24 November 2017

God is at Work in Our Careers

God is at work in our careers. This week I will share my testimony of how God was orchestrating a wonderful series of events that led to where I am today: running my own business and leading the JobSeekers ministry. Throughout it all, God was at work in my career.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Starting my search.

Someone quoted this scripture at my first JobSeekers meeting on 11 February 2000. I’d read it before, but when you have a good job, you tend to gloss over a passage like this. When your world gets turned upside down, it takes on a whole new meaning!

Actually, I missed an important word that Ward Hunter, the speaker, said. What I heard was, “For know the plans I have for you …” Notice that I missed the personal pronoun “I.” This was the key to the lesson I was to learn that year: God knew his plan for me and was at work in my career, even when I couldn’t see what he was doing.

I came to JobSeekers of PTC as a participant; two months later I moved into a leadership role. When Ernie Childs announced he had to step down, the other leaders turned their heads in unison and looked at me. For several months I held the dual role of participant and facilitator – just like the guy who runs The Hair Club for Men, “I’m not just the president, I’m also a client.” Later that year (November) I won a great contract assignment that allowed me to continue in the leadership role.

A season of disappointments.

Leading the group was a great experience, but I suffered many disappointments in my own job search along the way. The first one came a few days after the NASDAQ crashed on 10 March 2000. My former boss was looking to hire me into his new company; I was to be a key player in developing a new division of a dot-com. He called me on 13 March to say they were going to have to delay my written job offer. It never came, and by the end of the year he was forced to leave this once red-hot company.

The rest of the spring and summer brought many other disappointments. One gentleman, the managing director of the Atlanta office of a well-known training and consulting company, said I was the most polished and professional person he had ever interviewed, then he gave the job to someone else! It was one test of faith after another.

JobSeekers gave me the spiritual lift I needed to face another week. No matter how bad I felt, I could count on JobSeekers to pick me up. As the facilitator of the meetings, I admit that I feigned cheerfulness and enthusiasm more than once, but by the time the meeting was over, I never left JobSeekers feeling down.

After that first disappointment six weeks into my search, I spent the rest of the time looking for what I believed was right for me: another job selling training and consulting services to HR or sales executives. What I didn’t realize – and couldn’t see – was that God was working in the background all along. I teach folks to ask God for what they want, but to be willing to take what God gives them; it will be better than what they asked for.

A gentle nudge.

In October (10/12/2000) I called a friend to do some networking. Debbie said they had a position with her company that was just what I was looking for. The only problem was that the person needed to be located in Portland or Seattle. I ditched that right away. After pausing for a few seconds, Debbie said I would be perfect for another position that was open: senior training consultant. I interviewed in Philadelphia on the day Bush and Gore tied. The interview included an “audition” for Linda Richardson, the CEO. It was, at that point, the most frightening experience of my life.

The key to Debbie recommending me for the position was the fact that she had seen me present many times at the local ASTD meetings – an association of trainers. The lesson here is to get involved in professional associations; but don’t just go – take on a leadership role!

God was at work in my career.

The key to me winning that job was the fact that I’d been leading the JobSeeker meetings for about six months. Each week, I had an audience of about 20 professionals, which happens to be the same size and level of group that Richardson works with. I didn’t realize it, but God was giving me a rehearsal each week in preparation for that audition. When Linda Richardson walked out of the conference room after my audition, the COO said, “Oh she loved you!” She went on to explain that Linda had interviewed thousands of trainers and only a handful had ever been hired. Upon reflection, I doubt I would have made it if I’d interviewed even six weeks sooner. As I led those JobSeeker meetings in the summer of 2000, God was at work in my career.

My time with Richardson made me a much stronger career coach and outplacement consultant; I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I’ve taught consultative selling skills at companies like Dell, Bank of America, Sears, GlaxoSmithKline and KPMG Consulting. I have incorporated what I learned at Richardson into my ministry and my business. As I traveled all over the country in 2001, 2002 and 2003, God was at work in my career.

