Working at a job you don’t like is hard. Making a career transition is hard. Searching for a job before a pandemic was hard. Searching for a job during COVID has felt impossible. But even in these struggles, God has faithfully been with me through this entire career rollercoaster.
Hi, I’m Jeannie Lee, a member of Lighthouse Community Church and Praxis Young Adult Ministry. I’ve been through many career ups and downs these past couple of years to now, where I studied a profession that originally didn’t suit me well and pivoted to a completely different career within the last year. Currently, I am searching for a full time paid position during this hard season of COVID.
I have to preface this post by saying, I am privileged in my circumstances because I don’t have other people that financially depend on my salary, I live with family so I am financially supported and I have college and post-college degrees that give me a leg up in roles with greater responsibility. So though I may not know what it looks like first hand to struggle with these additional factors, I can empathize that others’ struggles might look different. I hope my testimony of God’s faithfulness in my career journey may remind you that you are not alone in your struggles.
- God Revealing My Career Discontentment
So I’m going to take it way back before COVID was on anyone’s radar because my past career experience will give context as to why career has been my greatest idol. I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Earth and Environmental Science and a Masters in Marine Science. At the time, I naively chose science degrees because I found temporary satisfaction in believing that STEM degrees could provide future job security over other degrees (Looking back at this logic, this of course is completely untrue.). Going into Bachelors degree, I had no specific interest in the field – I only knew that climate change was real based on a growing job market with the decline of the environment. Selfishly, I later pursued my Masters to increase my salary wage with an additional degree.
After I finished graduate school in 2017, I found myself at a plastic water bottle company and later a wastewater management company – both places that could be seen as questionable for a scientist to be working at. At both roles, I often found myself unmotivated with my work. I often justified that my earned money could go towards the church and community, which inherently isn’t a bad way to honor God, but I would overlook my work discontentment. I would go home bitter towards the work pace and lack of tangibly helping others.
In my discontentment, I often day dreamed of creative careers that I would love to do with no limitations. I never saw my innate desire to create to be intertwined with science until I worked on project proposals at the wastewater management company. I discovered how important visual architectural floor plans were for these environmental projects. So I looked into architecture programs, spoke with industry experts, and slowly planned my transition out of science into design on my own timeline.
But in late 2018, I was let go from my job as my role became obsolete when the president abruptly left the company. The decision was unexpected, one that gave me no control over what I would do next. I found solace in Ps. 135:5, where I often reflected upon the ways He provided for me through graduate school and other difficult life events. Remembering that the Lord was faithful then, helped me to remember that God will still be faithful in the present and future.
After the initial shock, I eventually found peace with God’s timing of job loss and saw this down time as an opportunity to jump into design with no regrets. But even with a calm heart, I still felt fearful of the unknown because of 1.) the overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to start and 2.) the loss of job security I clung onto from years of scientific experience. In all of these fears, I saw my sin for control, comfort, and fear of man take a hold of me. As my heart was revealed by these sins, I acknowledged my pain, repented and chose to see God’s love in this hard season. I wrote in my journal:
“I’m still going through the motions of this job “break up” and I know it’s ok to not be ok. I know that nothing that has passed through your hands is of ill will but instead out of love. These trials help me see your character God in ways I could never experience when everything was going fine. This valley of life is low but so deeply filled with grace. You want my heart to far greater treasure what requires pruning and placement in the furnace. I bless you Lord that you provide peace and calm, but more than that, my heart longs to know God in a deeper more intimate way. This often requires my faith to be tested in ways that I may not want or by circumstances that I would not choose. The fight for my faith is to believe that God’s sovereignty is good and You work for all things good.”
- God the Creator and Designer
With freedom, came a lot of weight and responsibility. It came from my desire to control my new career trajectory. I found myself creating high hopes and expectations for this new career, wanting to not waste time and fail again. Full speed ahead, I sought to settle on a new career, without considering allowing the Lord to move on His timing, not mine, and reveal where He was calling me. So during this time, I received pastoral counsel advising me to slow down. I was reminded that by trusting the Lord, I would learn how to not overthink, but rather immerse myself in His presence.
Additionally, the loss of job security left me feeling so inadequate, especially when I compared my career achievements with those of my peers. I felt so much shame leaving behind 8 years of work in environmental science to start all over again at a junior level in design, an industry that I had previously considered superfluous.
But in God’s perfect timing, He revealed His purpose for design to me through SOLA Conference 2019, where I attended a breakout session titled “Why the Church and Artists Need Each Other”. This session led me to Ex. 31:2-5 which spoke truth into my heart about God’s role as a Creator with purposeful roles for artists. These verses helped me see work, especially artistic work, as a means to glorify God. With my eyes open, I saw how God purposefully shaped me with an interest in design and creativity. Ultimately, this insight helped me to solidify my decision to pivot away from a career focused on environmental science to design.
- Seeking Godly Ambition
From here, I began to deep dive into different creative careers. I talked to architects, but found it to be more similar to engineering. Finding out that architecture might not be as creative as I hoped for, I jumped into interior design. To further explore this field, I talked to interior designers and signed up for an intro course at a community college. I loved everything about interior design, especially the ability to create a room to make people feel a certain way. It was during this season that I realized how much I love visual design and wanted to incorporate it into my future career. My hopes for interior design were then met with a screeching halt when I was introduced to user experience (UX) design by an interior design professor. He suggested UX as a perfect bridge between my research background and current design pursuit, where I could directly create digital designs for products that improve the lives of users. This insight led me to where I am today as a UX Designer.
