Every Job I’ve Ever Had
and one thing I learned from each.
On my sabbatical a couple years ago, I spent a day reflecting on every (paid) job I’ve ever had, and one critical way each job formed me, as a way to trace and be grateful for God at work in constantly shaping me even without my awareness or acknowledgment. You might be encouraged to do a similar exercise, just another way of unearthing the finger prints of God in your story.
- Walking Bean Fields
Formation: working equally hard when no one is watching (like…alone in the middle of a soy bean field). Taking ownership/responsibility for work product, excellence, beyond just satisfying others.
2. Detasseling Corn Fields
Formation: how to do the same thing every 3 seconds for 9 straight hours, 5 days a week. Not all work is exciting and soul satisfying. Sometimes it just needs to be done, and that’s good too.
Formation: how to function as a human being before 5 AM, and consequently, how to discipline yourself to go to sleep earlier than you want. The importance of owning your sleep rhythms.
4. Golf Course Lackey (Railside Golf Course)
Formation: going slow to do it well is better than going fast and doing it poor. True of picking up all the golf balls on the driving range, and washing/waxing the carts.
5. Life Guard for Small Town Public Pool
Formation: with great power comes great responsibility. My first job that came with a strange form of power/influence/celebrity (admittedly among elementary and middle schoolers). How would I use it? To puff up, or serve.
6. Subway Sandwich Artist
Formation: staying calm and confident under pressure. Don’t laugh. Have you seen a lunch rush at a Subway that’s one of the few lunch options in a small town? Only the strong survive.
7. City Maintenance Crew
Formation: how to pave concrete sidewalks, level out brick roads, hammer a nail, use power tools, clean storm grates, and inherited an indomitable belief that I can learn & do almost anything.
8. Commercial Lawn Care & Landscaping (Champaign, IL)
Formation: the customer is always right. My first job managing subjective opinions on customizable work product. Learning how to get clarity on what a customer wants (even if I personally hate it), over communicating, and avoiding defensive/blaming when customer unhappy.
9. Office Administrative Assistant (Southern Illinois University)
Formation: paying attention to, and contributing to a healthy office culture. Noticing how anxiety can exist in the 4 spaces (in me, in you, between us, and between others), learning not to “catch” the anxiety of others while taking responsibility for self.
10. Material Science & Engineering, Abrasives (Center for Advanced Friction Studies)
Formation: how to pivot from failure instead of quit, leverage failure to go further along the journey of innovation. Can’t tell you how many times I had to to test, retest, rebuild the testing process, or rebuild the testing machinery itself, all to get clear answers on the simple question of impact resistance of two competing materials.
11. Material Science & Engineering, Aerodynamics (Technical University, Braunschweig Germany)
Formation: how to trust your team. I was used to working with teams but I had some understanding of what everyone was doing and could, therefore, evaluate if they were doing well or not. This was the first team I had not even the slightest competency in some of the lanes my teammates were experts in, and had to just blindly trust they were doing a good job and stay in my lane.
12. Mathematical Biology, Predator-Prey Predictive Modeling
Formation: how to be satisfied with work that I’ll never see the effects of. Every other job I had, I could see the immediate impact of my work, but this was developing predictive systems of differential equations to hand over to conservationists to save rabbits in 20 years in north Canada, I would never personally pet those rabbits. How could I stay motivated to do the work and find satisfaction in it?
13. Ministry Intern at a couple churches
Formation: I like preaching and I dread hospital visits. Early red flags of just how task driven I was, and how hard it was to just *sit* in emotional connection, care, and a calm presence with people, especially hurting people, without trying to fix it.
14. College Ministry (Intervarsity)
Formation: being faithful with the input, trusting God with the output. Finding my way into the tension between “divine grace & steady human effort”. When things go well, the answer should be “because God”, but when things don’t go well, we should take a hard look at our planning/work before deciding God was hiding that day. Making input goals and plans, not output goals.
15. Microchurch Network Service & Development
Formation: Becoming nothing is better than becoming something. Underneath is better than overtop. Ambition is not intrinsically a bad thing, but Kingdom ambition takes us downward and behind, not upward and out front. Mass impact requires mass activation, and nothing short-circuits activation quite like a celebrity propped up by a hierarchy.
What about you? What are some of the threads of formation in your life that trace back to your work environments?