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Work

Am I who my résumé says I am?

by | 17 September 2017, 8:28 AM

What do you say if someone asked you about yourself?

We’ve been through the drill in school – wait for your turn, think of something witty but not over-the-top, stand up in front of a group of strangers, deliver it.

As we go into higher education or into the working world, we meet people who are less like us – in terms of age, education background, or personality – and the pressure to impress can get #real.

To introduce ourselves, most of us might bring up our work – what we’re studying or do for a living – it comes quite instinctively as a normal (and effective!) act of self-disclosure to new acquaintances. It’s personal but not too personal.

But whenever our work comes up in a conversation, it’s hard to avoid the comparison game, isn’t it?

Sometimes you hear it in the chorus that the impressed group makes when they hear a job title that commands admiration, “Wah, doctor ah!”

Other times you hear it in the falling intonation from your new friend who hasn’t even heard of your company – “Oh…”

Work has been as inextricably tied to our identity as our names are; it’s what we tell people about ourselves. And more than we might realise, it has become what we feel makes us valuable and useful.

I had a fleeting thought one day: What if all my certificates and achievements over the years become nullified?

There will be a considerable amount of unraveling that’ll take place if my qualifications were no longer valid. All our hard work down the drain aside, are we still who we think we are?

For some of us, that thought is frightening. Perhaps because we’ve more to lose, perhaps because we’ve staked so much of our worth on our achievements.

When I look at my own résumé, it doesn’t seem to be much, especially when I compare myself to my peers who have not just studied at great universities abroad, but also excelled in their side pursuits.

But then I recognise that it is much in its own way.

While it may not win the jostle for a coveted job at a big firm, my résumé is a covert testimony.

If we know where to look, we can find gold – not just in our achievements, but in our personal triumphs too.

In the empty spaces between lines of black Helvetica, in the unwritten – lie the stories of our lives. We’ve gone through so much as people on a journey and we sometimes overlook the precious, personal details. Only we know the unwritten things. 

Only I know the lengths of which my mother went to ensure my education wasn’t disrupted by changes in the family. Only I know the emotional struggle I experienced trying to fit in at school. Only I know that it is by sheer grace that I have come so far.     

And these things don’t always show on the sheets of paper on which we summarise our “professional lives”.

“We live in a society that encourages us to think about how to have a great career but leaves many of us inarticulate about how to cultivate the inner life.” (David Brooks, author and New York Times columnist)

Résumés are created for scrutiny – often quite ruthlessly– but if we know where to look, we can find gold – not just in our achievements, but in our personal triumphs too. And if we miss those things, we risk placing all our worth in our achievements.

Take stock! Our personal growth cultivates in us something that cannot be nullified – it’s our inner life. Don’t neglect the seemingly uninspiring and unique details of your life, they may not be remarkable to the #haters, but they count for more than words can say. 

They count towards a story that is yours, written by the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 3:6). 

It may take you some time to see the greatness in you, but it’s there. So don’t stop smoothing out the rough edges and allowing yourself to be moulded into the person God made you to be (2 Corinthians 3:18).

So, yes, I am who my résumé says I am – and a whole lot more too.

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious, deeply devoted to her dogs, and loves a good chat with strangers. She believes everyone needs to know that they are worthy of love – you are!

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When God’s promises don’t mean very much

by Nelle Lim | 21 September 2018, 5:33 PM

I was standing at the precipice of a new season, nervously anticipating the last day of my salaried job and the dreaded world of freelancing that awaited me after. It wasn’t a career move that I’d chosen, but the company wasn’t doing well, so I’d been retrenched.

As I prayed and looked for another job, all the doors to the work that I wanted were firmly closed, but the door to the sort of job I didn’t want – freelancing – was flung wide open. In the week leading up to that last day, my friends coincidentally sent me links to sermons and articles. Everything they sent me related to the same verse: “So do not fear, for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10).

None of them knew each other or about my job transition. But receiving the same promise – “I am with you” – in several different forms happened enough times for me to see that God was trying to get through to me.

