ARSix Habits of Really Effective Christians (Parts 5 & 6)The road to being highly successful goes beyond a good title and a high salary. It's being able to look yourself in the face every morning and see a child of God looking back. If you can commit first to shining the light for Christ wherever you are and in whatever you do, time and chance have a funny tendency of working out just right for you.In the last in this series of "In the Workforce" columns, Steve drops us two final tips in the "Six Habits of Really Effective Christians," and concludes with the ultimate source of success. The road to being highly successful goes beyond a good title and a high salary. It's being able to look yourself in the face every morning and see a child of God looking back. If you can commit first to shining the light for Christ wherever you are and in whatever you do, time and chance have a funny tendency of working out just right for you.
We now come to the last in this series of "In the Workforce"
columns. For the last year now, I've been going through each of the bits of
advice that my father gave me before I started working. Here are the last
5) Learn as much as you can, so that you are winning two things at one
time: your salary and your experience.
A lot of people coming out of college receive their diplomas, throw their
caps in the air, burn their textbooks in the summertime grill, and think
that the learning is over. No more books, no more lectures, no more papers,
no more all-nighters. It's probably as close as we'll get to experiencing
Revelation 21:4 this side of glory. And yes, there are no more exams. One of
the greatest feelings in life after graduation is to wake up after a
recurring nightmare in which you're ill-prepared for an exam and, after
thinking about it for a few seconds, realize that you've graduated and will
never have to take another exam for the rest of your life.
Of course, when you start life in the workforce, you'll notice very quickly
that the learning continues, but just in different ways. It's not done in a
classroom, of course. Classroom learning is no longer anathema; to the
contrary, now it's usually accompanied by free lunch or even a
"conference" in Orlando.
You begin your learning the first day you start work. The first day on a new
job is often terrifying. Most of us remember the feeling. You're not sure
what to wear. You don't know where to sit. You have no phone, no desk, no
computer. You don't know anyone's name, and no one knows yours. You remember
vaguely from the interview what sorts of things you're supposed to be doing,
but when your boss plops a pile of papers on your desk, it may as well be
written in Egyptian hieroglyphics. You smile to the world, but inside you're
thinking... what have I done? How am I going to fool these people into
thinking they haven't made a mistake by hiring me?
Of course, for most people the feeling doesn't last (if it does last,
congratulations! You're ready to move into management). No, a week passes,
and you spend the time reading and talking to people to find out more about
the job you're going to do. After two weeks, you're matching the names with
the faces. You're starting to realize that you know just as much as anyone
else in the place, and what you don't know, you can learn. After three
weeks, your ratio of "dumb questions" to "smart
questions" starts to even out a bit. After a month, you've got some
simple accomplishments done, and people start to recognize your name. And by
this time, new people have come on board, so you can pass the ignominious
moniker of "New Guy" to someone else.
Getting from ground zero to a point where you feel like you fit in takes
work. This is all part of the learning process. But it doesn't just last for
a month. It needs to continue for the rest of your life. "The heart of
the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks
knowledge" (Prov 18:15).
To be successful in the workforce, you constantly need to acquire new
knowledge. You need to learn not just technical knowledge to do your job,
but even more importantly, you need to learn how to live. How to write an
e-mail that is both respectful and brings your point across. How to conduct
yourself in a meeting. How to talk on the phone in a professional way. How
to deal with the various personalities that you encounter each day. How to
give a presentation. How to deal with success, disappointment, or change.
You don't learn these things in a textbook. You learn them by trying to do
them, failing, picking yourself up, and trying again. And yes, it does help
if you have the word of God planted in you. "The fear of the Lord is
the beginning of knowledge" (Prov 1:7).
Funny thing is, the more you learn, the more confidence you gain, and the
more confidence others gain in you.
Through wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
By knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches.
There are those who remain so stuck in their ways that they refuse to
learn. You know the type: these are the people who said that the horseless
carriage would never catch on, or asked why anyone would use an electric
light bulb when candles and lanterns worked just fine.
In the workforce, you'll see these people, too. They're the ones who are so
stuck in their ways that they get a reputation for being dead wood. The
Bible has a word for this type of person: The Sluggard. Compare the vineyard
of the sluggard with the house of the wise.
