catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 12 :: 2004.06.04 — 2004.06.17


Job stories


What was your experience looking for your first job after graduating?

J.K.: For six months before college graduation I was promised a job in Amsterdam for a one-year contract. A couple weeks before graduation, I got an email from the company saying they reviewed their budget and they couldn’t hire an American this year and ?good luck.? I was pretty devastated and realized I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do, where I was going to go, or even what I truly wanted to do. I freaked out! I ended up doing something I said I would never in a location I said I never wanted to be in…I taught ESL in South Korea. It ended up being one of the best decisions of my life!

C.N.: It was pretty easy actually. I graduated with a teaching degree from Dordt and the first two places that called me were in Florida. They flew me out (one even flew out my fianc?e) and offered me a job. We were both from the Midwest and were about to be married so we figured we’d go someplace new as we started our new lives together.

B.D.: Looking for work has been nothing less than daunting. When I graduated from college and was looking for low- or no-paying work overseas, the jobs came fast and furious. Now, though, with more education and credentials, it has been torturous. I sent out many, many resumes, and was disappointed at the lack of professionalism I was met with. Prospective employers ignored me forever, not even bothering to send a simple “the position has been filled” note, after I spent lots of time and effort personalizing cover letters, C.V.’s, and making follow-up phone calls. After all this, I finally found my current position at a professional conference, and it felt like a small miracle. After the interview, which was incredibly professional, I had a good feel for the school district. It simply felt right. As I participated in the rest of the conference, everyone I met had some connection with my prospective employer or city. Though the process was daunting and unfriendly, accepting my new position provided me with peace I could not have anticipated.

K.B.: I applied for only one position—a virtually unpaid magazine internship—during my final semester at college. I wanted this job so badly that I put all my energy into pursuing it, figuring that if it didn’t work out, I’d have the whole summer to hunt for something else. Even at the time, I realized that this was unusual behavior for me—I’ve never been the type of person who finds it easy to “let go and let God” (I’m more in Anne Lamott’s camp: “Everything I let go of has claw marks on it”). I worry about everything, all the time, well in advance. In the years leading up to my graduation, I expected that I would spend a lot of time harrowing, obsessing, and generally having a nervous breakdown about what to do with my life. But when it actually got right down to the wire, I came across a year-long opportunity that interested me, and applied for it, and interviewed, and there was minimal nail-biting. I surprised myself with my casual approach to future employment, but maybe that’s because, after four years of a Christian liberal arts education, I was worn out. I had no enthusiasm left for trying to tease out and pin down My Vocation As Ordained By The Lord God Almighty. I just decided I wanted to do something I’d like for a year or so; I was interested in writing, social justice, and living in community, and this internship offered all three. It sort of just fell into my lap, like many things that have seemed to work out in my life. I got the position, and I loved it, and hated it, and all in all it was the perfect post-college experience.

And then I had to get a job after that internship finished up. Which ended up being the harrowing, obsessive, nervous-breakdown-inducing, vocation-questioning experience I’d always imagined it would be—and more!

Have you ever had to choose between a job you really enjoyed and a higher salary? What factors went into that choice?

J.K.: Job satisfaction and mental happiness far outweigh a higher salary for me! I’d rather truly enjoy and be sincerely passionate about my job. Otherwise, I’ll use the extra money from the higher salary paying for counseling to deal with job stress!

C.N.: Luckily I never have and I hopefully never will. Teachers don’t get paid a ton and we scrape from paycheck to paycheck, but we’re happy and I love my job. Because I feel that this is where God wants me to be, I trust that he will take care of me as I fulfill my kingdom service. I fight that trust often because I like to be in control, but I’ve discovered that God knows better than I do?in finances just as much as everything else.

B.D.: Not exactly, though by choosing the profession of teaching I sort of made that choice. For a while in graduate school I considered the directions I could go, into research or teaching English for business purposes, fields where I could make probably twice as much as public school teaching. For a while I also considered teaching at private boarding schools, schools where the students come from very wealthy families. In the end, I chose public school in a large urban school district because it fit with who I am. When I got into ESL I decided that I wanted to teach ESL to people for whom it will promote justice. I lost sight of that for a while, tempted by higher-paying, more prestigious jobs, but eventually I came back to my original sort of mission statement.