So I sat down one evening and said to God, “I’ve got to be honest. I know being told that You are with me is supposed to be something very precious, but it doesn’t give me the comfort that I think I’m supposed to feel.”

I braced myself for the gentle chastising I was expecting. What a sacrilegious thing to say, after all. But as I waited on God, a surprising question came to my mind.

When have I felt assured simply because of someone’s presence with me?

Thinking back over my experiences, I remembered two people who had a remarkably reassuring effect on me.

Mr and Mrs B were teachers I had in high school when I was in New Zealand. They would often organise hikes in the New Zealand wilderness during the summer weekends. They were absolute experts, and knew all the beautiful and formidable things about the outdoors, as well as how to navigate through them.

In the same way that I valued Mr and Mrs B because I knew what they could do and who they were, I needed to learn who God is before I could cherish His promise.

There were always any number of things that could go wrong in the bush. New Zealand’s unpredictable storms could transform the safest looking path into a deathtrap, likewise an unusually hot summer could dry up a stream at a campsite and leave you stranded for fresh water.

This one time, someone stepped on an innocent-looking tree root some 10 minutes after Mr B warned the team not to (tree roots are always deceptively slippery). She had to be helicoptered out of the bush because of how terribly she’d sprained her ankle.

Yet, amidst all the potential for chaos, I was never once anxious about how dangerous tramping could be.

I was so assured of Mr and Mrs B’s competence: no matter what happened, I knew they’d manage it perfectly. I was also certain that they cared about their students and would use their expertise if we needed help. There isn’t much point having experts at hand if they’re indifferent to your situation. This combination of what they could do and who they were made their presence indispensable.

It occurred to me to apply this reflection to my current circumstance, so I thought about the sort of expert I’d ideally like to have during this season of freelancing.

I already had the answer: someone excellent at finding jobs for me, ones I would like and do well in, ones that would open doors to meaningful projects where I could make a difference. It wouldn’t hurt if they paid well too, with the bills and all that …

And then, almost immediately, another question dropped in my heart. Is there anyone more of an expert and more willing than God is to provide all those things for you?”

It felt like such an obvious question, with such an obvious answer. But I was shocked to realise just how ineffectual I had thought God was. A source of comfort, sure, insofar as one is comforted by having their hand patted and told that everything will be fine.

But that’s not what relieves fear, no.

Fears arise from the thought that what one has at hand is insufficient to thrive in a situation.

I feared freelancing because I wasn’t sure that the irregularity of the work could always keep me financially afloat. The only thing that would dissipate my fear was knowing I had a tangible way through the quagmire – something I clearly didn’t think God was capable of doing!

My fears revealed insufficiencies I was already well aware of. But they also revealed aspects of God of which I was most unaware. My inaccurate impression of who God could be made me ascribe His promise with the value and power of a fridge magnet.

After all, whether words like “Don’t worry, I’ll be with you wherever you go; I won’t ever leave you,” mean anything to us really depends on the person who says it (stalkers say these things too, and that’s what restraining orders are for).

In the same way that I valued Mr and Mrs B because I knew what they could do and who they were, I needed to learn who God is before I could cherish His promise.

In the face of my limitations, God promises Himself to me – with all His expertise and His willingness – so that I will have what He has to meet my circumstances. 

His expertise is in keeping unstable situations stable (Psalm 18:2), in making something come out of nothing (Isaiah 48:21), in knowing how to give us exactly what we need (Matthew 6:8). How He’ll do it, He may not always say – but He always keeps His word.

My inaccurate impression of who God could be made me ascribe His promise with the value and power of a fridge magnet.

I realised faith is a little like how it was with Mr and Mrs B.

I never questioned the routes they took us on, even through some of the most mundane landscapes or on perilous trails on the side of a mountain. They had my complete trust, so whatever paths we were taking became irrelevant. I knew they would always lead us to some of the most spectacular campsites or mountaintop views that New Zealand had to offer. They always led us somewhere good.

When I question God’s instructions, or if I fear the path He’s taking me down, it’s because I’ve lost sight of how much of an expert He is in that area of my life.

