At Work & Public Square & Theology 101

Navigating the "Wilderness Walk" of Unemployment

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The economy added 162,000 jobs in July, falling short of what analysts had expected. Fifty-three percent of American adults are still out of full-time work, and Tanya Ross-Lane is one of them.

After the 2008 financial crisis, she watched her salary slowly slip from fifty-five thousand dollars to forty thousand dollars as she worked as a senior training specialist with a company that made ATMs and security-systems. On Groundhog Day 2010, after thirteen years of work with the company, she was laid off.

Her husband, Michael Lane, was also unemployed at the time. He lost his job with a home contractor where he earned an hourly wage pouring concrete and installing cabinets and floors.

Ross-Lane has spent the last three years bouncing from different part-time gigs and temporary contract positions around the Cleveland-Akron area of Ohio, which was a major downgrade from her entrepreneurial past.

A Special Gift

Before working as a senior training specialist, Ross-Lane started her own business. In 1991 she founded MLane Group, a commercial cleaning company based in Washington, D.C. She worked construction during the day and ran her business cleaning Domino’s Pizza restaurants at night. Previous to that, she managed two different fast food franchises, Popeye’s and Church’s Chicken.

She recaps her experience hiring employees at fast food restaurants and her cleaning service:

No one grows up thinking they’re going to fry chicken or clean floors for a living. They don’t think what they’re doing is important and most of my employees saw no future in their role. But when I encouraged them to discover their gifts and God’s purpose for them on earth, I helped connect their present with their future, and their jobs meant so much more to them.

Lower turnover rates proved that her encouraging management style was effective. She says the average employee at the fast food restaurants she managed generally stayed on payroll six to nine months. But under her leadership, she was usually able to retain employees for over a year.

Ross-Lane was a natural leader, but it wasn’t until later in her career that she realized what a special gift she had. While she was a senior training specialist, she says coworkers always told her she had a unique ability to identify talents in others and encourage them to use their gifts to find dignity and purpose in their work. She has been inspired to pursue a career employing her unique gift ever since.

Navigating the Wilderness

As someone who once encouraged employees to find fulfillment in their work, Ross-Lane is now sitting on the other side of the table, unemployed. While looking for work, she joined a community job club hosted at a local church.

We all felt like we lost most of our identities. We were going to lose our wealth and had no dignity left since we lost our jobs. I wanted to believe that God had a purpose in closing these doors, and that one would soon re-open.

She says God used the job club to improve her interviewing and networking skills in order to find part-time and temporary work, but he also used her to encourage others looking for work.

My faith drove me to want to help others believe God was in control and had not forgotten them. Similar to what I preached at my former job, I helped these people find dignity and purpose during their season of unemployment. God places each of us in situations to help us grow or reach others.

Along with an impressive work experience, Ross-Lane holds a B.S. in Business Management, an M.S. in Strategic Leadership, an M.A. in Learning and Teaching Technologies. But she is still unemployed today (though she prefers the term “in-between her successes”). She received unemployment benefits during her time out of work, but she says it wasn’t dignifying.

I would rather earn a paycheck. I want to add value using my God-given talents and skills to create value in the marketplace and receive financial compensation for a job well done.

Her unemployment benefits have since expired.

She dreams of the day she can again be an entrepreneur or have a role in career development, where she can put her leadership skills into practice, but her hope is running thin:

I used to have so much confidence that I would find another job and be able to start my own consulting business. My confidence is growing weak and my faith is waning, but still I believe in the American dream. I would like to have a leadership role in learning and development or start my own consulting business, but neither dream has come true yet.

Though her dream has not yet materialized, she has been steadily working towards it. For the past nine months, she has been building the framework for her own career development and recruiting service called ARK of Central Ohio. She envisions providing career assessments, leadership training, customer service training, and recruitment training to small businesses. She is also passionate about reaching out to Christian businesses and providing workforce training based on biblical principles.

Ross-Lane is currently offering her expertise speaking pro-bono at jobs clubs, rotary clubs, local chambers of commerce, and small businesses. She is working on developing content and a website that will give her the traction she needs to start making a living for her services.

Her husband has since found full-time work with a window-installation company and all three of her children are employed full-time. But she still struggles with her career-downsize:

This is a wilderness walk for me and my family, for they have never seen me without work this long. I have been the majority and primary income earner in our family for the last twenty years.

She says she finds peace through prayer, fasting, and understanding there is a wilderness walk for everyone.

