Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A transcendent summons for everyone

October 10, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

I just read two timely publications that were very recently released before the Faith at Work Summit starting tomorrow in Chicago—Jeff Haanen’s “God of the Second Shift” (Christianity Today, October 2018) and Christians at Work from Barna Research and Abilene Christian University. As a professional career counselor and work search coach of 40 years, it is exciting to see the Summit coming at such a time, as Jeff Haanen helps us come to grips with understanding that we’re missing a huge number of people in the conversation, those who are “the second shift”—individuals for whom working is survival, not a calling. Barna Research’s release of Christians at Work gives us new quantitative and qualitative data regarding the Church’s understanding and perspectives on work and vocation.

An historical prospective on the huge amount of research, work and practice of the career counseling profession since 1913, a professional born in the midst of the shifting public definition in understanding vocation/calling in late 1800’s and early 1900’s, may be helpful here. Understanding the convergence of the career counseling and the Faith at Work movement I hope may illuminate how God’s hand is at work pointing to an exciting opportunity on the near horizon to introduce people to the Caller.


By the early 1900’s “placement bureaus” developed in large metropolitan areas to help workers move into the more industrial assembly line jobs being created. By 1913 those doing such “placement” work had been discussing how to develop a methodology and standardized practice for assisting those seeking these new jobs, influenced and motivated by the muckraking-era writing and the publication of lawyer/engineer/social reformer Frank Parson’s Choosing a Vocation, and its talent-matching approach. That fall these placement bureau professionals met in Grand Rapids, Michigan, forming the National Vocational Guidance Association (changed to the National Career Development Association in the mid-1980’s) and spawning the counseling movement and profession. Adopting the “vocational” in their name, they helped move the term vocation away from its roots in Christian thought toward a secularized meaning. Essentially, the task of such guidance passed from the clergy—ministers, priests and rabbis—to “guidance counselors” who matched workers to jobs that fit their skills. “Vocational” was also used to define a new type of education, one that prepares people to work in various jobs, such as a trade, a craft, or as a technician and now often referred to as career education or technical education. Vocation and occupation or job began to be seen as synonymous.

Throughout the rest of the 20th century, vocational guidance/career counseling and research on how people made decisions about choosing occupations and changing jobs mushroomed. Assessment tools based on practice and on research developed and were infused into secondary and post-secondary education, particularly as graduates (and their parents) sought guidance and help in paying off tuition loans. School and college counselors used them to help individuals discover pathways and overcome obstacles to reaching their goals of employment and finding meaningful work; since guidance counselors were college graduates, the tendency was to shepherd students in the same direction, missing the opportunity to show many that the trades and other skilled work could fit and would not likely to be outsourced. Assessment tools heavily dependent on interviewing and analysis of autobiographical material from clients were useful, such as the SIMA System for Identifying Motivated Abilities by entrepreneurs Arthur Miller and Ralph Mattson (both Christians), but were expensive. Others like John Bradley’s IDAK system had a steep uphill climb to be adopted by organizations outside his region against marketing by national assessment vendors.

By the early 1980’s, PC-based computer-aided career guidance systems were developing, helping to administer and score the completed assessments, such as the Discover System developed by Wheaton College graduate and high school guidance director JoAnn Harris-Bowlsbey. The guidance counselor’s job was to interpret and review the assessments with students, pointing them to appropriate occupations. However, demands on students’ and counselors’ time frequently prevented much interaction and interpretation, a practical issue but a delivery failure which often confused, discouraged, and demotivated students. Christian college career services offices tended to copy those of the larger state universities that focused on placement and then career development but without embracing the idea of a calling as a summons pulling students forward. This has shifted since 2000 with many Christian colleges rebranding their career development function as a “calling and careers center”, clearly differentiating themselves from these other educational institutions.

By the late 1980’s, the world learned a new word, “downsizing”, and now adults well past high school, vocational training, and college began to be subjects of assessment to help them find new careers. Outplacement firms and services sprang up and expanded as companies sought to offload talent, minimize danger to organizational morale and profits, and shift financial and human resources to efforts that helped sustain businesses, move into new markets, and compete more favorably with companies overseas. If you were a white-collar worker, usually college educated, you were more likely to receive these outplacement services, and the higher the job you left in the organization the more likely you were to be provided guidance that included assessments and interpretation from a trained professional. But these services were very costly, and the hourly worker usually was short-changed. A few community-based services were started, usually in public libraries, or by small consortia of churches who provided such to displaced ministry professionals, not parishioners or the public.

One self-help book, What Color Is Your Parachute, written and updated annually starting in the mid-1970’s by a former Episcopal priest, Richard N. Bolles, became an international best seller, influencing the career counseling professional but not much noticed by most evangelicals even though Bolles was using the language of calling in his writing. Another resource by Dick Staub, writing in the early 1980’s while Executive Director of InterCristo, a Christian job-placement agency, was CareerKit, a binder series of workbooks starting with Biblical Foundations that provided an excellent understanding of “calling and career”, but expensive so it was not widely used.  A bibliography on calling and careers was published by InterVarsity shepherded into print by Faith-at-Work pioneer Pete Hammond with an entrepreneur’s funding of The Strategic Careers Project in the early 1990’s.