He knows the ins and outs of the land and all the tricks of the trade and is the most qualified to navigate me through it competently. He’s the very best at healing broken hearts, in building secure inner worlds, in redeeming failures, in sustaining human relationships, in overcoming the impossible – an endless list of specialties for a God with infinite capacities.

I don’t know why being a freelancer is so necessary for me just yet, and I don’t know where it’ll lead. But I trust that He has excellent reasons for it. It’s been three months into this new season, and He’s already given me more work than I know what to do with.

Expert indeed.


This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.

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What I learnt from my internship

by | 28 August 2018, 6:41 PM

Around this time last year, I was looking around for internship opportunities to complete my diploma.

I was hoping for an internship where I could not only expand my skillset, but also serve God in a tangible way. So I considered serving in my church as well as in para-church organisations. As I prayed and considered my options, I realised that they ultimately would not meet my school’s requirements for an internship.

So after a period of even more prayer, I was about ready to give up on the idea of merging ministry with my internship – until I looked at my Instagram feed in sheer frustration.

… your work is an expression of your faith.

We are hiring!

There it was — my internship opportunity in an Instagram post by one of the para-church companies I followed. And as I thought about it, I prayed all the more … until I finally handed in my resume. To my surprise, God flung open every door, the school had granted the approval necessary and the organisation welcomed me with open arms. I was hired!

A lot has happened since then. I celebrated with the team as we hit new milestones and overcame deadlines together. We laughed, cried and also prayed with each other.

But now, at the end of my internship, I realised that I have gleaned so much more than just a set of new technical and professional skills. I’ve also learnt deep spiritual principles that now shape my perspective on faith, work and even evangelism.

Work is an expression of worship.

One of the first lessons I learnt is that your faith cannot be separate from your work. In fact, your work is an expression of your faith. Colossians 3:23 encourages us to work as if Jesus was our boss! Having the opportunity to do work that directly went towards expanding the Kingdom helped me to apply this verse in my day-to-day assignments.

The internship also gave me the opportunity to meet top working professionals in the secular realm, who instead of living just for Fridays, view their work as worship unto God. They perform each task diligently, following biblical principles in joyful worship even while working on the most mundane assignment.

So whether you’re in full-time ministry or the marketplace, you should still be serving God. Who you are at work on Monday should be the same as who you are on Sunday. While this was a very hard principle for me to grasp initially, I eventually went from dreading my work to seeing it as a joy.

Even though my work may not be perfect, I can now say that I perform my role as worship unto God.

Work is one of your greatest tools in evangelism.

The second principle I learnt was that work can be a tool to reach out to others with the Gospel. As I served with the team, I was always encouraged to think about how I would express these same ideas of faith and love in daily life, in a way someone who has never heard of Jesus would understand.

And as I met Christian professionals in the marketplace, I realised they not only viewed their secular work as worship, they viewed it as a way of publicly displaying who Jesus is to them. They knew that if they did their work well, others would take notice. This wasn’t for their own personal gain – but the opportunity to share Jesus.

Who you are at work on Monday should be the same as who you are on Sunday.

So I learnt to express the core tenets of my faith professionally. More importantly, however, was the conviction to begin displaying God in my daily life as well.

True faith must be life-changing. There’s a saying that goes: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Likewise, people can know what you believe but if that faith and love aren’t expressed in your day-to-day work and who you are at home – it just remains as head knowledge to them rather than life-changing truth.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to use my school internship to expand God’s Kingdom. My earnest prayer is that these two principles will forever change the way I perceive work not just in ministry, but also my home and the secular world as well!

/ junheng@thir.st

JunHeng is a 100% extrovert who loves caffeine – lots of caffeine. He also likes HTHTs, jamming and eating good food. Did he mention he loves caffeine?

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So you just graduated, now what?

by Justine Ocampo | 27 August 2018, 3:05 PM

Having graduated  from university, I feel like I’ve come to a halt where a forked road lies in front of me.

