More of us are experiencing financial insecurity these days. We know we should have faith in God, seek wise advice, keep clear minds and take positive action. We know that Jesus told us not to be obsessed with financial security. Nevertheless, the temptation to panic is strong in the deepening global recession. This has been my experience of late.
My employer values my service and I value my employer, but the struggling U.S. economy required my supervisor to make budget cuts. A few months ago he reluctantly informed me that I could be unemployed by the end of 2008. I knew that I needed to rely on God, network with others who could help me, remain focused, and take positive action. But I became distracted and started to worry.
It was evident that God was helping me by providing good advice and resources through others.
Though I wasn’t alone, I felt alone. Talking to God, family and friends, seeking their advice and asking for their prayers was an important first step. A close friend and local businessman here in Rochester, New York, assessed my situation and asked me what I was doing to prepare for unemployment. I told him I wanted to take a day a week to go to a local organization that helps people make career changes and follow their advice. RochesterWorks is the largest employment and training program in Monroe County and is dedicated to helping people in the Rochester region.
My friend listened to my description of the half-empty part of the “glass of my life” and then asked me what day exactly would I go to RochesterWorks and get started. He knew I was procrastinating. He jokingly stated that I didn’t want to belong to Procrastinator’s Anonymous because they never meet. His joke irritated me. Me a procrastinator! So I registered that day.
It was humbling to stand in long lines, register, be interviewed, and stumble as I attempted to answer vital questions with insufficient information. I hadn’t written a resume since I was a senior in college in 1970. My first counselor read my resume and listened to my story. Then he looked at me across his desk and said, “At your age, and with 38 years working for the same organization, you aren’t exactly a prime candidate for being hired in this job market.” His directness really annoyed me, but it got me thinking more practically and realistically.
The staff at RochesterWorks is available, well informed, and willing to share resources. But it was clear that whatever help I needed would be given only if I asked and went after it. I had asked God for another job, but he seemed more interested in helping me gain some needed experience. It became evident that God was helping me by providing good advice and resources through others.
Counselors were readily accessible and able to help me consider options that I would have missed. I was even able to help some of them in return. Serving and being served is critical in all areas of life, and no less so in seeking a job. I realized that changing careers wouldn’t be easy. But I could see a path to walk and there seemed to be a glimmer of light at the end.
I attended workshops with people of college age, middle age, male and female, various races and cultures. Some were college educated, some had post-graduate degrees and others were without high-school diplomas or we probably would never have met under normal circumstances. We found common ground in our financial insecurity and in our need to support one another. We attended workshops that equipped us in writing resumes, answering difficult questions that come up in interviews, networking and building relationships, and working with staffing agencies. As our groups worked together sharing insight, contacts and resources, we found our differences were actually beneficial. We represent a broad range of our local community and provide a multitude of counselors to rely on.
In time I was invited to join two job networking groups that meet weekly. We were told that 85 percent of jobs in this area are gained through networking and fewer than 15 percent are acquired through handing out resumes. Fifteen percent sounds small, but the time spent preparing and distributing resumes is essential, even though coming together to support one another and sharing information and contacts through networking is even more critical. We were taught that we were not to come to job networks only for what we could get, but rather to find ways to serve the other members. We could be of service to others even if we didn’t receive what we were looking for that day. We were taught to do some community service during unemployment with the intent of serving and making new contacts for possible job leads.
The staff at RochesterWorks presented options I wouldn’t have normally considered and could never have discovered on my own. They invited me to attend a panel of six Human Resource representatives from local companies that manufacture machine parts for other manufacturers. I wanted to turn the invitation down because I haven’t had any machining experience. They reminded me that they have successfully helped people change careers and find jobs and that I needed to follow their advice since I was facing unemployment. The logic was inescapable.
As I listened to these company reps, it occurred to me that they were doing for their organization what I had done for my church all my life—teaching, encouraging, assessing and helping people find their niche. Those were my skills too. Suddenly many more organizations than I had imagined possible appeared to be potential employers. I probably would not have made a good machinist, but I had learned through networking to broaden my perspective. It was a great morale booster.
A month ago my boss called me to let me know that I can remain employed. I’m grateful to God and my employer. But I’m also grateful that I had to confront my fear of economic insecurity. I found I couldn’t do it alone. With God and others, I am able to face challenges and accept life on its terms. I learned that there are resources if I ask and look for them. I learned that freedom from worry is better than freedom from economic insecurity.
Jesus told his disciples “do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” He reminded them — and us — that he will do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. He wants us to have his peace even when faced with unemployment.
None of us are guaranteed to be free from financial insecurity, but we are all promised that we can be free from the fear of it.