When I began my career it was commonplace for employees to remain in the same career and with the same company throughout the span of their life. There was a sense of loyalty, submission, and long suffering attached to the place and people who compensated you. Over the years there's been a major culture shift and the rules of employment have changed. My generation had the mindset of having one job in ten years, whereas the new trend is having two - three jobs (and possibly even multiple career changes) in the same time frame. I started my career with longevity to a building and cause for 18 years, 15 of which were with the same organization. Yet, the past five years has been a world wind of employment changes I never anticipated, nor thought in my nature.
I'm an extremely loyal person and have even been told by a family member that my husband and I "are so loyal, almost to the point of abuse." Jumping around from employer to employer is foreign to me. Some may equate it to not liking change or not liking to step outside my comfort zone. Yet, people who've worked for or with me can attest the opposite is true. I actually love change and am always trying to think outside the box in how something can be improved. My tendency to stay planted is rooted in my desire to genuinely help people, honor those above me, and remain loyal.
So in all transparency, for the last six months I've been hesitant to enter the workforce again because I don't want to get a job "just to get a job." I have the mindset of a "lifer" employee. I've gone online and seen job postings but struggled with applying because, while I realize it'll pay the bills, deep down I know I won't be there until retirement. I don't know how to have the mentality of getting a job with the intentions of being there short term. So if it's not something I can commit my life to indefinitely, I haven't applied. My word is my word. If I commit to working somewhere, it's just that...a commitment. Not something I can easily get "in and out of."
So am I supposed to conform to the culture now and just take a job knowing I may not be committed long term? I read many worldly articles on the pros and cons of both having one job for years on end and having many different places of employment throughout ones career. It used to be frowned and looked down upon if you couldn't keep a job long-term. Apparently now it isn't.
As I pray, I keep thinking about the word "apprenticeship." Apprentice is defined by dictionary.com as "a person who works for another in order to learn a trade; a person legally bound through indenture to a master craftsman in order to learn a trade; a learner; novice; tyro."
Thinking about this word, I realized how life used to be so simple. An individual would become an apprentice and learn a trade from their master -- whatever that trade was: accounting, law, marketing, heating and air conditioning, auto-mechanics, etc. In days past, a master would take the necessary time to teach their apprentice a set skill and the apprentice would replicate the skill. However, we now live in such a complex, fast paced, busy, ever changing world. Could it be that our extreme complexities, busyness, and always changing, instant gratification world has contributed to the need for higher levels of diversified teaching and learning? Have we fallen into a world where one company can no longer invest and teach employees all the skills they'll need for a trade? Now everyone is trying to be the "next best thing" and have the "next best or most inspiring quote" that will be shared 1 million times, or create the "next viral story or video." In doing so, have we become so busy that we put product over people?
I fear with the heightened complexities, ever changing demands, busyness, and drive to be the biggest and the best, we've lost our sense of loyalty, submission, and long suffering. If as the master an apprentice doesn't work out or fit in the culture, we will just let them go. We no longer invest the time required to teach the apprentice. If as the apprentice I don't get along with my master or fail to get the promotion or pay I'm worth, I'll just go find another higher paying job. We live in a culture where employers aren't loyal to their employees and vice versa.
It's no wonder why there's so much division and hatred being poured out in the media and on social media. We've lost the art of respectful conflict that's taught through loyalty and long suffering. If every time things don't feel right or we're offended we bail, how do we learn to respectfully disagree and still love each other and work for a common goal as a team? In the 18 years I worked at Juvenile Court in Chicago, I surely wasn't always happy in my assignments and I wasn't always compensated at the rate my skills and qualifications would render in the marketplace. But I was loyal and stuck with it. As a result I believe God's favor was upon me and I was rewarded. We ask for favor but we aren't loyal.
Maybe you find yourself in a position at work or ministry where it would be easier to just pack up and find another job or church. Could it be God wants to teach you the art of conflict and the gift of long suffering? You mean suffering is a gift? Yes it can be. The days of being in charge of our finance division at my job in juvie weren't desired, yet have proven extremely beneficial.
Now hear me - I'm not talking about abuse. If you're in a position where you're being mentally and emotionally abused or oppressed by an employer, in that case, yes -- say la vie. "You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey" (Deuteronomy 1:6). May God give you the wisdom to discern the difference between loyalty and abuse. Here's a few ways I've learned to discern the difference:
Are you loyal to your employer but they aren't reciprocating their loyalty to you through their actions? An employer's loyalty to you can be shown in a number of ways and not just by compensation. For instance, loyalty can be shown by your boss investing time into you. If they are always too busy to teach you as an apprentice, it's difficult to ascertain their loyalty to you because there's no relationship. Another way to discern loyalty is your boss entrusting and giving you opportunities where you aren't qualified or don't have the skills. My boss at juvenile court could be harsh and difficult at times, but one thing I will say -- he was loyal to me. He believed in me and took great risks giving me opportunities to learn and grow. I was an attorney and could've left and made a lot more money, but the lessons and skills I learned by staying through difficult seasons were invaluable. I didn't always like or agree with my assignments, but he showed his loyalty by entrusting me with complex assignments, letting me be creative, and allowing me to soar. He was loyal to our department's success and loyal to the role I played in contributing. His actions showed my skills and opinions were valued and so reciprocating loyalty to him was natural, even if sometimes his approach wasn't optimal. If your employer or boss isn't giving and trusting you with opportunities to grow and is instead holding you back, it could be a sign they're not loyal to you. Maybe they're jealous or threatened by you and therefore refuse to give you opportunities to soar. This isn't a form of loyalty and, with time, the suppression equates to abusing the call on your life, even when they have the best intentions.
Is your loyalty to man going against what God is directly telling you to do? Because I'm so loyal, if I'm not careful I can allow man's assignment to overshadow what God is telling me to do. When I've done this I put my loyalty to "man" or a company above my loyalty to God. You become a "people pleaser" and not a "God pleaser." If you've gotten a specific assignment from God and your employer or leader is telling you something directly contrary, ask yourself the difficult question: is my loyalty to the person more important than the God call on my life?
If you're getting opportunities for growth, even though it may be challenging and you may not be getting paid what you think you deserve, pray about whether God wants to teach you to stick with it and learn the value of loyalty and long suffering. I am confident there's a perfect position for the skills, integrity, and loyalty I will bring. Prayers welcome.
I leave you with Paul's Biblical description in the Message Version of the concept of "apprenticeship" in a letter he wrote to his apprentice and protegee Timothy. In this letter you can tell from the words and action verbs their relationship entailed intimacy, long suffering, and time...a quality that is unfortunately fleeting today:
"You've been a good apprentice to me, a part of my teaching, my manner of life, direction, faith, steadiness, love, patience, troubles, sufferings - suffering along with me in all the grief I had to put up with in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. And you also well know that God rescued me! Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there's no getting around it. Unscrupulous con men will continue to exploit the faith. They're as deceived as the people they lead astray. As long as they are out there, things can only get worse. But don't let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers..." (2 Timothy 3:10-14 MSG).
Whether you're an employer or an employee, I encourage you to be genuine, be a hard working and intentional master or apprentice who invests in the furtherance of your vision through each of your employees, and most importantly...be loyal to people.