Interviewing to the Glory of God.

After eleven years in education, I am about to begin my first as a teacher in a public school. Until now, I have taught in alternative placements and worked as a paraprofessional. I never landed a teaching job in this field, despite assurances that it would have a shortage of workers. I’m not complaining. I may have dealt with some feelings of entitlement along the way, but I’m not complaining.

I have applied and interviewed for countless jobs in these eleven years since graduating from college. No matter how much practice I gain with interviewing, I always feel uncomfortable with the process. I hate bragging about myself, but it seems like that’s all a person is expected to do in interviews. Because the Bible instructs us to do nothing out of selfish ambition, I don’t think I need another how-to article on making good impressions to calm my nerves. 

Growing up in church, I heard much teaching about working hard at a job, as if one was working for God that was based on Colossians 3. I’ve also sat through many sermons on 1 Corinthians 10:31, in which believers are instructed to do everything for the glory of God. If I am to take these scriptures seriously, then what would it look like for me to interview for the glory of God? How does that change my approach to the entire job hunt? I’m no theologian, but I’ve found a few things to be helpful.

  • Much like dating is to marriage, so is an interview to a job.  Sure, it’s easy to get caught up in emotions on dates, but hopefully we don’t set out to deceive a significant other. Much like these first baby steps in relationships, interviews shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity to misrepresent oneself or to mislead.
  • If God is orchestrating everything in my life, if Jesus is upholding the universe by the word of His power and if Jesus is praying for us, I can rest easy the night before and on the drive to the interview.  Obviously, I need to take the process seriously, but I can’t trust that landing a job is simply a result of my well-constructed answers, confident body language or my necktie’s double-Windsor knot.
  • When considering how to interview to the glory of God, I think it’s also important to see the process from the other side of the table. It’s maddening to realize just how much time, money and energy school districts spend with staff turnover. I feel it’s the best use of the interviewer’s time and the community’s resources to hire the best candidate for the job the first time. If I am to take Paul’s exhortations the Philippians seriously and think of others as more important than myself, I must value my interviewers’ time and not be fake.

I know that I haven’t offered a prescriptive step-by-step process, nor have I presented some systematic theology of job-hunting. I am, however, sharing lessons I have learned from my feeble attempts to be obedient to God’s word. I need to be humble, even in a situation like an interview that seems to be all about me and my own career path. Regardless of an interview’s outcome and no matter how well I have prepared myself, I must remember that I am still God’s son.

-Jonathon

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Waiting is the hardest part.

Since I lost my teaching job at a small, private school three years ago, I’ve worked as a paraprofessional/personal aide for a wheelchair-bound middle school student. It has kept me from unemployment, but far from any gainfully-employed classification. I’ve been called in to interview for jobs for which I haven’t been qualified (at times due to no one reading my resume beforehand). I’ve been offered abysmally-low salaries for some rather large jobs. Two administrators, in particular, have interviewed me several times apiece, in what became obvious attempts to fulfill human resources-mandated quotas instead of helping me find a decent job.

So, I’ve just told folks I am underemployed, which is a great smokescreen. See, I’ve been jerked around so much in my job search that sometimes I’ve even tired of telling my wife about it.

I don’t want to appear needier than I really am.

Everywhere I turn, it seems like people have figured out all the lessons I should learn. As with other disappointments and tragedies, there are people who believe relying more on sentimentality than the truth will cheer me up. The problem is that no one can peek around the next corner to give any real advice. Worse yet, are the scores of people (including myself) who want me to feel entitled to some position because I’ve worked so hard and earned two degrees. The most valuable are the folks who keep focusing on our relationship and the day at hand because they know they don’t have all the answers for the end of my employment problems.

While the past three years have been wrought with much frustration, most wouldn’t necessarily know it. You see, I have whole-heartedly enjoyed my work. I’ve worked with the coolest kid ever in a class filled with awesome students in their incredibly-awkward middle school years. I’ve also been blessed to have a few great co-workers who focused on student achievement. In addition to all this, a beautiful son was born almost nine months ago and the bills got paid.

I reflect on all this because I just accepted a teaching position at the Gillis Center school for next year. While I’ve taught students with Individualized Education Plans for years, this will be my first special education position. (I just obtained that certification this spring.) The population of students will be similar to many of the kids with which I’ve been working for nine years. The staff I met at the interview seems great, and the pay will be good.

I know things will not necessarily get any easier. This will be a tough job. And even though the pay will be decent, Kate won’t be staying home with Ian for at least another year. Our bills have been paid over the past three years, but we’ve not been able to do home maintenance, etc. We need to paint, trim trees and fix a foundation. There are so many things we’ve had to put off.

Getting a new job just marks the end of a long search, but we are thankful the searching is over, and we have two weeks to celebrate before school starts.

-Jonathon

Summer stretching on the grass.

It’s been a difficult, yet somewhat encouraging, week. The best part is that I have some great friends who won’t allow me to stay down. We have breakfast, make silly trips to Cargo Largo, text about absurd church signs, listen to records over lunch and watch Ren and Stimpy together. Oh yeah, we also talk.

I think it’s tempting to sometimes think of people’s role in our lives only as a convenient pick-me-up. God has obviously placed them in my life and they serve occasionally in this capacity, but as I mulled this over, I began to realize just how selfish and utilitarian this thinking is. Sure, I have no doubt these friends and family try to lift me up, but I think our exchange is far more rich than that.

Are my friends here to serve me or am I here to serve my friends? I’d like to think that I still have much to offer, that I can help them be better people, as well. This is what keeps me going and can get me out of the house when I just want to close the blinds and take a nap.

-Jonathon