The contract job was a stepping-stone to something better.

Little did I realize that working for Richardson was merely preparation for running my own business. I led a lot of role-plays at Richardson, and one thing that was sorely lacking at my previous outplacement company was rehearsals for networking and interviewing. The sales and communications skills I taught at Richardson are very easily transferred to job search. Turns out it was ideal training for me and my new business.

The job allowed me to be in town more Fridays than not. Without any effort on my part, I often found myself flying back to Atlanta on a Thursday night. The contract work also allowed me to do career coaching on an ad hoc basis. Nothing dangerous here; the majority of my income was coming from Richardson. But I was developing my own strategy, tools and skills to start my own business.

Five clear signals.

Five things happened in quick succession that proved to me beyond a reasonable doubt that God wanted me to take the plunge into my own full-time business.

  1. In the post 9/11 economy Richardson’s business changed; their instructor-led training business began to taper off. They had the class to call me and three dozen other consultants to let us know there was less work on the horizon than there was in the rear-view mirror.
  2. Dave Rottschafer, who leads the devotional at JobSeekers sometimes, asked me if I wanted to look for office space with him.
  3. My brother-in-law gave me a bunch of office furniture when his company upgraded.
  4. JB Kirk gave me the book, “Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance” by Bob Buford. The title says it all.
  5. Paul Fink gave me “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat” by John Ortberg. It’s about doing something bold; it’s about responding to the call that God places on our hearts.

With God orchestrating these five things, I had little choice but to do something bold. I rented an office and incorporated my business.

God was – and is – at work in my career. It has been the most difficult, and, by God’s grace, the most rewarding few years of my life. The reward comes when someone says I made a difference in their journey of faith, or when they say they found a job that is ideal for them, or simply that they have received hope and encouragement from the JobSeekers ministry, or when they call to say the résumé we created helped them beat the odds and land a job.

One time, for instance, a client called to tell me he had accepted a new job. Norman hired me in March 2012. We overhauled his résumé and LinkedIn profile, taught him how to purse his target companies, and developed his interviewing skills. By the way, after he got frustrated with the services of one of the world’s two largest career management firms, that’s when he decided to work with Atlanta’s most effective career management firm. 🙂 Soon after, he landed a good job at The Home Depot, and he worked there for more than a year. Later, he called to say that he’d landed a great job with Georgia-Pacific. He got a $20K raise. He laughed when he said he’d only had two interviews since he hired me; both resulted in offers.

That made me feel pretty awesome.

What a privilege it is to serve. I told some friends recently that I serve at God’s pleasure – and I hope he wants me to do this for a long time to come!

God is at work in your career.

Here are three lessons I’ve learned and want to share with you:

1. Trust God’s plan. Friends, I can assure you that God is at work in your career. He has a plan and a purpose for your life and career; plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a future with hope. I know that no matter where you are now, no matter where you think you are going, he can lead you to where he wants you to be. Whatever he has in mind for you is better than what you’ve asked for.

2. Discern God’s will. Pray for wisdom and discernment. God will speak to you through others, through assessments, during times of quite reflection, at dead ends and disappointments, or in the middle of a parade (this really happened to a member of JobSeekers in July 2004 at the PTC Independence Day parade).

3. Step out in faith. Work hard at what you believe God wants you to pursue. Ecclesiastes 9:10a says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” If you are on the wrong path, he will lead you where he wants you to go – as long as you seek him with all your heart.

See you Friday at JobSeekers – the place where we step out in faith and experience God’s abundant grace!

Copyright © 2016 / Dave O’Farrell / All Rights Reserved

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    Comments

    1. God bless you for being such an inspiration to others. I appreciate all of your stories shared, testimonies, funny quotes. Many continued blessings to Peachtree City JobSeekers and see you soon. ~ Eden Mabry / Edenstyle Events

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