How the Advent season teaches job seekers to prepare with expectant hope.

Having spent 3/4 of a decade on staff at a local church, my Advent seasons were often busy times of meetings, service projects, workshops, concerts, decorating, teaching, pageants, and other liturgical activities.  This year, I’m experiencing Advent in a very different way as I’m in career transition and seeking a full time position in a new field.

An Advent wreath with all candles lit. Photo by Christine McIntosh, courtesy of Flickr

Advent unfolds over four weeks, a time of preparation for the church as it anticipates the arrival of the Christ child. For the faithful, it is a time to reflect on four virtues embodied in the coming gift: hope; love; joy; and peace.  As a tangible reminder of the journey through Advent, a candle is lit each week, bringing in light against the darkness.

Waiting in a time of darkness for a light to arrive sounds a lot like unemployment, even when it’s a planned time off like mine!  Let’s walk through the four candles of Advent as job seekers, using their themes to prepare us for what awaits.

Hope:  Maintaining hope and a positive attitude as we nervously wait for an email or a phone call for the next interview or a reference check can be rough especially while everyone else is in the holiday spirit, merrily complaining about holiday potlucks and white elephant exchanges.  The candle of hope hearkens back to the prophets who reminded us that better things were to come.  Let’s remember those voices in our careers:  who gave advice that pointed toward a goal?  Who led in a way that made us believe in doing more, becoming more?  Let’s take time to blog or journal about those moments of direction, and be prepared to tell these stories at the next opportunity about the kind of leader we’re on our way to becoming.  Hope means that we will reach a new destination in our career, though the path and the time frame may seem uncertain.

Love:  Though there are many made-for-tv movies celebrating the sentimental, sappy, romanticism of the season, the candle of love is about resting in the relationships that support and sustain you.  Your family of origin, your grad school cohort, your spouse or partner – any of these deep connections can help us know ourselves as persons worthy of communion and community.  Many of us (myself included) derive great meaning and value from our role in the workplace.  When we’re out of that role, we must intentionally connect, in love, to our people so that we don’t lose sight of our real purpose and worth.

Joy:  Joy isn’t about feeling happy; joy is the deep sense of wellness we experience in living in, for, and through something vital.  I think we can experience joy even in circumstances where we may not feel “happy” – such as a time of unemployment.  When an interview asks – what are you passionate about?  – this is where we draw from our wells of Joy to describe what we love about our work, how we strive to live out our passion through our work.  If we can’t answer this question easily, take time in this season of waiting and preparation meditating and perfecting our response.

Peace: In the Christmas story, the angel appears and announces Peace on Earth, Good Will to All.  The final preparation week in Advent prepares us for the coming peace.  I like to think of this manifesting in our work as knowing how we’ll make the world a better place. We get to be part of this story when we choose to work in a way that equips people to live out their calling, serves communities through ethical business practices, and manages resources to heal and sustain the planet. Peace begins when we choose to do this kind of work and when we celebrate those who are our partners in the work.

At the end of the Advent season, the expected Gift arrives and a new season of celebration and wonder begins.  As we job seekers journey through our time of waiting, let us prepare with expectant hope, connect to our support system in love,  tell others about our passions with joy, and develop a method of working toward peace.

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