My unexpected path to career contentment

Sometimes I glance at the two diplomas on my office wall and think back to the sacrifice my parents made so I could get a college education. They wanted to be sure I had the chance to go “further” in life, since they only had the opportunity to complete 7th and 9th grades.

I worked hard to get those degrees. I can still hear my college advisors and professors telling me what an outstanding student I was, even naming me “Senior of the Year” in the College of Forestry.

It’s clear many people thought I had a lot of “potential.”

But here I am, over thirty years later, serving in an administrative support role.
Many of my high school and college classmates have achieved lucrative careers and lofty titles. In comparison, it would be tempting to feel as if I have failed to live up to my capacity or wasted my education.pexels-photo-952594.jpegI never dreamed of pursuing a career as an administrative professional. My formal “office training” consisted of one typing class in eighth grade (back in the days when we actually used typewriters). Perhaps I should have picked up that I had a special aptitude for office work when my teacher filmed me to showcase my typing technique!

It would be many years later before I served in my first administrative support role. It didn’t happen until I had six years of college under my belt and had worked in jobs relating to my degrees in resource recreation management and education. None of these positions had felt right or brought me fulfillment. In my mid-twenties, I found myself frustrated and confused about what I was supposed to “do” with my life.

The only thing I knew for sure was that I could trust God to lead me.

I had already resigned from a full-time teaching job, and my summer assignment as a youth camp director was soon to end. I earnestly prayed for God to show me what to do next.

That’s when I felt an internal nudge to see if the camp had any full-time positions available in the fall. They did—but it was a receptionist job! I gratefully accepted the role, but viewed it as a temporary career stop. During my first few months in the office, I couldn’t wait to move on to something else.

But then something surprising happened. During my tenure as receptionist, I explored the possibility of going into overseas ministry, even attending a national missions’ convention. Yet afterwards, I felt God saying to me, “you can make a difference right where you are.” When summer came and I directed the children’s camps for a third time, I surprisingly found myself missing the office!

pexels-photo-261622.jpegThis time when the youth programs ended, I was excited to return to my seat at the camp’s switchboard. Thirteen wonderful years in administrative positions at the camp followed, the final seven as Executive Assistant to the Executive Director.

While I had found fulfilment in these support roles, I still felt the societal pressure to “climb the career ladder.” I wondered if I was meant for what the world considered “greater” things.

When my parents’ health began to fail, I saw my relocation to their state as my opportunity to change career directions. Eventually I took a job in a municipal Human Resources department as a technician. It wasn’t long before I found myself in an Interim Director role. For four months, I reported directly to the City Council and handled employment and risk management matters for 250 staff. It was a good taste of the expectations and pressures that come with a leadership role.

About two years later, I found myself in the Interim Director role again, this time for eleven months. The City Superintendent urged me multiple times to apply for the full-time Director position, but I declined.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the job. I realized I didn’t want it.

When the “Assistant to the President” job at the local community college was announced about a year later, my heart leapt and I immediately applied. God flung open the door for me to return to a role that fits me like a glove. I will celebrate my eight-year anniversary at the college in June.

Many years ago, I was talking to someone about wanting to get out of an administrative assistant role. She looked at me and exclaimed, “Why? You’re so good at it!” At the time I didn’t appreciate her response, but now I realize she was right. My primary career calling is to serve in support roles, particularly alongside executives.

pexels-photo-974476.jpegWhile society may not always give administrative staff the honor we are due, I’ve come to understand how critical our work is in helping businesses, organizations, and leaders succeed. Even when a position doesn’t include a high level of “official” authority or power, it can be a role of tremendous influence.

I have been privileged to work closely with several exceptional leaders in organizations whose missions make a positive difference in people’s lives. My current boss recently referred to me as his “right-hand pro.”

Were my college years useless? No—they provided me with experiences and knowledge that I still draw upon today.

Am I living up to my potential?

As long as I continue to wholeheartedly follow God’s leading in my life, I can say a resounding, “yes.

As author Lysa Terkheurst states, “I don’t need a better position to get where I should go. I don’t have to figure out my path and strive to get ahead . . . As I follow Him and honor Him step-by-step, I can be assured that I’m right where He wants me to be, doing what He wants me to do.” [1]

There’s no greater career contentment than that.


