The year was 1932, and my mother could no longer continue in college. Besieged by the Great Depression, the financial toll on her family was just too great. For this same reason, none of her siblings had gone to college, either. In the absence of a healthy economy and a father (who died when Mother was three years old), financial hardship necessitated that the older children work to help support the family.
Mother felt so guilty about being in college that, without telling any of the family, she dropped out and returned to Idabel, Oklahoma, to look for work. But people just weren’t hiring.
When Aunt Swann wrote from Shreveport to suggest that there might be work there, Mother eagerly moved in with her sister, who arranged a job interview with Louisiana’s largest law firm. A woman was going on maternity leave, and the firm needed a temporary employee. With so many out of work, though, Mother knew the competition would be fierce. “Walking in for my job interview, I was so scared, I was trembling,” she told me many years later.
Afterward, as Mother was leaving, the lawyer said, “We will call you if we need you.” My Aunt Swann, who had accompanied her to the interview, shot back. “Oh, she’ll be here at 8 a.m. tomorrow, whether you need her or not.”
“I was so surprised when she said that, I was speechless,” Mother told me. “But, sure enough, I was there that next morning, right on time.”
Guess who got the job?
In the process, Mother got something else of unparalleled value – a life-lesson on the critical role of initiative when it comes to finding and keeping a job. Countless times throughout my life, I remember her saying, “Always do a little bit more than what is expected of you.”
As an employer, myself, at Hope For The Heart for over 25 years, I’ve had an opportunity to identify, firsthand, the hallmarks of great employees. While they all possess remarkable initiative and work ethic, my employees also have a number of other indispensable qualities that make them truly extraordinary among the ordinary. Here are just a few:
It’s been said, “Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit, and you reap a character. Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”
The point is that there are no insignificant ethical issues. I believe with all of my heart that, to succeed on the job, you must earn a reputation as a trustworthy employee with uncompromising business practices – a person known for doing the right thing and encouraging others to do likewise. Proverbs 11:3 makes it plain: “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”
As Christians, we are “ambassadors for Christ” with His very life on the inside. Since our heart is His home, it’s impossible to take Him along with us only on Sundays but leave Him behind the rest of the week. Surrendered to Him, working as an accountant is just as spiritual as being the Chief Servant Officer (my job title) of an international Christian ministry. The fact is, all of our work should always be performed as ministry, serving others because Christ is in us, seeking expression through us.
Employers want and need versatile team players who are able to operate effectively in a dynamic workplace … employees of excellence who can build relational bridges that contribute to team success … employees who manage their time and personal work environment for maximum productivity. As an employee, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Of course, there are many other traits that make for an extraordinary employee. And in this day of near-historic levels of unemployment, I am also well aware that even the most outstanding employees may sometimes lose their jobs for reasons completely beyond their control. If you are among the millions of unemployed searching for work, my heart goes out to you, my friend. To make the most of this challenging time, I encourage you to:
In closing, my prayer for you is that you would see your work, more than ever before, as a high calling and a ministry for the Lord … that you would use your job to make an eternal difference in the lives of your coworkers and employer, and that you would “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” I pray that you will find daily strength and encouragement in Christ, acknowledging Him as your Source, while viewing everything else – your job included – as simply a resource.