-being, sense of worth, and emotional security are intertwined with our employment, what happens when we're forced to find a new position? The typical small-talk ice-breaker that most of us use at social gatherings - "So, what do you do?" - points up the tendency to define one's worth/value primarily by "the Job." But certainly, each of us is more than a job title.
My own employment history has taken a zig-zag course, from high-school teaching to marketing/advertising, to working in the entertainment industry as a writer and producer. I like to think that every job I've had - including those during college: waitressing, baby- sitting, manning the phones in a slipcover factory, and proofreading - has each contributed in some way to my ability to be more effective in my current career "position" in the Christian Science healing ministry.
I've found it helpful to take my young "career coach's" approach and focus on "I be" instead of "I do" - on how God, the divine intelligence, defines, sees, and knows us. This is key: God sees us as the active, never-passive expression of Himself. And each of us can always draw on our God-given spiritual assets. They're a resource that never runs out. They qualify each of us for constructive and meaningful work.
In fact, because of the relationship each of us has with God, no one can be deprived of expressing innate spiritual qualities that are at the very core and substance of our being: assets such as persistence, honesty, intuition, flexibility, resourcefulness, humor, cooperation, initiative, open-mindedness. Certainly these are marketable qualities that any employer values - maybe even more than the "skills package" we bring to a particular field.
You may be saying, "That sounds terrific, but it doesn't give me a weekly paycheck." Consider a statement by Mary Baker Eddy that's given many people the assurance and calm they needed when looking for employment: "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 307).
God knows each of us as a valuable part of creation. All of our needs - the ideas we need at any moment - are supplied by divine intelligence. Nothing can thwart our usefulness and fulfillment.
The capability to succeed, and to be gainfully employed, is innate in each person, especially when our motives are more about giving than getting - as in getting the right job or salary. Accepting our God-derived qualities breaks through the limiting and fearful thoughts that can follow being laid off, or that retirement may bring on. The most important income any of us has is the spiritual character God gives us. The recognition of this fact allows us to be purposeful and productive, with the assurance that there's always a place for us in the divine scheme.
• Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.