At Work & Theology 101

Graduating into a Pandemic Work Environment

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It’s graduation time again! After a long four or five-year struggle (or longer), much of which was unexpectedly accomplished virtually, college students will finally come to the end of their academic journey and receive those coveted bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees. Now what?

I was recently asked what I would say to new college graduates who are entering a radically changed work environment, one that has been altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic that we have experienced for the past 15 months. Here is my encouraging message to them that is grounded in biblical truth and orthodox theology, and that will hopefully offer some practical suggestions.

What Is New?

This COVID-19 environment in which we find ourselves has brought drastic changes to the workplace. College seniors have traditionally counted on large in-person job fairs. However, most of these have been canceled. This has caused an almost exclusive use of technology-based job searches followed by video-teleconference job interviews. Job offers often mean mainly teleworking or hybrid schedules. 

To illustrate one of the radical changes that may be here for a while is “Zoom towns,” the phenomenon where some employees who work virtually are choosing to live where they want to, instead of having to live close to their job. Some workers are even taking their families to resort towns or vacation spots.

When I graduated from college a number of decades ago and entered into my chosen field of math education, I did not need to learn how to teach high school students over Zoom. Now, college graduates from nearly every field of study—from art, business, architecture, engineering, research, medicine, advertising, marketing, finance, among many others—may not work on a daily basis in a physical workplace alongside their boss, their coworkers, or their subordinates.

What New Skills Do I Need to Succeed?

In response to the many changes to the work environment that I listed above, you will need to develop some essential skills to survive and thrive. Let me offer three practical suggestions:

  • Be flexible. Don’t be surprised by job offers where you will work in a virtual or hybrid situation; you may not have to relocate, so you will have to decide where to live.
  • Be independent. You may be required to engage supervisors, coworkers, and clients in a virtual-only environment much of the time and still get projects done on time.
  • Be fluent. Develop competency in seamlessly using a variety of different forms of communication as required of your employer: written, verbal, face-to-face, and virtual.

What Has Not Changed?

Even though there are many aspects of the work environment that have changed since COVID-19, some permanently, I would be remiss if I did not remind new graduates of what has not changed. 

God has not changed (see Ps. 55:19.) His eternal attributes as revealed throughout Scripture, such as His presence, mercy, grace, and sovereignty, when properly understood, will greatly impact our view of work. We read in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever.” When we keep in mind how God is always present and in control of our circumstances, we can get through any trial.

Throughout Psalms 107, we see God’s people stressed out by changes to the work environment. Some were looking for work. They wandered in the desert (vv. 4-5). God delivered them by providing for their needs in His unfailing love (vv. 6-9). Others made their living on the water. Storms at sea brought fears of losing personnel, boats, and goods (vv. 23-27). God delivered them by stilling the storm and bringing them to shore (vv. 28-32). In spite of these difficult situations that were beyond their control, God’s never-changing covenant love, faithfulness, and protection got them through.

How Can I Work as Unto the Lord in This Environment?

Here are three appropriate, biblical responses to God’s unchanging attributes:

  • Learn to rest in God’s presence as you work as unto Him. Know that He will place you where He needs you to be at just the right time, in order to glorify Himself and meet your needs.
  • Develop a vision for how God can use the skills He gave you in the workplace. As you work in His presence, He will work with, in, and through you to meet the full spectrum of human needs.
  • Resolve to pursue relationships with other Christians and nonbelievers on your team, even if they are far away. Your boss, coworkers, and customers all have needs that you can meet.

The last bullet is an important point. Building a virtual network of coworkers will be a challenge without having the opportunity to grab a bite to eat at lunch or after work. Even the Apostle John was frustrated by the limitations of working virtually as he taught the church. (See 3 John 13-14.) You will have to be intentional to get to know people better as opportunities are available. As you do so, God will open doors for you to be able to love your neighbor in a number of practical ways.

I also strongly encourage you to be intentional about developing close relationships with more mature Christians in a local church wherever you settle, who can help keep you grounded in your faith. I trust that some of these biblical and practical ideas will be an encouragement to those who need them. Looking for, and finding, a rewarding career after graduation will always be a spiritual journey for the Christian.

It is in times like these, even during and after a pandemic, that we learn for ourselves that God is faithful.

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