Stingy Sowing

sowing reaping

I want you to picture a plot of land. It’s tilled, clean, no weeds; as a gardener myself it’s a beautiful sight to behold. There is nothing so exciting and full of expectation as a ‘yet to be planted’ harvest. Imagine what God sees as He looks down at us. However, what God sees is not a perfect, clean, weedless, fertilized, field of soil.

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.'” Matthew 13:3-8

When God is sowing, He is throwing seed (His word) toward us, wherever we are. We may be on a lonely path, in a time of life where nothing is penetrating into our hearts. We may be in a rocky time of life, and because of the difficulties in life we are unable to maintain growth without the root. Perhaps the seed is sown while we are so focused on the things of this world, that we have no energy to focus on the things of God. Our desire for wealth, fame, position, choke out any desire we have for God. Then, sometimes, the Word is sown on good soil, where it will grow and flourish and produce abundant fruit.

The point being, God is always sowing. He is always calling out to us. He calls when we are not ready, kinda ready, think were ready and when we are actually ready. Any one of us have been every kind of soil at some point in our life. But God, (best words ever) keeps sowing. God never gives up, He never stops calling us, He is faithful in all He does.

“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139:1-6

God has also called us to be sowers. Christ called each of us who believe to reach out to all those who do not know Him. We are to reach out to ALL those who do not know Him. I have found that we have a tendency to reach out to those who we are most comfortable with. We reach out where we believe there will be the least resistance. We reach out to people like ourselves. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:46-47

What I found most inspiring in the parable of the sower; is that God continued to sow! He provided His word to everyone, everywhere no matter their condition, no matter their place in life. He didn’t discriminate in any way. Even knowing that some of the time the seed would not sprout, He continued to sow. God never gives up on us! He generously sends His Spirit to each of us, over and over and over again. He is constantly reaching out to bring us to Him.

Why then, are we stingy with our sowing? Are we worried about making people mad, offending someone, scaring them off, making a bad impression, losing a friend or just plain looking the fool? Everything that keeps us from walking like Jesus did, will fall away. We’ll look back one day and know all the times we stingily kept Christ to ourselves and the silly reasons we did it. We’ll also recognize that in the Kingdom, those reasons just don’t matter. How will we feel knowing that it was more important for us to be comfortable than to share Christ? We pick and chose who we think deserves our time as if we know better than God. We are called to sow not to judge.

We want to pick and chose where we sow the Word, we want to see growth, we want to stand proudly and say, “we did that.” But the truth is that God is the only reason any seed will grow, our job isn’t to identify the perfect place and time to plant, growth isn’t dependent upon us. Our job is to sow, and to sow generously. What happens to those seeds after that is up to Him. We may never see the results of the seeds we plant. We know that God’s word will always accomplish it’s purpose.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11

Sow generously, God will take care of the rest.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Hands and Feet

selfless-11-638I was driving to work this morning, on the rare occasion that I was not making multiple school drop stops. I was thinking through my day, and planning some upcoming events, praying and asking God for guidance and discernment. I pulled into my office parking lot about an hour earlier than normal and I got out of my car. To my surprise there was someone wrapped up in a sleeping bag lying on the sidewalk, blocking the door.

Complete transparency, I did not react the way I would have liked. My thoughts were uh oh, what now? They could be dangerous, they could be mean, they could yell at me if I disturb them…I could go around to the other door? Wait, I have to run to the store because I need to get flowers for one of my staff for their birthday. Ok God, I’ll go to the store and if they are still there when I get back, I’ll talk to them and see how I can help.

I went to the store, got the card and the flowers and returned to the office…yup they were still there. OK God, I’ll walk around to the other door and put all my stuff in my office, and come back down. If they are still there I’ll talk to them and see how I can help.

I went to my office and put my things down, and plugged in my computer. I grabbed my phone and my keys and walked down the stairs to the door…yup they were still there. OK God, I get it.

Trying to open the door, there was dead weight. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. I panicked, what if they were hurt, or sick or dead. “Excuse me, are you OK?” I Pushed the door a little more, “are you OK?” A man sat up, and began to apologize for being there.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to sleep that long, I’m so sorry it was just so cold last night.” He sat up and began to put on his shoes and continued to apologize. I noticed he didn’t have any socks as he put his shoes on. “Really I’m so sorry I’ll move, I was robbed and I have a job but they took my cell phone, I’m so sorry, really, I’ll go.”

I was so wrecked! “Please don’t be sorry, come inside and get warm the building is now open.”

“Really, thank you, my name is Tony.” He reached up his hand to shake mine, I took it.