Much of the research on career decision-making in the first 75 years of 20th century was done using college students as the subjects. Consequently, the research was often skewed and not helpful to those not entering a four-year college program or going into the workforce directly. The exceptions were the US armed forces who developed tools for assessment—in particular, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery—that were effective in placing recruits into military occupations and a few tools based on the John Holland typology of personality and environmental fit. By the late 1990’s the US Department of Labor replacing the Dictionary of Occupational Titles with the O*NET occupational database also introduced an interest inventory to assist individuals in tying interests to occupations.

Assessment tools such as spiritual gifts inventories were developed by ministry professionals, but they have tended to focus on how those gifts would be used in church ministry, not how those gifts might be applied to the world of work outside of church ministries. This appears to have limited their effectiveness in helping users see how their calling might be to work in the marketplace where they could see themselves connecting to God’s desire for us to see Mission-as-Occupation, Occupation-to-support-Mission, or Mission-in-one’s-Occupation (Staub’s concept).

With the broadened definition of calling from Bryan Dik and Ryan Duffy (Make Your Job a Calling, 2012)—“that transcendent summons that brings meaning and purpose to work and contributes to the well-being of others and the common good”—and enfolding the contributions of the 100-year old career counseling profession, the Church has an opportunity to engage in ministry that will reach out to and draw Millennials, Gen-Xers and Boomers to places where the world’s great needs and each individual’s joy intersect and nurture vocational discipleship and whole-life stewardship. Doing so will be important for decades to come “for the common good” in the midst of our disruptive capitalistic economy driven by relentless innovation that births new occupations while simultaneously eliminating others, both white and blue collar.

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Work, employment and risk: aren’t we all self-employed already?

December 21, 2016 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

A 2012 blog, How to Find a Legit Work-From-Home Job, suggested “[t]o find legitimate, quality at-home assignments, follow…five tips….  This got me thinking: is there a “tip 0.5”, one that comes before the 5.  I think so.  What do you think?

[0.5 – Think-of-yourself-as-self-employed–TOYASE!–because we ALL really are.  Most of us who have only one full-time job risk more than others because we have only one customer–our employer (and yes, our internal customers there with that employer)–while others risk differently by having more than one customer but maybe a more unpredictable income stream.

Which risk can you best tolerate?  Peter Bernstein (1996 best seller, “Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk”) writing about risk stated that “…where significant sums [of $$$] are involved, most people will reject a fair gamble [i.e. being an entrepreneur] in favor of a certain gain [i.e. a steady paycheck]….”, and “…when the choice involves losses, we are risk-seekers, not risk-adverse.”  Further, Berstein referring to a Kahneman and Tversy study that suggests “…people are not risk-adverse…they are perfectly willing to choose a gamble when they consider it appropriate [i.e. fair, manageable].”

Bernstein goes on,  “The major force is loss-aversion.  …It’s not so much that people hate uncertainty—but rather they hate losing. Loses [such as ‘job loss’ or ‘income loss] will always loom larger than gains.  Indeed, losses that go unresolved…are likely to provoke intense, irrational, and abiding risk-aversion.”  [pp. 272-274.]

Herein lies a major problem for many people who’ve been downsized and not found some means of resolving their sense of loss.  The question is how to resolve the sense of loss that makes people risk-adverse, and thus unable to move on, let alone consider being an entrepreneur, self-employed.

I’d suggest we are all self-employed and should think of ourselves as “working from home”.  Don’t we already “work from home”, even when we “commute” physically to accommodate the employer’s preference to have us congregate with others to complete tasks, duties and responsibilities?  With the Internet, cloud computing and collaboration, and the coming of “3D/printer manufacturing”, we may need to get over the idea of “going to work” as a location and adopt the mindset that work (i.e. “purposeful activity”) we do everywhere, and that maybe, just maybe, getting paid for work is more a matter of “finding something we do well which we can sell” [i.e. creating a job and an income], and selling that product/service to someone willing to pay for it.  Isn’t this capitalistic, free enterprise at its heart?

Back to Collamer’s blog.  Here are Nancy’s 5 tips from her ‘legit’ work-from-home job blog entry, and my comments in brackets:

1. Focus on telecommuting-friendly jobs [Okay, but what does such a job “look” like and does “friendly” in this case imply it can “easily be replaced by technology”, or “cheaper laborers”?].

2. Sell yourself locally. [Okay, I get the “act local, think global” manta.  But her suggestion gives me caution: “medical billing home based business”. This is the equivalent of a high volume production position, gauged and monitored, I suspect, by number-of-keystrokes-per-hour.  And the number of keystrokes required for keeping the job will be HIGH and pushed to be higher, and higher, and higher—until a technology comes along to replace the keystroker! Can you spell, “carpal-tunnel”, and “absolute focus, undisturbed workspace”?]