K.B.: Not yet, but I did have to weigh the pros and cons of a job that demanded full-time energy and commitment on part-time hours, part-time pay, and part-time benefits (i.e., no health insurance). The main factor that went into my decision to take this position was that I valued the potential experience the job could give me in the long term over the financial constraint it would cause in the short term. I could afford the luxury of this decision at this point in my life—early in my career, no husband, no kids—but I don’t know that I’d choose the same thing in the future. It’s not that I care about making a lot of money (believe me, as an aspiring writer, I’m prepared for a lifetime of powdered mac and cheese dinners), but I do care about being fairly compensated based on what expected of me in a given job. Plus, this experience has given me plenty of enthusiasm for health care reform—if it’s difficult for ME to be able to go to the doctor when I need to, what must it be like for a woman with four kids, several part-time jobs, and none of the same inherent privileges?!

What would you be doing with your life if salary were not an issue (imagine you have a huge trust fund or something)? How does that dream compare to your current job?

J.K.: I would be traveling the world and experiencing everything I possibly could! I’m starting to make my dream a reality by becoming a tour director. I’m trying to transition into full-time tour director work. So now I’m getting paid to travel…what could be better?

C.N.: The first thing I’d do is give a ton of money to *cino. Then I’d take about 5-10 years off and get a mess of degrees. But I’d come back to teaching because it’s my calling. It would be fun to be comfortable enough to serve in a place that was desperate for teachers though unable to pay them adequately (or at all).

B.D.: I’m not really sure. I think I would probably be doing something similar, although without the stress and the ridiculous governmental bureaucracy.

K.B.: I would be living in the same neighborhood as all my favorite friends, and my best friend Sarah and I would be working on some kind of media venture together. We’ve talked about this a lot, and while we have no idea what this “media venture” would actually look like (radio? web publishing? film-making? documentaries? blogging ourselves into oblivion?), we basically just want to tell good stories. We also have certain, hard and fast specifications for the type of work environment we’d construct: Wear whatever you want. It’s okay to walk around in your socks, really. The words “business casual” are verboten. Office hours are ridiculously flexible, should there in fact be an office. There might just be a big room in someone’s house with lots of papers and art in it, and probably babies crawling around everywhere, because babies are NOT verboten on the days when their fathers have to work.

The wild flights of fancy of two naive, right-brained youngsters? Oh, heavens yes. But this (whatever “this” is—as I mentioned; the details of how such an operation would actually, um, operate are hazy at best) is what we want to do. How does it compare to my current job? Well, I mostly wear what I want, but I’m not sure how my co-workers feel about that. Stocking feet are frowned upon. In general, I am not at liberty to do my work on my own time. No babies, usually, because this is the kind of job where it’s difficult for women to be devoted employees and devoted moms. But sometimes, I get to tell good stories. That makes it worth it. I hope I’ll be able to do what I want to do in the future because of the skills I’m developing now.


How has providing for a family changed your perspective on career choices?

M.D.: Once upon a time in a land far, far away, when and where I grew up, women were not to have a career beyond being a wife and mother. Yes, it really was like that in the 1970s. I went to college to study nursing partly because my mother did, and partly because I had some giftedness for the field, and partly because nursing was an acceptable choice for women. The small church university broadened my horizons but I felt that I was to earn my Mrs. degree along with my BSN. I did meet the man that I would eventually marry, but we did not marry until four years after I graduated. This meant that I had to support myself (something that I never thought that I would have to do). As I reflect on this time, I see a time of tremendous growth. I entered marriage as an equal partner, which is the way it should be, but too often women’s work is not valued equally with men’s. When we married, I supported my husband while he studied in seminary. His senior year I became pregnant and we were elated. Both of us would be fulfilling our callings. He would be a pastor and I would be a wife and mother. We had the best-laid traditional plans. My husband was not to receive a call for a year and a half. We had student loans and a baby on the way. I had a nursing job, so I just continued to work. Our son was born after I completed a 12 hour night shift and I went back to work full-time when he was 2 weeks old. I would not recommend that to anyone, but we certainly were led to radically rethink our traditional roles. In our married life, each of us has had full-time careers at the same time and each of us has had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home parent while the other worked full-time, and each of us has worked part-time. We are still pursing our traditional careers of pastor and nurse but we have tweaked our roles occasionally and sometimes they have been tweaked for us (is that the Spirit at work?). While we certainly expect to be paid every 2 weeks, I do not think that it is about the money. We could make more money even following our chosen paths. He could pursue a senior pastorate in a large church and I could go into private practice as a nurse practitioner. But we would not be following our hearts to do so. I sometimes wonder what life would be like had I dared to be less traditional in my career choice, but I am so untraditional in many ways that I have to smile when people pigeonhole me as a Midwestern minister’s wife. Sometimes I envision writing a novel entitled Confessions of a Pastor’s Wife. I believe that the Spirit is the one who makes the ordinary, extraordinary. As I pontificate on career choices, I cannot forget that I live in the richest nation in the world. For many, simply surviving is a full-time job.