This post was written in honor of the USA “Administrative Professionals Day,” April 25, 2018

[1] From Lysaterkeurst.com,  “When Impressing Others Depresses Us”

 Bible Verses on God’s Guidance:

(New International Version)

Psalm 25:4-5: “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

Psalm 31:3: “Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.”

Psalm 143:8: “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”

Psalm 32:8-9: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

 

16 thoughts on “My unexpected path to career contentment

  1. Kelly B

    Thanks for sharing that, Jane! I didn’t know the back story to those changes you made, and now in looking back, as you said, you can see how God directed you. You are uniquely gifted to be an administrative professional. Thanks for pointing out it is not about how high paying or lofty of a position we may have, it is about where God has us. That is much better soil for a grateful heart and a great perspective check. Thanks for sharing your story!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous

    You have done well in all of your career rolls thru the years leadingup to your administrative role at MCC! That is very admirable. I know tht that with your faith and love and guidance through the Lord many things have been accomplished and will continue to be. You are a very special person and Christian.

    Like

  3. Anonymous

    You have done well in all of your career roles thru the years leading up to your current administrative role! That is very admirable. I know that with your faith and love and guidance through the Lord many things have been accomplished and will continue to be. You are a very special person and Christian.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Julie McBurney

    Pay and status are not what the Lord is interested in with our careers. He wants us to serve Him faithfully where we are. Along the way with changes of jobs, he gives us lessons and teaches us skills that serve us well in our later career choices. Our satisfaction and joy is found in Him. If you were to have asked me in college if I would ever be a nurse I would have laughed and said “no way.” Yet here I am a nurse of 12 years now, my second major career change (the first being college teaching). Lord knows the job is not easy. My equipping from previous jobs and training has been invaluable though to making me the nurse I am today, and making it so the demands of the job can be met with professionalism. Thanks for sharing your journey and for your continued service to the college you serve.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anonymous

    Jane,

    A high schoolmate’s mom used to tell me, “Nothing is ever wasted in the kingdom of God” – that includes all of our experience and education. After I got my 1st Master’s degree (neither of which are related to my engineering degree), Ada Lum told me not to worry about what I was going to do with it, but to be thankful for the education and that I had more to draw on for life. I have found that to be true as I’m not likely to get a position that specifically points to those post-bac degrees, but having the knowledge base gives me a deeper well to draw from.

    My take on admin staff that I’ve worked with is we can’t live without them. I miss them when they are gone – they are the glue that holds everything together and the oil that keeps everything running.

    Contentment in work is not work, but part of the joy of life. 👍 for your “right-hand pro” title with your boss! That says it all. Continued blessings in your work ministry and thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Jackie Sawyer

    Jane I too am a support person in education! I’ve been here 13 years working in special education and for the most part I love what I do! It didn’t take long for me to realize 2-3 years lol that this was what I was suppose to do! I can be in charge if the teacher leaves but I would rather work close with students and go home at the end of my day having supported both!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This post helps me tremendously. It can be tough having a certain trajectory or a certain pathway in mind for decades and then seeing things unfold differently. I am currently in that position and trying to find that healthy place between keeping on, letting go, staying in faith, trying something new, not giving up, staying open, etc. Anonymous’s comment, Jane’s comment, the scriptures you shared, and your post overall helped me to let go of some of the self-judgment and worry, both of which can be so debilitating. Thanks so much, all!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the quote you shared, “Nothing is ever wasted in the kingdom of God” — so true! I also agree, many organizations/businesses would grind to a halt (or fall into chaos) without the important services provided by administrative staff. May you have continued blessings in your work and ministry, too!

    Like

  9. Yvette, I’m so blessed to hear that this post and the comments were an encouragement to you! I can relate to that struggle of not understanding why life hasn’t unfolded a certain way. I pray you will continue to seek God and trust Him each step of the way. I was just reading through some old journals this weekend and it was so amazing to be able to look back on things I was once so worried about and see how God faithfully helped me. I know he’ll do the same for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Kathy Canning

    Hi Jane, as always, your writing touches my heart. Thank you for being faithful in your work and in your writings. I am blessed and encouraged by what you share.

    Like

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