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Do you think of job hunting stress as an outer condition or an inner one?
I found myself wondering about that as I scrolled through Linkedin, Indeed, Monster and other job search sites; and as I scanned the walls of Starbucks and looked at job postings in my apartment building lobby or on storefront windows.
Very often, searching for a job exposes us to assessment and judgment. With all the applications and rejections, our inner critic can tell us we are not good enough—that we’re deficient in some way.
Meanwhile, I know my spirit strives to do the right thing—to productively contribute to society, to use my talents and develop my capacities through performing useful work or services. I yearn to earn a good living and not be a burden to my parents, eat well, and give to those in even greater need. I wish to have the means to be independent and provide value in exchange for recognition of that value.
Very often this dichotomy can create mental and spiritual stress. Instead of hearing: “You have so much to offer, the right thing is just around the corner,” our belief systems disproportionately attune themselves to the world around us, and hear the voices of envy, comparison, apathy, jealousy and loss of confidence. During those moments, I turn to my Faith to remind me of the everlasting aspects in this life and reality. Rather than something as temporary in nature as a job, another deeper meaning drives this journey and challenge.
In times of stress, turning to religion as a source of divine knowledge, of inner knowing, can provide another more expansive view of reality. When discouraged, the Baha'i teachings remind us:
Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah’s eldest son and the exemplar for all Baha’is of spiritual power in action, assured: “The greatest divine bounty is a confident heart. When the heart is confident, all the trials of world will be as child’s play.” – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 5, p. 241.
A confident heart goes far beyond any condition of ego, resume, title or status, so I reflected: Why am I so focused on my career and my monetary condition? I realized that when stressed about material things we can all fall into a mindset that looks at reality solely as an exchange of economic value. Many of us narrowly view reality from that lens: the human being as a consumer, supplier, worker, owner, or buyer. Our materialistic societies encourage that kind of equation, sadly. However, our true reality is far more than that. The Baha’i writings, and religion in general, guide us with the knowledge that as human beings:
… the happiness and greatness, the rank and station, the pleasure and peace, of an individual have never consisted in his personal wealth, but in his excellent character, his high resolve, the breadth of his learning, and his ability to solve difficult problems. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 23-24.
So when the challenge at hand meant finding a job, I started to consider more seriously how to bring forward beliefs that see difficulties as opportunities to grow and perfect the share of inner virtues we each inherently possess:
The more you plough and dig the ground, the more fertile it becomes. The more you put the gold in the fire, the purer it becomes. The more you sharpen the steel by grinding the better it cuts. Therefore, the more sorrows one sees the more perfect one becomes. That is why, in all times, the Prophets of God have had tribulations and difficulties to withstand. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 8, p. 41.
This way of seeing things can transform stress and anguish, when the motive and actions are sincere, toward seeing things differently—and even seeing difficulties as an act of service to our inner development. That way, life’s tests, even a job search, can cause us to turn our beliefs towards being positive, knowing that we will gain in patience and love what we may not gain materially.
Just then, as I felt better about my job search, a friend landed her dream job at TedX, and another became head of a division at Google, where we both worked at the time. I found myself guarding against tinges of jealousy and envy. Turning to the Baha'i writings for a better understanding I read:
Man possesses two kinds of susceptibilities: the natural emotions, which are like dust upon the mirror, and spiritual susceptibilities, which are merciful and heavenly characteristics. …
It is attachment to the world, avarice, envy, love of luxury and comfort, haughtiness and self-desire; this is the dust which prevents reflection of the rays of the Sun of Reality in the mirror. - Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244.
Turning back to my challenge at hand, I considered—whom do I want to serve, how do I want to serve and where can I best accomplish that service? Looking for people and environments that aligned with my values and enabled me to bring my technical qualifications to bear became my North star.
I started to see the challenge and stress of job-hunting as a means to become even better, and as my thinking shifted, in prayer and reflection, I resolved to look at the situation for its hidden meaning:
Well is it with him who hath been illumined with the light of trust and detachment. The tribulations of that Day will not hinder or alarm him. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 147.
Using each rejection, interview and application as a process to understand myself, discovering the skills I enjoy using, and sharing those insights with potential employers and contacts in my network of friends and family, the stumbling blocks became the stepping stones to finding the vocational match I sought. One thing led to another and ultimately, with faith and confidence, I found myself seeking the roles that best matched the gifts and talents I wanted to develop.
All along the way, I prayed to restore confidence in moments of doubt, turning to the ultimate, most infinite source of encouragement and support. One of my favorite prayers in times of stress and difficulty is one I’ve memorized to keep it close at hand when voices of doubt creep closer, or when I become susceptible to envy or comparison:
Well be it with all of us to embrace the process, and see it also with the awareness of the One, unknowable Maker of all the world and all that is within it. Happy job hunting!