To any observer on the outside, I was thriving and excited to be looking into careers that satisfied my creative desires. But on the inside, I found myself struggling deeply with the concept of ambition. Was it inherently sinful? No, in the pursuit of the Lord and helping others – it was a means of glorifying Him. Could it be sinful? Yes, in the pursuit of selfish pride and successful gain – it was a means of sin. I took a step back to consider why I was pursuing career so ambitiously and I came to the conclusion that I wanted to use my skills and interests to help improve the lives of others through design.
In addition to career ambition, I also struggled with high self expectations in timelines and work ethic. I’ll openly admit that I’m a perfectionist and hold myself accountable to do my best work. In my fear, I was afraid of the future, not wanting to put my eggs into one basket because then I would have to once again restart my career. Struggling again, I received pastoral counsel where I was lovingly asked these tough questions : “ Are your expectations too high?” “Are you afraid of disappointment?” “Are you afraid that you’re not working hard enough?” And my resounding answer was YES. I was afraid of all of the above. In this fear, I was afraid I was idolizing my career, thus unable to be excited to fully enjoy God and His blessings from this new career journey.
What I didn’t realize then was though God had planned a winding road through environmental science to UX design that took almost a decade. All of my experiences would eventually help me stand out in a competitive design industry during job search later. At the time, I was advised to enjoy the process and allow myself to experience God in fullness in this season. I learned how to view work as a means to glorify God, but not an identity. Sometimes I may have to learn and do difficult tasks but I do it joyfully because I know that my identity is placed in Christ as His daughter.
- Trusting Him in My Weakness
As I continued to learn more about UX through a bootcamp, I found peace and excitement with work demands, a prayer God answered. But over time, I discovered hidden idols coming back up to the surface – comfort, pride, and control. Imposter syndrome revealed my desire for comfort when coping with new career unfamiliarity. Overconfidence showed my desire for pride whenever I mastered a design concept. Disappointment displayed my desire for control when project timelines were not met.
These idols stuck around post boot camp during job search in January 2020. High expectations and overconfidence that I would get a job immediately came after seeing others in my cohort get positions at big companies within a short job search period. Imposter syndrome came back rearing its ugly head when I often felt inadequate to apply for positions that I didn’t have much real experience in.
But in this fear and anxiety, I leaned into my weaknesses as a means to depend on God and His power. I clung onto these verses:
- 2 Cor. 12:9 to speak of the sufficiency of God’s grace, that my weaknesses made perfect in Him
- Matthew 18:2-4 to remind me of my need for humility for a child-like dependence on Him for my real life design inexperience
- Psalm 84:11 to trust that God does not withhold for those who trust in Him for in my inability to control when I would get a job
Early COVID (March-April)
God provides in His Timing and Ways
When self quarantine for COVID came around, these fears didn’t dissipate. Instead they persisted, as the fear of being passed up for opportunities became very tangible. I saw veteran UX designers getting let go of their jobs with the hiring freeze. Junior UX designers like myself saw open job positions become unattainable with our inexperience. In my inability to control current circumstances, I subconsciously put pressure on myself to network and apply to as many job positions as possible. At the time, I reasoned that if I wasn’t putting myself out there enough, there was definitely no way I was going to get a job. Slowly, my idol for control came back in full force, as I held myself to high expectations and regarded myself as not working hard enough.
Weeks went by of this constant work ethic and I became physically, mentally and emotionally burnt out. This became a turning point especially when I wasn’t hearing back from companies or getting rejected left and right. I turned to my career mentors for advice and they recommended finding unpaid volunteer opportunities to get real experience. This proposition was not something I wanted. I wanted to earn money post boot camp immediately like others had done so. In my sin, I complained a lot to my close community about the endless waiting, but they pulled me back and reminded me of my original career pursuit to help others through design. In this season, Romans 12:2 reminded me that I need not be hastened to find a job like the world warranted. God reminded me of my need to trust God in his timing and the renewal of my eyes to stay fixed on Him. During this time, God humbled my heart by bringing forth volunteer design opportunities for a non-profit environmental conservation society and skincare start up.
Late COVID (May – Present)
God Does Not Withhold From Those Who Walk Uprightly
To this day, I’m still working with these organizations without a full time salary and God has been gracious to provide interviews from time to time. As much as I want to be paid for the work I do, I’m holding onto God as my greater treasure (Matt 19:21), knowing that He will provide a better Kingdom glorifying job than I could ever hoped for. He formed me before I was born and He knows where He can best use me to love others better and share the Gospel. I still very much cling onto Psalm 84:11, trusting that my God delaying a full time job is the most loving thing for me at this moment because He knows what’s best for me.
You are not alone in your struggles
Despite many low valleys these few years to present, I’m so grateful that God has revealed my sins. In turn, He’s taught me how to better walk alongside others in their heart struggles professionally as a UX Designer and daughter of Christ, a far greater blessing I had never initially anticipated. I would love to continually walk and help carry the burdens of those who are also struggling in this season, so feel free to reach me at email@example.com for a listening ear.
Lastly, I would like to share some prayers that have often encouraged job seekers like myself during this difficult season. Feel free to use and add to this list.
- We will lean on our identities as sons and daughters of Christ, not in our career.
- We will grow in humility that God uses our inability to control hiring freeze and economy downturn as a testament to His sovereignty and power.
- We will fight against the lies that we are not adequate enough when rejections/no responses come rolling in, as we are loved and valued in Christ’s eyes and through Him all things are possible.
- That God would grow our desire to know Him and His Word more than our desire to apply to that ONE extra job or network with that ONE extra person in hopes of controlling our job search process.
- Give thanks to God when opportunities pass us by that what a grace it was because God has a planned job position waiting for us where we will best glorify Him.