Tony is down on his luck, he’d had a rough night and was cold. He just wanted to be warm and my response was fear, excuses and procrastination. I took a few minutes to talk with Tony, who was from Tucson and was coming home from California after his job had ended. He told me that each day since he got back things kept getting worse, the culmination was the previous day when he was robbed, loosing his lifeline to his job when his phone was taken. He was sober, articulate, appreciative and polite. After giving him some food, hot coffee and some money. He went on his way, to his job.

I’m not making any claims to the truth or validity of his story, but to mine. I was praying in the car for discernment on what youth curriculum to use, my parent’s upcoming anniversary party and whether to spend money on a new or used drum set for my son.

Tony slept in the cold, on the sidewalk out in the open, and had no socks. My response was not Jesus’, it was the worlds. As I began writing this, a Micah Tyler song came on. He sings:

“I want to be different,I want to be changed,till all of me is gone and all that remains is a fire so bright the whole can see, that there’s something different, so come and be different in me.”

How can we claim to be God’s hands and feet if we’re too afraid to step out of our own comfort zone?  We pray for God to give us opportunities to reach people, to help in tangible ways, then when it happens we come up with every excuse.

God wouldn’t want me to do something dangerous. Didn’t God send Ananias to Saul, the self proclaimed destroyer of Jesus Disciples? (Acts 9:10-19)?

God wouldn’t ask me to jeopardize my standing at work. God was clear that all we do we should work as if for him not men. (Colossians 3:23)

God wanted me to meet Tony, to help him, but more than that to show me…yet again…that His will, His good and perfect will  will never fall short of His glory. God loves all people, and not in an out there, for other people to act on, kind of way. Each and every person is precious to Him, so each and every person MUST be precious to us.

Regardless of what they’ve done, NO ONE is unredeemable! We are Jesus to this world, to every person we meet, it doesn’t matter if we like them or not, if they are rich, poor, clean, dirty, sick, healthy, young or old. That is who we are called to be, period!

The wold is full of Tony’s, full of people who need what we have, it’s time we shared with everyone.

I would love to hear from you, your comments and thoughts. Please take a minute to follow me and share with your friends. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Fired Up? You Should Be!

fired up

If hard skills get you hired, what gets you fired?

I’m sure everyone has heard from some source recently that soft skills are lacking in their job candidates.

What exactly is this? Working with college students and graduates, I like to show them this video“Entitlement Creed

I love how it sums up much of the soft skills gap so simply that it borders on remedial. However, I still hear from students and graduates alike:

  • So I was late a few times, what’s the big deal?
  • Yes I use my cell phone at work, that’s my personal business not theirs.
  • They won’t let me check Facebook at work.
  • They don’t like my language, but everyone uses bad words these days.

Yes these are real examples. Add these to the list of entitlement issues prevalent in our culture and we have a real problem.

A mentor told me that once you are labeled as; clown, lazy, foul mouthed, distracted, unreliable, unmotivated or entitled, it will take a very long time and a ton of effort to change that perception.

This is so true! It took me all of 6-months (probably less) to be labeled as a ball-buster that’s difficult to work with, and around 18-months (or longer in some cases) to repair and rebuild that perception. Not to mention an uncounted amount of home baked goodies. But it was completely worth it.

Trouble is, once individuals realize they’ve created the perception (if they ever realize it), they’re not willing to roll up their sleeves and dig in to fix it. They chalk it up to “This is the way I am.”or “They have to accept me as I am.” Then my personal favorite. “It’s their perception, their problem, not mine.”

I love the last line from the video, “If you think we’re asking too much (say the employers), then you’re entitled to look for another employer who will not ask these things of you. But the odds of you finding one aren’t good.”

Take ownership of your own behavior. Take inventory of what others say about you professionally, how are you perceived? Then dig in, dig out and make a difference. That is how you keep a job.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Graduates- don’t wait till after graduation to start the job hunt! Start now!

8-29-13 graduates...

I’m always surprised to get a call from a graduate that I haven’t heard from in months only to find out they are not working, have not been working, and haven’t even begun the career search.

“How have you been?”

“Fine thanks.”

“What have you been up to?”

“I took a break from the job hunt after graduation, but now I’m ready to start looking.”

“Did you keep in touch with your intern/extern supervisor?”

“No. I kinda just wanted to give my brain a rest after school.”

“Have you started applying with any of the employers you met with while in school?”

“No.”

“Do you have an idea where you’d like to work?”

“No. I just want a job. Can you help?”

Unfortunately, this conversation is far from infrequent. It doesn’t seem to matter how often I inform my students they need to strike while the iron is hot; inevitably, there are those who feel a 6-month vacation is not going to affect their chances of gainful employment. Even worse, they don’t feel the education they worked so hard for adds enough value to their skill set to obtain a career over a job.