Elijah, David, the Israelites, Jesus, they all had their periods of wilderness. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed, but God is telling me he hasn’t forgotten me. He is taking care of me, maybe not the way I want him to, but I haven’t lost my house, my car, or a meal yet. God is telling me to hang in there.

Ross-Lane leaves the unemployed with words of wisdom and hope during their job hunt:

You will recover by being good stewards of your God-given talents during this down time. Keep your skills current and your talents exercised by doing part-time work and volunteer work. Believe that an employer will soon have a need for your skills and talents and you will be able to prove that you are the right fit for their organization. Seek God to order your steps in the path to follow.

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  • Bill

    I wish Tanya well. I had similar experience and leant a great deal from the wilderness walk. i was in Marlborough U.K. at a morning fellowship and was invited to partake in the myrrh really meaning a `sackcloth & ashes` walk with the Lord, which I accepted. At a fellowship in Lynton U.K. the priest said: “Bill is on a deep physical and spiritual mission!” Confirmation. Then I travelled worldwide undertaking part of the Compostelle pilgrimage until I ended up in Bordeaux, France in time for a visiting prophetess from Texas, U.S.A. to minister to us restoring strength in the name of the Lord and encouraging me to move on. Went to La Porte de la Chapelle, Paris, France and couldn`t leave. Two people arrived from Ukraine and I was eventually invited to Kiev. I`ve not looked back: work and the grace to enjoy it flooded in. All the credit to God and my helpers who I pray will not lose their reward. Bless you, Bill

    • Tanya Ross-lane

      Bill thanks for sharing and words of encouragement. Romans 8:31

  • Sad and inspiring at the same time. I know Tanya to be an amazing person, driven to push herself and those around her to new levels of accomplishment. It is an honor to call her a friend, mentor and colleague.

    • Tanya Ross-lane

      Jeff you are a true trusted friend, coach and entrepreneurial teacher. Thanks for believing in me and marrying Kim.

  • What a great profile! We’re sharing it with our readers at The High Calling:

    Thanks for the wonderful content.

    • gregoryayers

      Thanks for sharing this post, Dena. I hope your readers find it to be encouraging.

  • John Edwards

    Unfortunately there are millions of us
    in the same very crowed boat. But, when things get this bad (for me 4
    years) we stand. When the wind of doubt and unprecedented
    difficulties blow non-stop in our faces, we stand. We stand. God has
    already come through, I/we have to believe His timing is everything;
    without trying to figure out why, we stand. Not based on that’s all
    we can do, but based on that’s all we can do.

    • Tanya Ross-Lane

      Hi John,
      YES WE STAND.. So many friends that our going through this are learning to Stand. It’s in God’s timing my faith and trust in Him is growing. The longer I been out I realize that my family is Standing. What I have been called to do is pray, fast, trust in him and praise him not only for me a job but everyone in this very crowded boat. John Edwards you have been added to my list. Keep in touch. I want to know what the Lord has done for you.

  • Joe

    multiply your story by a few thousand and you have got the rest of us that are still waiting for that next door to open.

    • Tanya Ross-Lane

      My story is your story and sadly millions of American’s. Some of us are strengthen and supported by our faith. I would not be able to have the hope that I soon will be returning to work if not for my faith.

  • Wilderness Walk in San Diego

    Thanks Tonya for sharing. Our family has been in a similar boat. My husband lost his job a couple of years ago, and I had to quit an unhealthy environment last Dec. One thing I am being reminded of in the wilderness is Jehovah Jirah (the Lord our Provider) A couple of weeks ago, I found myself upset with my 7 yr old child when they ruined a third pair of pants…a couple of days later I remembered how on the mission team I had encountered Jehovah Jirah, the same God who provided for Abraham the Ram, symbolizing the promise of a Savior and Redeemer. That same God supplied all my needs then, and continues to do that today. Today He is the same God who “shall meet ALL my and OUR –our kids included–needs” I am still in the wilderness and am not sure how long I will be here, but for now I need to daily remind myself of his promises…how he takes care of the sparrows and will, of course, do more for me and my family…while I continue to knock and seek. I am thankful for this time of our lives because it allows my kids to meet our God, who is our Jehovah Jirah in a tangible way. I trust that they will look back on this wilderness one day and remember Him so they do not despair.

    Lastly, I’d like to share my favorite two songs in the wilderness:
    In Christ Alone:

    & I praise you in the Storm by Casting Crown:

    • TanyaRossLane

      Wilderness Walk in San Diego,

      Thank you. Love both songs..glad to hear that u are praising God through the Storm.. I’m working now blessed by a Christian brother who took a chance on me. God was given me a passion to help others find work…specifly

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