It is a good Monday, then, and I am feeling blessed. My shoulders hurt a bit today, and my neck is stiff (always these days). I think it is a combination of how I sleep at night as well as the fact that I carry my briefcase on my shoulder each day. I have tried to just lug it around, but that doesn't work well. I find that my neck muscles are always tense, and that one of the reasons I suffer from migraines is because of this fact. I am looking forward to other opportunities for work where I might now have to do this anymore. Hopefully, the Lord will open a door for me soon. Until then, I will patiently wait for His grace to provide a way for me to go.
The Way to Go
So I made the decision this past week to change directions with my career, and frankly, I have felt so relieved since then. I cannot tell you how much better I feel, like I mean FEEL. I feel as if the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders just because I made the decision to turn around and head a different direction. I had been fixed on this path for sometime now, and while it would be wrong to say I am dissatisfied with the outcome thus far, I am not 100% confident that this is the way I should continue to walk. Let me explain...
I have known for a long time that there were three viable options for me concerning the type of work I could do at this point in my life. I had three paths to follow, and each had its own set of positives and negatives, you know, pros and cons. All three were viable -- meaning that they were open to me and that they would align with the Lord's will for my life. The Lord's will for my life is specific, and I knew this going into career exploration (as I call it). I knew that the Lord intended for me to complete graduate school, and that His work would involve missions, global outreach, and possibly travel (lots). I also knew that I was going to need to learn foreign languages (French, German, and perhaps Italian) at some point. I also knew that I was to use my communication study to help me in this work. With all this in mind, I proceeded to find full-time work while I completed two levels of graduate study. I have blogged about my career progression as I explored working at UOPX, CVS Health, and now Grand Canyon University. In all, I have followed each path for a time to see which one "fit" me best. By fit, I simply mean which path was the most enjoyable to me, offered me a comfortable life, and aligned well with my skills and abilities. I wasn't bent on career advancement per se, rather it was more about finding good practical work that would provide well for me and for my son.
Of the three paths, only two have seemed a good fit for me. I started working in retail, and while I wasn't happy with the pay or the physical demands, I thought that I might find good work in corporate retail. This avenue never panned out for me, so after a year of retail sales at Macy's and trying to find full-time work in other corporate retail businesses (like Target and Apple), I change directions and started working in administration in higher education. I liked this type of work, but the environment at UOPX wasn't suited toward my skills, so after 15 months, I moved to corporate work in communications at CVS Health. Of the these positions, this one fit me best. I worked in analysis and problem solving, and I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out why things didn't work they way they were supposed to work. Plus I loved the environment, work/life, and my team mates. Unfortunately, the environment turn deadly toxic and the company wasn't willing to do anything to resolve the tension. With my colleagues leaving the company, I chose to exit as well. I still regret leaving the company, but I felt stuck in a bad situation with no hope for resolution. My last change of direction was to go back into higher education, but this time, to teach courses. I moved to GCU in 2013, and I have stayed this path for almost three years. It has been the most difficult for me, in many ways, but mostly mentally and physically. It also has not provided well for me, financially, so while there are positives to teaching college, the negatives outweigh them and I am constantly worried about my financial situation.
I am not sure why the Lord has allowed me to move around like this but He has. It doesn't look great on my resume, but for the time that I was in school, it seemed okay to do it. I mean, I have focused on Regent more than anything else so in truth this change of direction has simply given me time to figure out what I want out of a career.
My Career List
I have thought about this long and hard, and since I never was very career minded early on, this whole process of figuring out what you want to be when you grow up has taken me by storm. In some ways, I laugh at this process because I am like the young teens I counsel at school. You see, my life started over in 2010, and while the process of learning to be independent has been hard for me, I have had to learn a lot in a very short amount of time. So while young people, college aged students, have plenty of time to figure out their life's work, I had to come to a decision rather quickly. What's more, since I never had responsibility for my life (I went from my parents home to my husband's home), I had to learn how to do everything on my own. It was a challenge to take the reigns of my life, and while I have made some mistakes, I think I have done a fairly good job of it (so far, that is).
