If you were to do a Google search using the words “bad career timing” I’m 64% sure my name would appear somewhere near the top of the list. I don’t think I could be much worse at it. The funny thing is (not ha-ha funny, more like what-the-crap! funny) that the choices aren’t foolishly made, and in every case have seemed to everyone I sought counsel and opinion from to be the right deciscion. Its not like I decided to start a crop-dusting business right after 9/11 or took a job at Lehman Brothers three weeks ago. These appeared to be wise, or at least sensible, career choices. The evidence:
Scenario #1. Left job as a custodial services engineer to get in on the ground floor of a new and exciting local telecom startup as the tech bubble was still expanding. Visions of IPO’s and thirty-something retirement. People I know, and who are in the know, stop me on the street and tell me how great it is I got in there so early and ask, “Are they still hiring?” I report for work November 20th…the year 2000.
Reality – Tech bubble goes burst, company goes through several layoffs, which I avoid, but I lose thousands of dollars on purchased stock options which are not even worth the paper they’re printed on. Spend the next seven years with an ok job, but its on a ship that is constantly springing leaks and the rats are constantly jumping off, at the end of my tenure my career prospects are no better than when I started.
Scenario #2. Get job with the county government. Its not glamorous work, but its cake and the benefits are great, which was the number one draw.
Reality – About a year after working there, union contract expires and bitter labor dispute materializes. Benefits likely to be slashed and working conditions are tense since I don’t really care for the union or the county board of supervisors.
Scenario #3. Decide to pursue a career in law enforcement. Local agencies have been hiring non-stop for the past several years, so its just a matter of passing the tests. Pay is good, benefits are great, and I can do some good.
Reality – Tough economic times put the hurt on both the city police department and the county sheriff’s department. Both agencies put a halt to trainee hires indefintiely.
And it isn’t just limited to jobs. We bought our tiny house, if not at the peak of the real estate craze, then not too far down the mountain from it, and if we had taken the money from the sale of our condo where we lived before–which we used as a down payment on our tiny house–and buried it in a coffee can in the backyard then dug it up now, we could have twice the house for the same money or even less. But instead we feel a bit like these people.
On top of all of that I am the world’s worst grocery store chekcout line picker. Inevitably I choose the line with the old woman who writes a check which the cashier then has to hand carry to the manager for approval, since they have never had someone pay with a check before, who then has to call the regional head of finance to see if they can cash a check with pictures of kitty cats on it. Meanwhile the 347 people who were in longer lines are already home enjoying their Stouffers french bread pizza’s and watching America’s Next Top Model. Or, if they prefer, Project Runway.
So, timing does not appear to be on my short list of strong suits and things have never gone quite as I expected. Now, in these trying economic times, some poor jobless soul might read this and say, “Save your sob story you greedy ingrate. You’ve worked steadily for ten years and I lost my job at the [insert factory/plant/mine/mill/investment bank/etc.] years ago and I’ve used my food stamps to buy enough ramen to rebuild the Great Wall of China.” To those I say, touche’. And that’s the point I want to make.
Things may have not gone as I hoped, but the fact is I haven’t been foreclosed on, I’ve never had to look for a job out of desperation, and putting food on the table and paying the bills have never really been a concern. I’m not wealthy and don’t have a lot of extra bread lying around, but Jen and I are certainly better off than a lot of people, especially these days.
While my career and wealth management goals may have been adversely affected by my poor timing, to say that those years have been completely fruitless would be a lie. Maybe I couldn’t retire thirty years early (I feel like an utter moron for even having that thought enter my brain at any point in my life), but taking that telecom job did a lot for getting me out into the world and out of my little Fortress Christendom that I had lived in most of my life. Maybe I won’t have the super health coverage I was expecting when I signed on with the county, but I’m learning to trust God and rely on Him more in difficult circumstances. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be a police officer, but that story is still unfolding, so maybe if I sit back and let God do the work and trust Him to know what’s best for me and when, then maybe that door will open again in the future.
These can be hard lessons to learn, especially during times of uncertainty. But I know I’ll be the better for it. The Bible tells us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways aren’t our ways. I think its safe to say that applies to timing also. While I may not give myself a gold star for career choices, I know God will open up that door for me when the time is right.