WAKE UP! The country is full of people just looking for a job. We live in a country running short on skilled, educated workers, and you just want a job? Why did you go to college? Why did you spend all that time begging, stealing, and borrowing all that money to obtain your degree? Surely it wasn’t to get just a job?

If you are looking ahead at your graduation within the next 6-12 months, you should already;

  • Have a list of employers you want to work for.
  • Have a list of contact at those employers.
  • Know how your training/education will add value to their organization.
  • Have a kick butt resume.
  • Have a stellar cover letter.
  • 3-5 professional references all lined up.
  • Letters of recommendation from your instructors, supervisors, volunteer coordinators, etc.

Last but, by no means, least you must have enthusiasm, ambition, and determination to not quit until you obtain the career you dreamt about when you started your educational journey.

  • Don’t take 6-months off. Don’t take 6-minutes off.
  • Don’t ignore your resources who are there to help you.
  • And by no means, don’t ever underestimate the power of your education.

    “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
    ~Nelson Mandella

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Is Interviewing a Sensory Experience – Part 1 of 5

sensory overload

How much time do you spend getting ready for an interview? When I ask my students this question, the normal answer is a tirade upon how long it took for them to pick out an outfit (the winner thus far is two weeks), picking the right hair style and make up, and coordinating shoes and lip gloss. For my male students, it’s the Shakespearian, “To iron or not to iron” conundrum.

What many people fail to realize is that an interview, believe it or not, is a smorgasbord of sensory experiences. The interview encompasses all of your senses and after taking a minute to review them, you may be surprised how missing just one can cost you the job.

This is the first part of a series regarding the five senses of an interview.

Let’s take these one at a time…

Sight – This, of course, is the most obvious; it takes into consideration… your clothes, shoes, jewelry, make up, hair, etc. It also takes into consideration your walk, your smile, your cell phone, your watch, eye contact, etc. One of the things that novice and professional job candidates alike fail to recognize is that sight encompasses ALOT!

  • Are you talking on your cell phone when you walk in the door? BAD
  • Do you keep checking your cell phone or watch? BAD
  • Are you standing up straight and presenting a professional confident demeanor? GOOD
  • Do you look people in the eye when you introduce yourself and shake their hand? GOOD
  • When you are sitting waiting for the interview to begin, are you sitting up straight? GOOD

When I’m working with students to hone in on their soft skills, especially their interview skills, I tell them the purpose of the interview is to make sure that the hiring manager can actually visualize them doing the job. You never know what kind of prejudices the employer may have, so you want to present a clean, professional slate that they can see fitting into their culture. If you have tattoos, facial piercings, stiletto heels, low cut tops, high cut skirts, wrinkled clothes, and messy hair…what does that say about you and the image their organization is trying to present? Yes you may look great, for Friday night, but not for Monday morning.

Remember to think of the job you want and dress for it: not too much, not too little, but just right. Give yourself the best foot forward to get the job, and then let YOU shine through. An interview is not the time to make a social political statement; it’s the time to show the employer you are the best fit in skills, culture, and professionalism.

  • When in doubt, look in the mirror. If you think your skirt may be too short or your top too low…it probably is. Change it.
  • If you’re wondering, “Iron or not to iron,” throw it in the dryer till it’s flat.
  • Is your make up Friday night fresh or Monday morning professional? Fix it.
  • Can you hear your shoes or jewelry coming down the hall? Change them.
  • If you are expecting a call that’s so important you have to take your cell in with you…Reschedule the interview.
  • Take a look in the mirror, and ask one simple question: “Would I hire me?”

Take a deep breath, walk into the office, smile, introduce yourself with confidence, look them in the eye, and let them know you are the best person for the job.

Check back on Tuesday, August 13th where I’ll discuss how it’s not your nose but theirs that matters.

Summertime is here! So is the end of most people’s job search…

summerjobs

June is the end of most educational institutions fiscal year. Graduates are pouring out the doors of academe and jumping in full force to their job searches…NOT! I can’t tell you how many graduates I speak with in June, July and August who tell me that they are going to take the summer off from their job search; “no one is hiring anyway”. Wrong! The summer months may seem like a good time to slow down or stop your career search, but it’s not.

According to a recent article on mashable.com “8 Reasons Why Summer Is a Great Time to Job Hunt” there is a myth out there…much too prevalent, that summertime is a bad time to job search. If you just do a quick monster or CareerBuilder search you’ll see that contrary to popular believe there is as much, if not more hiring going on during the summer. That research does not bring into account the up to 80% of hidden job market jobs that are out there looming as well.