3. Network like crazy. [Well, yes, of course! But maybe not “like crazy”, rather “like sanity”.  Many, many more jobs are found, or very significantly helped find, by having a good network.  And we need to have that network in place before we need to tap it.]

4. Contact large companies around the country directly. [Yes, your network, including online, may help here, but it’s going to take time and much patience.  And remember, the vast majority of people in the US economy work for small companies, not multi-nationals who will ‘out-source’ work at the drop of a hat to save a few bucks—so, enter at your own risk!]

5. Find listings online.  [Oh, be careful here for scams (If it seems to easy or to-good-to-be-true, it probably is) and the positions already filled but not taken down!]

[To read the full article, go to this link, Nancy Collamer’s July 19, 2012 article at Next Avenue.]

~Trying for the birdie, playing to get the job

November 13, 2009 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

In Avoiding the Agony of a ‘Bogey’: Loss Aversion in Golf — and Business (November 11, 2009 in Knowledge@Wharton), the author writes, “Tiger Woods and other golf superstars who stand to win millions on inch-long putts apparently are subject to the same fear and aversion to risk that can afflict investors and managers [and I would say also, those who are looking for work]. Taking the safe route, however, has its own costs, according to new Wharton research.”

“In a working paper titled, Is Tiger Woods Loss Averse? Persistent Bias in the Face of Experience, Competition, and High Stakes, Wharton operations and information management professors Devin Pope and Maurice Schweitzer examine putts during pro golf tournaments and determine that even the best golfers systematically miss the opportunity to score a ‘birdie’ — when a player sinks a ball in one stroke less than the number of expected strokes for a given hole — out of fear of having a ‘bogey”‘– or taking one stroke more than what is expected. According to the researchers, for many, the agony of a bogey seems to outweigh the thrill of a birdie.”

As applied to seeking employment, it would seem we ‘job hunters’ are trying to say ‘just the right thing’ often in looking for work, having performed job hunting tasks perfectly and followed some unwritten but somehow mysterious set of ‘rules’ for finding work.  In so doing, I wonder if we aren’t doing so out of fear of ‘having a bogey’ [not getting the job] rather than ‘trying for the birdie’ [playing to win the job]–that is, by presenting our talents with clear and pointed attention to what those talents are (our features) and the positive results prior employers have derived from their use (the benefits), having first carefully researched and identified even more clearly what the needs an employer has.

The fear of not getting the job–loss aversion–combined with lack of preparation for articulating and demonstrating our talents may actually be the major deterrent to success in landing the new assignment.  What must we do mentally to prepare ourselves to ‘sink a birdie’ ever time we interview?  It would appear that banishing our fears and focussing on ‘sinking the putt’ may be our only real obstacle.

~Job hunting is dead, rest in peace!

August 8, 2009 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

A thought provoking talk at TED: “What’s Truly Behind Career Crises”

Philosopher Alain de Botton, author of “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work,“ speaks on why job snobbery and social inequality are fuelling anxiety and fears that we’ll be judged an ‘under-achiever’, he says in this TED talk about the realities of success.

He implies it seems that the real questions about work and life are ‘who are you’, ‘what are you good at doing,’ ‘why are you here,’ and ‘what does it matter if “life/work balance” is an impossible ideal.’

This fits well in my thinking about why job hunting is dead, and why I’ve started this blog.

~Networking is a lifestyle, not a job hunting activity

April 13, 2009 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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With much discussion about networking, including the online ‘social’ type, it’s clear that many of us don’t really understand what it is and how to do it.  Recruiter/writer Nick Corcodilos, in Ask The Headhunter newsletter, “Too late to network?” (March 18, 2008), sums up what is clearly the issue, to my mind:

“True networking is when you spend time with people who do the work you want to do, talking shop. Good networking involves working with other active professionals, even if it’s on a volunteer project, or to learn something new. Good networking is rubbing elbows and enjoying talk and activities related to the work you want to do.

“Here’s the thing that confuses people and frustrates them: They think we network to get our next job. That’s absolutely wrong. We network to get smarter, to make new friends, to build our value and our credibility in our professional community, to help others, and to enjoy our work outside of the job. Job opportunities arise out of networking; they are not the reason to do it.”

Networking is all about building community, then nurturing it for the benefit of all who are part of it: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main….” (John Donne, 1572-1631).  Why we have lost this understanding is anyone’s guess: our focus on individual freedom, many options and choices in products, services, and activities in a capitalistic economy.

It would seem that Jesus’ words to us are truly ‘the’ life principle. “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.” (The Message, Matthew 7:12).  The message is clearly a proactive one, ‘take the initiative,’ but not in a self-centered manner.  Rather, put the other person(s) first in your life, and ‘what goes around will come around.’

This ‘ethic of reciprocity,’ the ‘Golden Rule,’ is evidenced through world history:

What if we–you and I–applied this transformational principle to our careers, daily work assignments, and interactions with others in the work search process and our efforts to keep our jobs and stay employable?