Fear is the biggest challenge for people who find themselves in involuntary job transitions. Being out of work can feel like a degrading experience, especially if you’re the sole or primary breadwinner for the family.
As the former owner and operator of an outplacement firm, I would try to get clients to understand that their job wasn’t their identity. Therefore, being jobless wasn’t their identity either. I would go through several exercises with each person, identifying the qualities he or she brings both to work and to everyday experience. Then we would gather that information together and recognize it as the expression of that person’s individual identity.
I didn’t say this to clients, but I believe that our identity comes from God. It’s an idea I’ve learned about in my study of Christian Science. The more we recognize our oneness with God’s infinite intelligence and ability, the more we progress in our lives. I never talked about these points explicitly at the office, but I feel this spiritual perspective guided me in my work. I prayed not to make judgments based on someone’s appearance or on whatever the company referring the person may have told me about him or her. Instead, I tried to see God’s likeness when that person came through the door.
One interesting result of this is that I rarely had a sense of how old people were – and I didn’t try to figure it out. I honestly don’t believe age can keep a person from doing the work he or she is meant to do.
Each of us is valuable and has a place in God’s plan. Each of us is needed and will be able to fulfill whatever is required of us. We should expect our work to be fulfilling both in its reward and in its potential for personal growth. Jesus said, “The labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7), so I encouraged job seekers to expect an outcome that’s worthy of their abilities.
Working with clients to identify the qualities they bring to their work and their lives helps them approach the job-search process from a higher perspective. It also helps them avoid getting caught up in the conventional wisdom that says you can be too young or too old to find a job easily. Or that women find jobs faster than men but don’t get paid as much.
I found that people would begin to get job offers when they became comfortable with this quality-constituted view of identity. Frequently, things people thought would be impossible for them to do turned out to be very possible. Opportunities they didn’t recognize early on suddenly become clear to them.
Expressing God is innate to our being. Sometimes we get in the way of that by adopting labels that limit us, but those labels don’t change who we are. Underneath, we’re still expressions of God. Being that expression is our real employment. That’s the job God has “hired” us to do – forever.
Adapted from an article in the October 2001 issue of The Christian Science Journal.