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Career moves

Economic downturn can provide opportunities to apply God-given talents

By Robert Mims

The nation’s economy is reeling. Layoffs are soaring. Unemployment — projected to possibly top 10 percent of the workforce before the current recession bottoms out — has increasingly hit industries and professions previously considered safe.

Despite billions of promised taxpayer dollars in rescue funding, the Big Three automakers staggered into 2009 with millions of jobs hanging in the balance at General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and associated industries. When Circuit City, the country’s second-largest electronics outlet, collapsed in January after 50 years in business, 40,000 employees lost their livelihoods. Many other businesses, small and large, are in danger of following suit.

Add to those troubled industries such traditional long-term employment venues as residential construction, travel agencies, auto dealerships and even publishing — with one newspaper after another going under or making deep staffing cuts — and it becomes clear that millions of Americans face the prospect of dramatic, even traumatic changes in their chosen career paths.

“When you go through a deep recession like this one, it exposes weaknesses in the economy that weren’t evident before,” says Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. But he cautions against becoming too hopeless in response to generalized, dire job scenarios that could be presented too universally in their scope.

When it comes to finding more economically resilient jobs, it depends largely on where you live, Bolles told Today’s Pentecostal Evangel. For instance, while schoolteachers and health-care workers have been among the few professions not at risk, it still is a matter of checking out specific job markets to gauge if there are openings. But there’s more to it than trying to figure out which regions and industries are hiring.

“The best thing anyone can do is to find out their own strengths and God-given talents — which ones they are good at, which ones turn them on,” says Bolles.

Identifying the sort of work you find to be enjoyable — more than trying to find “recession-safe” jobs — ultimately will bring both employment and personal satisfaction, Bolles says.

“The person who loves what he or she is doing has the enthusiasm and will beat out other job candidates just looking for a safer job — hands down,” he argues. “And the employer deciding between two workers, which one to let go, will never let the enthusiastic employee get away.”

Bolles also recommends those looking for new employment join or form a network of like-minded job hunters.

But it is equally important not to dismiss the emotional and spiritual toll exacted when the recessionary monster strikes, says Lynette Ross, a licensed marriage and family therapist and Assemblies of God member in the Sacramento, Calif., area.

“Jobs provide a sense of security with health coverage, benefits, retirement and, for some, a sense of family and community,” Ross says. “It can be devastating for some to go through a job transition. Initial reactions can range in intensity and may include physical, emotional, spiritual and behavioral aspects.”

As worry descends on someone who has just learned his or her job of decades is gone, sleeping and eating habits can suffer, blood pressure can rise, and stomach and other health problems may develop. Panic attacks may come, along with depression and a deep sense of grieving that rivals the loss of a loved one.

But Ross says such times also are ripe with potential spiritual growth as a crisis point meets an opportunity for faith building.

“Some may feel abandoned by God,” warns Ross, an ordained AG minister. “These feelings are normal. The greater the need, the greater the opportunity for God to move in our life.”

Ross says a positive attitude can shield a person from depression and help speed the transition process. And she offers practical advice: Share thoughts and feelings with supportive friends, eat healthy, drink enough water, exercise and get sufficient rest.

“Your body will help you feel better emotionally, recover from the stress easier, and you’ll be able to think more clearly,” she says.

More specifically, Ross advises, job seekers should break down goals into manageable bites, including:

• The family budget should be reviewed with an eye to determining how long severance pay, unemployment benefits and/or savings will last.

•  While looking for permanent employment, consider retraining or temporary work opportunities.

• Dream big by considering changes to do the sort of work you have always really wanted to do.

• Sharpen that résumé and consider what you have liked and disliked about past employment in order to guide your search for new work.

• Network with friends in careers that interest you and don’t forget to put out the word with people at your church, realizing that word-of-mouth almost always beats want ads for finding new employment opportunities.

Seeking professional Christian help in rebounding from the trauma of unemployment may be useful.

“The best way for Christians to rebound is to live in accordance with the progression through trial that Paul talks about in Romans 3:3-5,” says licensed professional counselor Brian Frizzell, founder of the Springfield, Mo.-based Christian Counseling Services. “In going through a trial, we should persevere; in other words, don’t give up. We discover what we really need in difficult times, and we can develop into what God wants us to become in hardship.”

To the recently laid off, Frizzell advises answering the question, “What do I love to do?” Passion, Frizzell contends, always makes way for making a living.

“When we love what we do, we can get by with a lot less,” Frizzell says. “We also have the potential to make a whole lot more because our work doesn’t burden us.”

Other questions to ask as you search for a new career, according to Frizzell, include “Whom do I love to be with?” “What am I best at?” and “What can I make better?”

 Perseverance leads to hope, opening the way to God’s provision and guidance, he says.

“Biblical hope is not wishful thinking, but expected results based on a life aligned with God’s principles,” Frizzell says. “If we live by the premises, we can experience the promises.”

ROBERT MIMS is a journalist and member of Life Church of Utah, an Assemblies of God congregation in Salt Lake City.

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