One path is called “God’s Will”, and the other is called the “The Worldly Way”. Good Christian girl as I am – I want to go down the first road obediently. But here’s the catch: Real life’s roads don’t have clear signages telling you which is which.

So how do we know whether the road we’re on is in accordance with the will of God?

Well, deciding on a direction is actually really easy, because God’s will can be carried out on both paths.

What is God’s will? So many Christians ask what God wants them to do when the main answer’s already there.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

In weighing up your options, look to choose a road that you will with traverse on with God – one where you’ll be salt and light for His kingdom. Selling insurance? Remind your clients of the greatest insurance plan yet – Jesus. Doing humanitarian work? While you’re meeting people’s physical needs, don’t forget to meet their ultimate spiritual need too – Jesus!

Just because you don’t know what God’s will is for your career yet, doesn’t mean you can’t carry out His will here and now.

Being salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) for His kingdom doesn’t just mean evangelising at every opportunity, it also means living upright and holy lives.

Do you reflect Christ through your words and actions? Just because you don’t know what God’s will is for your career yet, doesn’t mean you can’t carry out His will here and now. As you let God guide you in your career, do what He’s already called all of us to – lifting His name up to those around us.

Some people are blessed with clear vision.

They may have a strong conviction or burden placed upon their hearts for certain communities or marketplaces to serve in – a specific calling from God for a specific people. I think most Christians don’t have that. But I believe that’s perfectly fine.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

Being salt and light is something God has called all of us to – we who are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) God has blessed us all with unique talents and gifts: Some are good at growing plants, others love taking care of animals, and others still, enjoy talking to children. Some are better with numbers while others are better with words or pictures.

Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and God will do the rest.

What comes easier for you? What are you inclined towards?

Note that I didn’t ask, “What comes easier for you as compared to others?” or “What are you inclined toward as compared to others?”

My point is, examine yourself without comparing your gifts with others. There will always be someone who does a thing better than you, but that’s not what God’s about. Your gifts are yours, and He is more interested in your willingness to serve Him than your proficiencies. Have faith and assurance in God’s sovereignty, that He has given you your gifts and talents for a greater purpose.

There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” (1 Corinthians 12:5-6)

So what’s next after graduation? Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and God will do the rest.

I still haven’t found a job, and admittedly it does make me feel slightly anxious. But I know that God’s plan is good and He will open the right doors for me. Whichever door I do eventually choose to step through, I only pray that I’ll continue to be salt and light when I walk through it.

With the assurance that God will use me for His glory, I set forth courageously into this new phase of life.

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I was passed over for promotion six years in a row

by Esther Lim | 21 August 2018, 4:34 PM

It’s been six good years since I started working as a social service professional.

The work is tough but I’m always grateful to have good bosses and colleagues. It may sound crazy, but I look forward to work everyday and I believe that my work is my ministry and calling.

I remember when I first entered the industry, I told myself I wouldn’t covet titles or promotions. I just wanted to serve and work well to glorify God. I began my career with pure motives and a heart that wasn’t self-serving.

To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult until my third year. But as the years went by, people who joined the organisation after me were promoted one by one.

From now on, I’ll do the bare minimum. Since no one is going to recognise my work anyway, why bother to give my best?

Something within me was shaken.

I began to wonder when my turn to get promoted would come. I started to wonder if there was something wrong with my performance … but what was confusing was that my appraisal grades were generally above average. So I didn’t understand why I didn’t make it to the list.

I felt divided. I began to ask God if it was wrong to desire a promotion and have my hard work recognised, but God was silent on the matter.

In the meantime, I’d be triggered throughout the annual promotion period. I felt a deep sense of injustice – unappreciated for all the hard work I put in. And what would people think of my work performance if I didn’t even have a single promotion in six years?

So whenever promotion period came around, I would find myself looking for other jobs and sending out resumes, but God seemed to close all the doors. It seemed like there was something God wanted me to deal with first before making any changes in my situation.

That got me even more frustrated with God.

Promotion season ended several months ago and I didn’t make it to the list again.