Summer is not the time to slow down your job search but to heat it up. Take advantage of the fact that so many other job seekers are falling into the “no one’s hiring right now” mind set and get a step ahead.

Here are a few simple tips provided by Barbara Safani in her recent article on AOLJobs.com.

1. People do more entertaining in the summer months; use these opportunities to network your network. Who do you know? Who do they know?

2. Family obligations can be reduced during the summer months. Use this time wisely, get up earlier, look at the job boards, make some phone calls, go to networking events. You’ll see the competition you had two months ago…has gone on vacation.

3. Most of your fellow graduates are headed to the beach so the competition for the jobs out there will be greatly decreased. It’s much easier to stand out as one of 10 then one of 100 or 1000.

4. Employers will be impressed by the fact you are diligently working to find your career not the best new hang out.

Summer has traditionally been the time to relax, have fun and enjoy the weather. A time to slow down and smell the roses; however, remember what your professors, career services advisor and parents told you…getting a job is a full-time job. The longer you wait to start your career, the harder you will find it. Literally tens of thousands of graduates are pouring into the job market at the same time as you. Most will wait to start looking, taking a break to kick up their heels and enjoy some summertime fun. If you take the opportunity to beat them to the punch, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank as you begin your Christmas shopping while they are still wondering how to pay the next month’s rent.

Help I need a new career but I don’t know what I want to do?

career change2I’m sure that during the course of your career, day, week, month, fiscal year…you have had one coworker make this comment. They don’t feel fulfilled in their current role, for many different kinds of reasons. They want to make a change but don’t know where to start. I have a colleague in this dilemma currently. She is a very energetic, talented, educated and highly skilled young woman with great work experience. But like many of us her career has taken some turns and her work history is more like the Great Wall of China than the I10 from AZ to CA. It took some turns and at times seemed to have little direction. However she is where she is and would like to have some direction before she sets off on her next road trip.

In one of our many conversations I began to ask her some very basic questions. And after she answered I had to respond, “No even more basic than that”.

1. What do you like to do?
2. What makes you really happy?
3. What are your strengths?
4. What do you feel are your greatest opportunities for development (fancy way of asking what are your weaknesses)?
5. Where do you want to live?
6. Is there a particular field or industry that inspires or intrigues you?
7. Do you have friends, family that you really look up to and what do they do?
8. When you think of people that really inspire you, what about them do you admire?
9. When you chose your major in college, why did you chose it and how do you feel about it now?
10.(Here’s the kicker) When you think of your life 5-10 years down the road…how do you see yourself?

Yes these questions are basic inventory questions. Some of which you may get asked in an interview, there is a reason for that! Many of us aren’t born with the innate desire to do just one thing in life. Some are, some aren’t…for those of us who are in the latter category, we have a tendency to follow our career path like The Great Wall with all its twists and turns. We make decisions as they come along, not giving a whole lot of thought to the Plan.

Working with college students, especially those who are just getting started, I have a very standard speech. I ask lots of questions, many I’ve listed above. Mostly I tell them that choosing a major is not dissimilar to purchasing a home. A house is not a piece of disposable property. It’s something you are going to spend a lot of time in, money on and energy with. If it isn’t going to last you through your 5-year plan (unless you’re a house flipper) you may want to keep looking. We need to think of our educational/career choices the same way. We need to look down the road to where we want to be. Why do we admire the people we do, what they have we don’t, how we get there, what really makes us happy and drives us to perform. If you can’t really answer these questions honestly, well honestly it’s not the best time for you to be looking for a new opportunity.

There are literally hundreds of articles being written and published on the risks involved with making a career change; especially in the face of high unemployment and a recent recession. There are some very common threads with the advice given; and believe it or not they are pretty much in line with the questions I asked my coworker. In addition to your employment inventory; make an assessment of the possible risks that may be involved with making a career change.

I think what my coworker discovered through this exercise is that it isn’t a new career she needs; it’s direction. Her job isn’t the challenge; her lack of a real plan for her future, where she wants to be not only professionally but personally is the issue. Now, that may mean a change for her in the future, but it will be one born of a plan and for a purpose.

Yes there are times when a career change is what’s needed to achieve that plan. I have made a couple myself; one born of frustration without real purpose and one made with intent, thought and commitment to my future. I am where I am today because of the latter, despite the first.

So the next time someone you know asks you the “I need to do something but I’m not sure what to do” question…remember, location, location, location. Don’t make the investment without the inventory, without real thought of the effect on the future. My mom once told me, “when you don’t know what to do…don’t do anything”. Made no sense at the time but now I live by it. How often do we have the desire to do something, when the best course of action is to sit tight, evaluate, plan and when appropriate, execute.

“When you don’t know what to do…don’t do anything.” Thanks Mom!