Making a decision on a course to follow was difficult for me. It was probably the most difficult decision I have had to make in my whole life. The reason it has been difficult is because I am choosing a path to follow knowing that I have such a short time left to work (only 17-18 years). It seems all the more important to choose wisely considering the limited time I am able to work. Thus, my challenge has been to figure out the best "fit" for me, and then find a job that aligns with that fit. In short, to find a job that supports my style, my abilities, and my preferences rather than a job that goes against the grain or stream. I would say that for some of the work I've done recently, a lot of it rub against the grain, stressed weaker parts of me, and didn't support my strengths as well as they should. I have learned through trial and error what I like and don't like, and now I am ready to make a final determination and choose a path to follow.
I know myself well, and I know what I like and don't like. I think I got lost a bit during this whole process as I completed my Regent studies and worked towards my degree. It has taken a toll on me emotionally, mentally, and physically, and frankly, I am tired,so very tired. Yet, I press on, and I continue to work, to perform, and to improve my skills and my abilities in order to produce good results. Thus, my career preferences are formed around this one specific attribution -- production of good results. It took me a long time to accept the fact that I am an achievement oriented and driven person and I thrive in environments where achievement is rewarded. I need freedom, flexibility, and some fluidity, but generally, what I need most is challenge and stimulation that is supported by rewards. Therefore, this is my must-needs list for the perfect career for me:
- Challenge and stimulation (intellectual)
- Focus on problem-solving and analysis
- Rewards or incentive based approach to progression
- Freedom, autonomy and flexibility in schedules
- Independence with some collaboration
- Compensation commensurate with my skills and abilities
- Work/life balance and company support
- Perks and benefits as provided
- Opportunity for growth and advancement
- Stability and long-term placement
As an achievement oriented person, it is vital that the work I do provide some measure of reward. It can be in accomplishment, recognition or monetary reward, it doesn't really matter, but there needs to be some measure of notice. This is vital to me, and as such, it is the thing that drives me to succeed. Without it, I often feel like my efforts are wasted. I am seeking a position that will provide positive rewards for my efforts, even if it is just getting noticed at my company. I also want a job that challenges me, provided intellectual stimulation, and allows me to use my excellent problem-solving skill to its best effect. I love to solve problems -- they are like puzzles to me. I love to analyze details and data, and I enjoy the whole process of playing with it, manipulating it, and seeing what "shakes free." I am looking for a job that will fit my personality as well, and that means a job where I can "fit" into a group and be allowed a great deal of freedom to explore, to create, to innovate. I don't want to be micromanaged, and in fact, that will kill me quicker than anything. No, I don't have an issue with supervision, it is just not going to work if someone wants to tell me when to "pee" (know what I mean?)
Looking for Good Work
I've taken the plunge, dipped my resume in the big pool of jobs, and casting my net on the other side of the boat -- all -- in the hope that the Lord will open up a door for me. Right now, I am looking at United Healthcare because they are local here in Phoenix (with a hub), but they are located all over the US, and they offer telecommuting positions from most locations. My cousin works for them, and has enjoyed her experience thus far. She is an RN, so her work is different from what I do, but she has been able to transfer from Phoenix to Tampa, and she gets to work from home. I know she works long hours, but she has a lot of flexibility, and she gets paid really, really well. I have also applied at CVS Health, but I am not sure I want to go back there just yet. I still have some bad feelings about the way things were handled, so my preference would not be this place as a first choice. Other than these two places, I still have a couple applications out there for full-time teaching positions, but as of now, I just don't see these are viable nor as a good fit for me. The more I focus on teaching, the more stressed I feel. I really think that working in industry is my best fit overall, and while no job is perfect, at this point in the game, I need the following now:
- Flexible hours, schedule, work from home
- Excellent pay and benefits
- Opportunity for advancement as well as transferring/moving to another part of the US as the Lord leads me
I feel stuck where I am, and while I like aspects of working at GCU, I already know this is a closed door to me for anything other than adjunct. Moreover, my parents are struggling, and I see the viability of working from home as a good solution. I don't want to be a full-time caregiver, and I know this isn't the Lord's desire for me, but for the time being, it would help, and it would give me the rest I need. I am not adverse to working in an office either, really. I just need the pay and benefits, the stability of a good job/good company, and the chance to move up in the company. My desire is to do good work, good work that aligns with my skills so that I can work smarter and not harder, you know. I am beat, worn out, and I need to do something different.
