Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Jobs God Would Not Let Me Have and the One He Insisted I Take and Keep

Only four years ago now, I was peacefully and happily working in Jordan, a wonderful country -- ancient, holy in history, and friendly. Then, I got a fateful (not fatal, but at moments it did seem so) phone call from a former boss. He had just been selected to a CEO position and was asking me to come back to the States and work as one of his four direct reports. I would be responsible for national and international operations. Hm. It was intriguing, but I was already working internationally, shuttling between Bahrain and Jordan in order to help out the division in Bahrain which had lost its head person, and doing occasional consulting in any one of two dozen other countries. Hm. I wavered, mostly toward the status quo of the time.

Then, my boss in Jordan, an Egyptian of grand proportions and even greater temper, learned about the phone call, and the full fury of an Arab slighted fell upon me, loyalty being the number one trait that Arabs expect from friends and employees, at least in my experience. He immediately tore up my contract. He would not allow me to leave him; the only way I would be leaving would be if he sent me away, and he was doing just that. It was odd that he found out about the phone call. Only two people knew, and both insisted that they had not told. I had no reason not to believe them and still have no reason not to believe them. I am now pretty certain that my boss found out because God wanted me back in the USA for two reasons: (1) to find Him even though I was not looking for Him; and (2) my current job -- and I am still trying to figure out why God wants me in this particular job but have reached the firm conclusion, given a preponderance of evidence, that He does.

There was only one problem with this scenario (for my boss): I had already been paid for the quarter, so I got a 3-month vacation. However, there was nothing my boss could do about that. He left for Egypt, his residence, and returned in a month for his one-day monthly visit. By then, he had calmed down. We met, in the Arab way drank tea before broaching serious matters, and then settled down to discussing "the situation." I asked why he thought I would choose the USA over Jordan; I might very well have chosen Jordan over the USA. He seemed puzzled about that at first, talked about how I was "leaving him" (yep, I was right about the loyalty bit with him), and finally commented that he would be in his hotel room until the morning if anything else came up that I would like to talk to him about. We parted civilly. There was almost a sadness in the air on his side. Months later, I realized that in the Arab manner of saving face he was letting me know that he would like me to come back but that I would have to be the one to take the first step. I know that. I had lived in the culture long enough to read between the lines, but I did not. I took everything at face value, in the American way. Why? I have been called a "cultural chameleon;" I am known for being good at understanding the unspoken communication in other cultures, yet I failed to recognize something that I knew very well. I ask again, why? In retrospect, I think God must have clouded my thinking because He wanted me in the USA.

I began rapidly opening doors in Jordan, and I had lots of help. I had become well known there and had acquired enough respect for being a good teacher and a good administrator to have a number of job offers. I taught at the top university in the country for fall semester, which ended the day before I left Jordan for the USA (yes, I did ultimately take the job there/here).

Every door I opened in Jordan was closed. No, make that, every door I opened was slammed shut. Every person who tried to help me moved unexpectedly. Seriously. One professor and one administrator were moved by their organization to Bahrain, and one dean was recycled back into the faculty (it was the appropriate time for that to occur); but then he had the opportunity to teach in Lebanon, and off he went.

In the interim, I kept being pushed in less than subtle ways toward the USA job. First, given that I had no contract and every possibility for staying in Jordan dried up as quickly as it appeared, the job in the USA did not look all that bad. Actually, it was a very good job. While I was hesitating, the starting salary offer increased by 20%. That sweetened the pot, but I was still pretty intent on staying in Jordan. Then, I coincidentally (?) ended up at a conference with the most senior leadership from the organization, ran into them quite by chance (?), socialized a bit, and they urged me to put in my papers. I did -- one day before the deadline. That turned out to be a problem because they needed my transcripts from Russia, where I had completed my PhD. Oops! I assumed that this meant I should continue looking for jobs in Jordan, but no, the USA organization extended the deadline, quite coincidentally(?), by three weeks, just enough time to get the transcripts. As soon as the transcripts arrived, I was interviewed and shortly thereafter a firm job offer was made. At the same time, the contract of my husband, Donnie, was terminated in similar fashion to mine. Well, as I have learned, when God says "no," God means "no." So, with the USA job offer being the only one I had in spite of the fact that never before have I had any trouble cultivating job offers, back we came to California.

And within six months God entered my life as a Force to be reckoned with. (For details, see my conversion story.) And now, more than three years later, God has pretty much taken over my life!

After two years of working in my current position, I began looking for another job for several reasons: (1) the lure of a higher position and higher wages and (2) a bit of an ethical dilemma associated with one of the projects I supervised -- I disagreed strongly with the position of the organization. Once again, I quickly found another opportunity, a vice president position close enough to home that I would not have to move and with a salary that would be equal to a 25% raise. I was one of the top three candidates, and on a Wednesday interviewed.

I felt confident after that interview -- one usually has a sense of the success (or not) of an interview. However, clearly God had put me at my current position and wanted me to stay there. Things started happening again. First, every single day about once an hour one employee after another would come in, tell me how much they liked working with me, explain how much I belong here where I am, and share some story of some difference I had made in their life (usually something minor such as previously hating to come to work and now loving to come to work -- well, I suppose that is not all that minor). Here was something new, and I began to feel some obligation to these people. Second, on the Saturday after the interview and knowing nothing about my job search, Fr. Barry showed up at my door with an article related to the ethical dilemma I was facing. I had discussed it with him on a couple of occasions; he is my spiritual barometer. He told me that he thought that I was in a very good position to help the ethical dilemma be resolved and that I should keep this in mind whenever I was troubled about it. (He was stunned to hear about the job interview.) Third, just to make sure that I had no choice (because sometimes I do have to get conked on the head in order to hear/see God's direction), the job for which I had interviewed went away. Poof! The Board of Directors decided that they did not need an executive VP, given the current economic climate.

Financially, through all of this, God took care of me. Consider that my contract in Jordan had been paid three months in advance and that my current job began a mere two weeks (travel time) after the end of those three months -- and because I was also teaching during the fall semester, I got more than two weeks of extra pay to cover those two post-contract-expiration weeks. As for my current position, not only was the starting salary increased by 20%, but when the organization found out that I had been interviewed (there seem to be no secrets at work), my supervisor put through a 25% retention incentive, the maximum allowed by organizational regulation, and so my current salary matches what I would have made had I left. Amazing!

So, it would seem that here is where God wants me (for reasons only He knows). Therefore, here I will be until directed elsewhere.

1 comment:

  1. Elizabeth, your experience sounds somewhat like my own --- probably more often than I would like to admit, or am even aware of. So often I pray that I wish to do God's will, and that I wish He would make clear to me His will. And then something gets proposed to me and I immediately respond with what I had planned to do, instead of that proposal. Now there is nothing wrong with explaining my plans, and comparing them to others' proposals, but in all honesty I often slight the plans/proposals of others ---- because they weren't my plans. And not often enough I reflect, as you have done: "I want to do God's will, as long as it's my will too." And sometimes, thankfully, He has literally made it impossible NOT to do His will, and for this I thank Him. Conceit, ego, and pride --- despite being such much hated sins, they hide in me so easily.