C.N.: I grew up in an upper-middle class family where my parents were constantly struggling between spending time earning money to give us a better lifestyle and spending time hanging out with us. What a terrible dilemma! I find myself doing that very thing. I want to work in the summer to make some extra money, yet I covet that time off to travel with my family and be home. I suppose those aren’t career choices, but it’s a bit of a frustration anyway.

T.Q.: Providing for a family really didn’t change my perspective on my career choice, but listening for God in my life did. I had expected to serve God through being single, and believed I had a call to celibate life and possibly to medical missions (I’m a nurse). I sought to gain entrance into a religious community of women and was instead advised to “get a boyfriend.” It took a few years, but I did find a strong Christian man I know God hand-picked for me. We’ve been married now for over 20 years. I’m presently in graduate school for Community Health Nursing and work part-time in Communications and part-time as a Parish Nurse for a small Christian ministry.

What do you hope your children learn from what you do for a living and the way you do your job?

M.D.: I have a pretty ingrained work ethic (for better or worse). I hope my children see me as fiscally responsible. I do not want to give my children more than what I had which seems to be a prevalent parental attitude. My children do not need more stuff. I want my children to dream beyond the limitations we as a society so often place on people. I hope my children see my work whether paid or not as a service to the community and I hope they see their work in the same light. There are times when I am sure that I have fallen into the “mommy martyrhood mode” about all that I have sacrificed for them. And parenthood is truly a challenge of caring for others beyond self. What I hope my children experience is the sense that they are special gifts on one hand, and on the other hand that they are not the only kids on the planet. When my husband was first diagnosed with a crippling chronic disease and before he had adequate medication, I needed to help him get out of bed and assist him in buttoning his shirts. He never missed a day of work. Is that crazy or is that passion for one’s calling? I hope my children see that we are partners in helping each other pursuing our callings. I know that we have not always had all in balance regarding our callings but I pray that our children view us through grace-filled eyes.

C.N.: Money isn’t important. Money is a tool in the same way that a hammer is a tool. Too many people fall in love with their hammers. I want my kids to know that money is a gift. Some have it and some don’t. The happiest people are the ones who know how to use their gifts wisely and who enjoy sharing them with others (however much or little that may be). Money is no different.

T.Q.: I hope that by personal example, my children have learned the following lessons:

  1. What ever you do, do it with your whole heart and to the Glory of God.
  2. There’s no such thing as a “meaningless task” or “going nowhere” job. Burger-flippers are as necessary to God’s kingdom as astrophysicists.
  3. We are all going “somewhere.” Where we go depends not on WHAT we know, but “WHO” we know! Vocational choices DO have eternal consequences.
  4. There are tough jobs in this world, and caring for the poor and sick is one of them.
  5. Caring for the poor and sick has been described as a “thankless task.” But we don’t do it to get thanked, we do it because Christ commands it! (And we don’t do it to get rich, either.)
  6. Higher education is a privilege, and scholarship is a spiritual gift. Some may feel close to God sitting by a babbling brook, others by sitting with a compelling book!
  7. The quest for secular knowledge can be a spiritual “danger zone.” The Lord reminds us that we are to “seek knowledge like silver” (Proverbs 2:4). Silver is precious, but it is not the most precious metal. Our desire to know God intimately should supersede our mortal curiosities about other things. Sadly, many Christians gifted with extraordinary intellect fall away to worship at the altar of worldly knowledge. This is what may happen when we choose to “lean on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
  8. University degrees do not confer wisdom—only God can do that. And He gives wisdom liberally to those who ask!
  9. Multiple degrees, numerous memberships in honor societies, etc., are not necessarily signs of God-given wisdom. The wise are made known by the temperance of their speech (“Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.”) The wise are more often lauded for their humility, not their utility!
  10. In the words of Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.”

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