At last count, before I joined this organisation, I had worked at about 10 different jobs in 7 different organisations during the 17 years of my working life. Those jobs spanned varying levels in those organisations, from clerical to executive. They also ranged quite widely in description, from booking various types of tickets for people to writing procedures manuals and reengineering business processes to running a division and setting up a call centre. In those roles, I developed and expanded my analytical skills, research skills, management skills, people skills, and communication skills, to name a few. These jobs gave me experience in the travel industry, the financial industry and even in the academic world.
As diverse as these jobs were, the one thing that they all had in common was that I acquired new career skills and knowledge at every one of them. In each job, I threw myself into the work and mastered it, learning all that I could about the industry and company that I was working in, and about what was required for me to be successful in my position. Without fail for each job, my learning process resulted in my role being expanded (more learning) or my getting a promotion (even more learning). In every case, except for the last job I had before I came here from which I was made redundant, I moved on from my various jobs when I started feeling bored because I didn’t see where I had anything further to learn, whether through expanded responsibilities or promotion. However, in every single case, including the redundancy, I left my jobs with career knowledge and skills that I hadn’t had when I started them.
Not so here. I have acquired exactly zero new career skills and exactly zero new career knowledge in my job here. I didn’t realise that until a couple of weeks ago. With JEXIT looming large on the horizon of my life, I have been in somewhat of a reflective mood. I’ve been retrospecting on my almost-year here and all the ways in which I have changed. I thought about it and felt awed by all the personal growth that God worked out in me. But when I thought about my actual job here, it hit me that this is the first job I’ve ever had where I learned absolutely no new skills. Isn’t that a shame? I came expecting to learn lots about international development and how a small NGO works. Nope, didn’t learn any of that. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I mean, the place is so poorly run that it could be a case study for all the things you shouldn’t do, lessons which I had previously learned.
I took my reflection a little further and thought about why it was that my career skills have remained static this year. Had I resisted learning new things? Was I responsible for my lack of acquisition of new career skills and knowledge here? In all fairness, I don’t think so. Look at my TOEFL certification. I did that because I wanted to be a better teacher, learn something new, and give myself a new skill. Don’t be confused – I didn’t get that from this organisation; I went out and found it for myself, under God’s leading and guidance. I learned absolutely nothing about being a good teacher from this actual organisation. In fact, I would say that I’m a fairly good teacher despite this organisation.
Aside from the teaching part of my job, the other aspects of it are so basic that a trained seal could do them. Presumably, the non-teaching things that occupy my days are “important” in order to keep the organisation running, but for someone of my skill level it’s really just been ridiculously basic busywork. There were no new mountains to climb, no new challenges to expand my skills, no new tools, no new programmes.
Having said all of that, I could easily feel like I wasted my time coming here. On the surface it may look like this year has netted me nothing in terms of skill acquisition but that’s not true at all. God has used this situation to teach me a tonne of new life skills that will likely be more valuable than any career skills I didn’t pick up. For example, I have learned to engage at higher levels of shut-your-mouth and keep-your-own counsel than I ever thought were possible for me to reach. I’ve plumbed new depths of patience and tolerance in dealing with incompetence. I’ve experienced kindness like I’ve never known before, outside of my family and closest friends. I’ve learned about giving myself away. I’ve learned real humility. I’ve started learning to master my emotions. I’ve been learning to recognise my old patterns of people pleasing so I can kick them to the curb. I’ve gained more confidence in my ability to navigate this world – any part of it. I’ve learned to not let people’s ignorance influence my interaction with or reaction to them. I’ve learned to be flexible in my planning and be ready to roll with changes as they come. I’ve learned to trust God always, even when my brain wants to tell me otherwise. And I’ve learned how to walk out that trust, not just talk about it.
So in retrospect, this year has actually been a period of intensive training and learning for me. Some of the lessons have been very hard to learn and I actually haven’t completed them yet – maybe I haven’t completed any of them since I’ll forever be a work in progress. Either way, I’m thankful for the things that I have learned that now make me a different, and hopefully better, person than when I got here.
For this very reason do your best to add goodness to your faith; to your goodness add knowledge; to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add endurance; to your endurance add godliness; to your godliness add Christian affection; and to your Christian affection add love. 2 Peter 1:5-7 (GNT)