“Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go!”
Work is something we arguably “train for” our entire lives. From the moment you turn 5 or 6 years old, you are put into an education system until you turn 18 years old. Afterwards, you go on to choosing between vocational training, university or straight into work. When you finally finish your course, you then have to go through the emotional roller coaster of finding a job.
However, once you get a job, the journey has only just begun! You have a long working life ahead of you (40+ years from when you are 20 years old!) until you can kick back and relax (retirement).
Work is such a large part of our later life. As someone who has just finished vocational training, university or high school, what should you keep in mind as you journey out into the work place? It is probably going to be quite different to the casual jobs you worked at during high school too. How do we make sense of it all in God’s big picture for the world and our lives?
Here are a couple of things that I wish I had known when I first started out with my first job.
It’s going to be tough
Make no mistake, work is not easy! I wish it was, but generally starting out, it is going to be difficult with hard work, long hours and little pay (not to mention being taxed on it!). Even the Bible talks about how work will be toil in Genesis chapter 3, verses 17 to 19.
Unfortunately, this is normal for a few reasons. One of them is the fact that despite all your years of education, you do not have “on the job” experience. This also does not take into consideration that the role you take is probably quite different to what you studied as well. In reality, you are essentially learning the required skills as you work!
My advice here is that you will likely need to “do your time”. The first 1 to 3 years of your job can involve doing menial tasks, learning as much as you can, improving yourself and taking on more and more challenging tasks and projects. It also takes about 6 to 18 months to establish a routine and become accustomed to the new lifestyle of limited time, limited energy and limited money.
However, do not fret! This is just the (almost) necessary steps you need to take as you develop and specialise more in the field of work you choose. The goal is to broaden your experiences in order to understand what you are good at, what you are not and what interests you (and is there a demand for such skills!).
As it will be a tough few years, it is absolutely imperative that you establish good habits in prayer, Bible reading, church and fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ. This will help encourage and sustain you through your transition into working life. We are most at risk when we do not keep up with good habits to remind ourselves daily (multiple times) of God’s Word, promises and the big picture.
What is the big picture for our jobs?
As Christians starting our first job, we need to be wary that we are not prioritising our career over God. Someone I heard a while back put it nicely: “Jesus did not climb the cross for us to climb the corporate ladder”. We need to keep in mind the bigger picture of God’s plan so we do not get carried away with toil and career. At times in our tough jobs, it might seem meaningless. However, when we read and study our Bible, it teaches us a few things that can help us put it into perspective.
This is not by all means an exhaustive list: Our jobs enable us to cater for our individual needs (2 Thessalonians, chapter 3, verses 10 to 12); it helps us not to be a burden to others (Proverbs chapter 13, verse 4); it enables us to be generous to others and to help advance the Gospel to the world (Ephesians chapter 4, verse 28)…the list goes on!
There is a bigger picture of God’s kingdom that we need to keep in mind. Ultimately, as Christians, our mission is to tell others about the crucified Christ (Matthew chapter 28, verses 16 to 20). In turn, we need to be structuring our lives around this mission and not be caught up with advancement in the world. Instead seek Gospel opportunities in our workplaces and communities.
This might mean that if we are taking Paul’s example as a tent maker (Acts chapter 18, verse 1 to 4), our jobs become a means to support ministry. It also might mean we become extremely generous donors for Gospel causes (2 Corinthians chapter 8, verses 1-14). Perhaps it could be other things not talked about here too!
There is no “ideal path” for our jobs. God puts each of us in very different stations in life with access to different people and communities. This is all for His purpose of bringing people from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. So let us be purposeful and intentional about how we approach our first jobs and seek to work hard, not only for our employers but ultimately for God.
Brandon Tsang is a Sydney-based writer currently working in IT. He studied Marketing and Economics at UNSW and loves to spend his spare time hiking, playing volleyball or watching Netflix. Brandon Tsang’s previous articles may be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/brandon-tsang.html