I went past the field of the sluggard,
past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment;
thorns had come up everywhere,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins.
I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw:
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest-
and poverty will come on you like a bandit
and scarcity like an armed man.
(Prov 24:30-34, NIV)
And now, to the last tip.
6) I am sure that after three months, they will not only hire you, they
will pay you more!
This was not so much a piece of advice as it was a prediction. I had been
hired at my company as a consultant, not as a full-time employee.
Consultants were hired on a three-month "trial" basis, and,
pessimistic ol' me, as I described the job to my Dad, I lamented that I
would probably be let go after this period.
Dad took my cue and encouraged me with this last tip. Remarkably, he was
right. I had started out my career at a job at the very bottom-low pay, long
hours, and thankless work. Six months after I started, I was hired as a
permanent employee. Six months after that, I got a promotion. Another six
months after that, I got another one. And after six months at that position,
I finally got one more promotion. Through a combination of fortuitous timing
and good luck, not even three years after I entered the workforce, I ended
up with a job that I loved and a position and salary that were, at last,
commensurate with my skills and education.
Some people in the company told me that the norm is to wait years and years
to be converted to an employee, or to get even one promotion. But for some
reason, while there were bumps along the three years, things did seem to
fall into place for me. I didn't need to play the game or schmooze or do
anything except be myself.
I recall that day, three years into my career, that I started that new dream
job, sitting in my new office and smiling. I looked back and thought to
myself, here's a guy who, while his alma mater is by no means anything to
sneeze at today, went to that university at a time when it was not the most
prestigious of schools, and yet advanced over people who went to even the
top schools. Here's a guy whose college transcript looks like a can of
Campbell's alphabet soup. Here's a guy with practically no social skills and
limited business sense, and who, with no false modesty here, honestly has no
business at all making it in the corporate world, but somehow ended up
enjoying some level of success.
The Ultimate Source of Success
Since that time, I've changed jobs, but the Six Habits remain with me. In
each new job, they remain a guiding force in whatever I do. I still have
that grease-stained, crumpled piece of paper sitting in my desk drawer. If
you look back at the Six Habits, you'll see the source of whatever success
I've enjoyed. It started with the voice of a loving father, echoing all that
he had learned over his life from his loving Father.
Some people spend all their time reading up on the latest business trends
and catch-phrases. Others make it a priority to go to social events where
they can impress and be seen by the elite. Some spend all their efforts
trying to take advantage of others for their gain. Some work long hours in
the name of providing for their families, while what they should be doing is
spending time with the families for whom they are ostensibly providing.
Just about all these people have but two things on their minds: I want to
make more money, and I want to be promoted to a higher level. This is the
big lie that the corporate world dishes out-that somehow a higher salary and
a better position will bring fulfillment. It is a lie, because with more
money and more power comes a deeper hunger for even more. At the end of that
rainbow is regret, not success.
No, the road to being highly successful goes beyond a good title and a high
salary. It's being able to look yourself in the face every morning and see a
child of God looking back. It's doing your work, whatever it is, for the
ultimate glory of God. It's having people look at you in the office and know
that there's something special about you-something that they can't quite put
their fingers on, but something they want to experience, too. It's being
able to face successes knowing without a shadow of a doubt who the Source of
your strength is, and being in constant communication with that Source. It's
being able to face burnout, anger, disappointment, hardships, and the
unknown, knowing that, at the end, you will come forth as gold. It's being
able to set clear priorities in your mind-that your love for and
relationship with God comes first, your family is a very close second, your
work for church comes after that, and everything else is a distant fourth.
I have no idea where my career will go from here, but if there's one thing
that I've learned so far, it's this: the race is not to the swift, nor the
battle to the strong, but time and chance happen to all (Eccl 9:11). If you
can commit first to shining the light for Christ wherever you are and in
whatever you do, time and chance have a funny tendency of working out just
right for you.
"In the Workforce" is a recurring column in Manna dedicated to
survival tips and advice on how to shine the light as a Christian at work.
If you have some advice or anecdotes from your own work experience that you
feel may be edifying to the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ,
please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.