I am waiting on the Lord to provide His best to me. I hope to hear something soon, but until I do, I will stay the course, and finish this semester strong. The Lord knows my needs. He knows what is best for my parents, and He knows how much stress and strain I can take. He knows how close I am to that breaking point now (physically), so perhaps that opportunity will come to me sooner rather than later. The Lord is good. I know He will provide for my every need.
After I posted this essay, I went about my day as is usual for my MWF schedule. For the most part, the morning went by without a hitch. I took a drive over to Paradise Bakery mid-morning, and bought an early lunch, and sat inside and read my "Flannery O'Connor: Mystery and Manners" book (for this weeks Theology class). It was a nice diversion for me, and after a time of reading, I drove back to GCU to start my afternoon session.
I was feeling hopeful regarding my decision, and I was thinking about how the Lord might choose to move me out of my current line of work and open this door (should that be His will). I was confident as I strode into my ENG class, and took command of the hour. Everything went well, my students did their work, and I supervised as I normally do during Peer Review week. I felt good as I left the class, and even was pleased that I had the opportunity to minister to some students who are struggling with college, in general.
As I walked over to my next class, another section of ENG, I couldn't help but think that I was lucky to be teaching on this campus. It isn't perfect by any means, but it is a nice school to work for, and the students are generally sweet and accommodating to your teaching style. I made my way upstairs to my last class of the day, what I call my "goof off" class, simply because it is the last class of the day, and my students tend to be rowdy and a bit out of control. We have lots of laughs, and mostly good times, so I try to maintain a low-key approach.
I already know that at least 6 of my 46 students are enrolled in my spring 106 classes. I think it is sweet that they want to be with me again. This is the rub in leaving GCU for a non-teaching role. I don't want to let my students down, to surprise them by not showing up for the first day of class. Moreover, I know for many of these students, they tell me how much they like my class, and how they don't want to have a different teacher for second semester English. I appreciate their vote of confidence, and like I said, there is a part of me that feels bad that I am not hanging around to teach them again.
Just as I wrapped up class, finished it out, three students came up to me to speak with me about their assignment. One had a problem and thanked me for helping her (not with my class, but another). The second was worried about my lack of feedback on her essay, but I told her she was "good to go," and she smiled at me. I had to assure her that her essay was GOOD, and finally she left smiling. The third student has been difficult, not in anything in particular, but just in that I think she worries about her grades. In many ways, she reminds me of me when I was that age. I have tried to encourage her as much as I can because I think she needs it. Today, we talked a little bit about her essay, and I told her how good I thought it was. She was very surprised at my remark, and I could tell that I had shocked her a bit with my comment. We spent about 10 minutes talking about life, and making choices on education, etc. She left with a smile on her face, and I left thinking that I made a difference in her life today.
As I walked back to my car, this feeling rose up in me and made me think "what in the world am I doing?" I mean, I am content now to leave teaching forever, to do the practical, good thing, and then I experience this kind of day, a day where I am blessed by students who clearly think I matter to them -- matter -- a whole lot. That thought shook me to my core. After all, I am bent on taking the assured route that will pay me a lot of money, guarantee almost for sure promotion, and a very comfortable life. I am ready to go, to leave teaching right now, just so I can pay off my debts, live in a nice home, and have a safe and secure future. Then, wham! I am broadsided by the underbelly of teaching, that rub, that says "Hey, see what is going on here? There is more to teaching than making money!"
