You Never Know

About three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear my friend David preach in his church in coastal Maine. It was a treat. This was the first time I had heard him and I was blown away by how God is using him to really speak to people’s hearts. His messages are powerful, challenging, and clear.

Beyond just the messages themselves, it was inspiring to me to see how God works. You see, when David and I were best friends in high school, he wasn’t even really a believer. Oh, he participated in the traditions he had inherited. He was brilliant, intellectual, creative, and talented, but had no room for God’s design in his life. It would have been hard for me to imagine too many paths less likely for David than to become a missionary or a pastor – and yet he did both.

With God, you never really know. He is an expert at confounding our expectations, typically by bringing about something much more glorious than we could have imagined, even if we don’t recognize it right away. That gives me a lot of hope.

It gives me hope for the people I know and care about who seem to have no room in their lives for God – the self-sufficient, the skeptical, the too practical, or just too busy. To me they look like people who will never realize how much they need Him – but with God you never know.  Maybe those are the very people He will choose for His most amazing transformations.

It gives me hope in my own life as well. There are so many things that we spend our time on – projects, bills, chores, red tape, errands, mundane details -  that appear to have no eternal significance. So much of life in which we don’t feel we are making an impact. But with God you never know. If He is involved with you, there is eternal work being done.

Take a listen to David here:

David’s sermons online

He really helps me see into Paul’s mind better than anyone I’ve heard speak. Maybe that’s because Paul too was one of God’s surprises – an unlikely Apostle, but with God…you just never know.

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Looking “Foreword”

I’m happy to announce that Andy Chan will write the foreword for my upcoming book What’s Your Function? Working it out with God. Andy is the Vice President for Personal and Professional Development at Wake Forest University. A CSO Research Poll ranked Andy first on its list of Top 10 most visionary leaders in career services for 2013. His work has also been highlighted in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

I connected with Andy after reading his article in Faith & Leadership about taking a holistic view of career planning. Andy read an early copy of What’s Your Function? and has written a fantastic, insightful foreward to lead off the book. To see Andy in action, check out his TEDx talk above, entitled, “Career Services Must Die.”

 

(pre-order your copy of What’s Your Function? before its October release)

 

Grow Stronger

A Viking ship beaches on the shore of a northern wilderness. The warriors leap off one by one and head up the beach. One of the last men off is not a Viking, but a Middle Eastern court poet who has somehow been caught up in this adventure against his will. From the ship’s deck one of the Vikings calls out to him, “Here, you’ll need this!” and heaves down a very large sword. The poet barely catches it and yells back, “I cannot lift this!” The Viking gives him a wry smile and shouts, “Grow stronger!” (from The 13th Warrior)

I loved this great article about working in your strengths from blogger Matt Perman http://whatsbestnext.com/the-book/toolkit/do-what-energizes-you-not-what-weakens-you-what-it-means-to-work-in-your-strengths/
I’ll warn you ahead of time, it is a very LONG post, but worth the read. Matt argues convincingly that we should all be focusing and re-focusing on working from our strengths. It is easy to shrug this off as unrealistic, but Perlman disagrees, saying:

“Some people think this is a luxury. That this is the happy benefit of those who have finally ‘made it’ and hence have control over their work and time.

But I submit it is actually the reverse. Being able to do the things that energize you is not the luxury you get to have once you’ve been successful; rather, it’s the way to become successful. For you will work harder, longer, and with more diligence at things you love to do over things you dislike to do.”

He shares a few concepts I really appreciate, including the incredibly simple but also very effective way of identifying a strength, which he quotes from Marcus Buckingham:

“your strengths are those activities that make you feel strong.”

Almost weirdly simple, isn’t it? And yet really true. Think of the activities in your day that sap your energy. Now think of those things you do, hopefully on a somewhat regular basis, that suddenly refill your tank. What if those things were your primary activities?

The other concept I love is his description of strengths or talents as a multiplier.

“Here’s the important thing about talents: When you add knowledge and skill to an area of talent, the talent acts as a multiplier. Not an additive, but a multiplier. So if you add knowledge to an area where you have talent, you don’t become twice as good at it; you become ten times as good at it.

This is why it is best to focus on building your strengths, not areas of weakness. For the difference in effectiveness is immense. You won’t just be a bit more effective; you will be many times more effective.”

I noted with interest that he was clear that talents themselves are not enough, but must be paired with a clear interest or drive in that area. This is parallel to the way I explore combining your Purpose with your Insight in What’s Your Function?

Matt does a terrific job making the case for working in your strengths as a matter of Kingdom building and Biblical stewardship. He exhorts, “Don’t be like the guy that buried his talent in the ground.”

I hope you enjoy the post and see more clearly the strengths God has given you for His glory.

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A Competitive Job Market for New Grads

Here’s another great infographic, this one showing the disconnect between perception and reality for new grads entering the job market. In some ways the expansion of access to higher education has helped more students be able to go to college, but has also moved the competition point down the road to entry into the job market. While a college degree may still be needed for access to certain job types, often it is the active learning experiences – like internships, study abroad, research, volunteer work, or summer work – that set one candidate apart from another.

I spend a whole chapter in my upcoming book, What’s Your Function? Working it Out with God on strategies for “Storming the Market.” Whether you are a young adult looking to enter the job world for the first time, or someone seeking to re-orient your career, you can benefit from using search strategies that take advantage of your strengths. Once you have an idea of the kind of things you were built to do, you can begin to demonstrate your value to employers, but the way you choose to do this should be based on who you are.

The “Storming the Market” chapter points out that the extroverted searcher might excel at networking events, but really struggle to do thorough research.The introvert might fade into the background in networking, but find that LinkedIn is his or her new best friend. That’s okay. The majority of your job search energy should be directed at activities that build on your Function (the combination of God-given abilities, passions, and market value). These activities allow you to put your best foot forward in your initial impression with employers.

You don’t need to be equally skilled with all search strategies – research, networking, informational interviewing, prospecting, etc. If you know who you are (Chapters 1-7), you can select the strategies that will be most effective for you.

At the moment, What’s Your Function? is scheduled to release on October 1st. I’ve just finished the editing phase and I’m excited to get it out to everyone. In the weeks to come I’ll share more tips and excerpts from the book, including information on “building your brand”, career discovery activities, and alternative employment techniques for those in tough job markets.

Stay tuned!

 

Similar posts: Pre-Order, Online Curriculum, Internships

 

 

Should I Go Ivy League? Elite Institution Cognitive Disorder

 

I was really intrigued by this YouTube video of Malcolm Gladwell’s take on why we are so enamored with brand name institutions, even when the evidence does not support that they are likely to make more of their students successful. For many years, I’ve had a gut feeling that it is less about which school you go to or company you work for than it is about what you bring with you. When people have asked me for advice about what college to choose, I’ve encouraged them to pick a place where they will be a star – where they will receive resources and attention and opportunities beyond the average student. I believe it is to a student’s advantage to be a bit of a “big fish” in whatever size pond they choose. I often even joked that choosing a college is a bit like dating, the trick is to find someone who likes you as much as you like them.

The theory that Gladwell presents is that there is something called Elite Institution Cognitive Disorder, that applies whether we talk about college choices or the best companies to work for. As he talks about, instead of keeping our perspective about our abilities and accomplishments, we tend to constantly compare them with those around us, no matter how elite the company we are keeping. It is the best students in each environment, whether elite or not, who find the most success. And yet we often continue to choose the name brand, even if it might not be the best choice for us. So is brand name overrated? What do you think?

Enjoy!

 

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