I had a lot of bitter words for myself: From now on, I’ll do the bare minimum. Since no one is going to recognise my work anyway, why bother to give my best?

I wrestled hard with God because I couldn’t come to terms with it. But then He spoke to me through the Word.

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. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.” (Colossians 3:23-25)

God reminded me that I was not to covet other people’s portions. I had to learn to be secure in my own calling, not jealous of my colleagues who were promoted year after year. Because though I was happy for them, I had a toxic and envious heart that wasn’t honouring God.

And God convicted me that I should continue to give my best at work, even if it seems like no one appreciated or recognised my hard work. After all, my work is indeed His calling for me – that reason alone is sufficient to justify always giving my best. I am serving the Lord, not men.

God told me that He sees all my work.

It is not true that my efforts had gone unrecognised. God will reward me – whether it’s in this life or paradise. He reminded me that the world is temporary.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt 6:19-20)

… my work is indeed His calling for me – that reason alone is sufficient to justify always giving my best. I am serving the Lord, not men.

Finally God reminded me that He does not play favourites.

One of the things that was eating me up on the inside was wrongly believing in the lie that God has favourites … and I wasn’t one of them. But the truth is we are all equally loved by Him and made in His image. I had let the Devil deceive me that my promotion wasn’t happening because God preferred others to me.

When I finally grasped the truth that God doesn’t play favourites, I felt a great sense of freedom and was released from the bitterness. What I’ve learnt is that God is not just interested in our work, He is more interested in refining our heart and character.

As we continue to walk with God, let the Spirit reveal areas that are offensive to Him (Psalm 139:24) and transform us to be more like Jesus each day.

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How to be an excellent worker

by Tay Yong Thai | 15 August 2018, 6:08 PM

In the early part of my career, I learnt from my seniors that my direct supervisor was the person with the most influence on my career and ranking.

Coming straight out of university, where we were left pretty much on our own to figure out how to score in the examination, it was hard work trying to figure out what the boss in the workplace wanted. It got more difficult when I was either changing roles or bosses every 1 to 2 years.

But after about a decade of chasing after what each new boss wanted, I had an epiphany when I came to realise who my boss really is — God.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Working for the Lord enabled me to consistently behave in a way that reflects my beliefs and values. Trusting in the Lord for my work and career allowed me to rejoice always – giving thanks in all circumstances knowing that He is in control (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

It liberated me from the need to be a people-pleaser. I could treat people sincerely and do what I sincerely believe in (Colossians 3:22).

A SPIRIT OF EXCELLENCE

One of the first things fellow colleagues and supervisors look out for in us is our quality of work.

In a highly connected workplace, we are all dependent on each other for the performance of the work we are responsible for and how it fits into the big picture. However, as Christians, there is the added dimension of Christ in our work.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

We are representatives of Christ at the workplace and our behaviour and actions should be the best that we can achieve to reflect Him working in our lives. Being a good co-worker also opens the doors for us to share about our lives and what is important to us with others.

I had an epiphany when I came to realise who my boss really is — God.

TREAT OTHERS SINCERELY

On the surface, the workplace can be quite a competitive place and some may go by the mantra, the winner takes it all.

However, that attitude only works if you have only one encounter with the other party. A career can be a long journey and there are many encounters with many parties and it is important that we win someone over with our sincerity and admit our mistakes if they are our fault. Our colleagues will appreciate if we look out for their interests as well as ours (Phil 2:3-4).

I attended the retirement dinner of a Christian colleague last year and during the tribute session to her, a fellow colleague shared a quote which stuck with me.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

It is a reminder to me that in the course of our work, not only must we focus on the task at hand, we should take into consideration the feelings/views of others and also strive to reach a solution where everyone can take back something of value. Hopefully, we can leave behind a positive legacy and witness to others.


This article was first published on YCK Chapel’s website and is republished with permission.

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Article list

Am I who my résumé says I am?

When God’s promises don’t mean very much

What I learnt from my internship

So you just graduated, now what?

I was passed over for promotion six years in a row

How to be an excellent worker