So I think about this thought all the way home, how teaching doesn't align with my skills, doesn't work well for me, and doesn't use my strengths. No, it does nothing of the sort. I rely on the Lord 100% for everything I do at GCU, and every single day I come home exhausted, mentally and physically drained, and I feel just awful. Furthermore, I have no guaranteed salary, no benefits, no long term security. No, I have nothing that seems good to me. But then, I have this, this little nugget of gold, a gem, really whereby I see a student smile at me (not a fake smile, but a real smile), and I see my efforts to encourage rewarded. Yes, I am all about rewards, but these rewards are not monetary, no, they are relational, special, and maybe even eternal, I don't know. They are relational, and they have no worth outside of the human connection that exists between two people. Someone once asked if you could put a value on teaching, could you assign a number to validate all the effort, time, and manpower needed to teach others well. In the end, the answer was "no," because there is no value that takes the place of human relationships, the building up, the encouraging, and the enfolding of God honoring relationships. There is no value whatsoever in this outside of pleasing the Lord, and perhaps, creating kingdom opportunities.
As I drove home, I asked the Lord for clarification, for help in understanding why this is happening to me -- why now -- why when I have just made a grand proclamation saying "I am choosing the safe route, the easy route, the well-paying route" for my career. I received an email the other day from Lee University (this is just an aside) that said they had received my materials for an online teaching position. I emailed those materials to them in June. They just received the email and responded to me. What does this mean? I mean, if they weren't even interested or the position no longer existed, wouldn't they just trash my email after 4 months of sitting idle? Sheesh!
I am dumbfounded right now. I am content to become an analyst and make $80K per year. I am content to do this work from now on, except for this little nagging sensation that says to me "but what about my students, those who have signed up for you, who are looking to you to teach them next semester?" I know I should just say "It's not practical to stay on another semester. I need the money, so I need to go," but I cannot help think about my students, about their needs and wants.
I thought about this today as I walked in the door:
In teaching, I function in my weakness, but I operate in my spiritual gift.
In analysis, I function in my strength, and I operate in my strength.
In short, when I teach, I must rely 100% on the Lord, and His strength is perfected through my weakness. I cannot teach without His help, and I need Him to see me, really carry me through each day. I operate in my spiritual gift of encouragement daily, and I find that I naturally bless those around me. It just happens without much effort on my part. In all, when I teach, He receives the glory, the praise, and the honor. I am used up, depleted, and left empty, but He shines brightly through me, and my students are blessed, so very blessed.
Conversely, when I work in business, I am able to command my strengths, my abilities, and my efforts to control outcomes. I produce good work. I achieve good things. Yes, I rely on the Lord for His blessing, for His favor, but I do what comes very naturally to me, and it is easy for me to do. I do try to bless others, but I work in a non-Christian environment whereby I have to be careful with my words. In such a way, I find that my abilities are heightened, and while I give the Lord credit, and thanks, the truth be told, I am able to do this work through my own efforts.
Which is the better way? Which is the preferred way?
I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha. Mary sought the better way, and in doing so, she was blessed. Martha was a good producer, she loved the Lord too, but she wanted to 'do rather than be.' The Lord corrected her gently and told her that her sister had chosen wisely, she had chosen the right way because she had chosen to devote her life to the Lord, and to forsake "doing" for the privilege of "being" in His presence. I cannot help but think that perhaps this is the life lesson I am learning. There is more to life than money, position and comfort. The Lord knows, I need money, of course, but perhaps He is trying to show me that when it comes right down to it, people count more than results. Human relationship trumps productivity. The better way is not the way that is easy or lucrative, but rather it is the way that places you 100% dependent on Him so that you experience what Paul called as the emptying out of himself so that Jesus could shine brightly through Him. Perhaps this is what the Lord wants me to see. It is not that He doesn't care about my income, lack of benefits, and sore feet and legs. It is just that He cares more for the students in my classes, and that He wants to use me as a vessel to reach them, to teach them, and to draw them to Himself. Perhaps this is what He is saying to me. There is nothing wrong with following the easy, practical path. It is wise, it is good. But there is something about sacrificing a life for that which is better, the better portion, and in doing so, the Lord receives all praise, all honor, and all glory.
Perhaps this is the lesson I was supposed to learn today.