For part of my career I worked in a large university. I also trained to be a Christian minister but jobs were just not available in churches, so I taught in a university. I was promoted to be the coordinator of the department, like a vice-principal in a school for adults.
This promotion was a surprise to me, and I was supposed to be interim; our Director was going to quit and someone had to hold things together until the new Director arrived. When he finally came, he needed people like me, so he extended my tenure as coordinator.
That’s when my friends started hating me and senior managers started looking at me as a liability instead of an asset. They needed to save money and I was a cost, and my friends wanted my job.
On the success side, I schemed and politicked my way into a large window office, in a place where most of us worked in cubicles, with no outside light. I am ashamed to tell you that now. God never instructed me to be taller by standing on other people.
Looking back, I don’t understand me. I became a driven workaholic and I proved to everyone that I could not be replaced. After several years of “success” I was called to a meeting and accused of things I had not done, and fired.
It was easy to prove my innocence, and I appealed and got my job back, but the lawyer for the staff association advised me to take a buyout and leave. I left with the money and three people were hired to replace me, and in time they were all fired.
I found a new job with some good people and stayed there for more years.
The university Dean who signed off when I and the others were fired was later fired herself. I was one of the people called in to testify as someone built a case to fire a tenured Dean. In a university, that is impossible, but they did it.
Now I don’t understand why I did any of that.
I made about as much money as a long-haul truck driver, or a welder and I had no peace. I don’t feel good about the part of my life when I was promoted, and I have a heavy feeling in my stomach as I write this.
The aggressive career climbing attitude in the world is completely wrong. Career ladders are an invention to keep us in low-paying jobs, and a lot of experts agree on that: The invention of the career ladder.
Now I remember that I made a radical decision to follow Jesus, and I turned away from the things that made me miserable. It makes no sense that I would later use the same tools to make other people unhappy, in my climb to the top. Following Jesus is a radical decision.
Centuries ago, one of the best careers was Tax Collector; with lots of money and status.
“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” (Matthew 9: 9) Note that Matthew wrote about himself.
If anyone wants my advice, I now recommend several vocational skill sets, like a lawyer-accountant, or like Paul in the Bible, the tent maker and preacher. If you lose the ability to make a living in one way, go to one of the others; vocational training is everywhere. Find your satisfaction in the good things God has given you, like family and friends. And find God and do good things for that corporation, like Matthew.
If you are searching for success, I hope that you will find a good life, and some career success, but there is no future in lying to ourselves about career climbing.
I knew the rules when I was promoted, and they are still clear:
… having the same attitude, sharing the same love, being united in spirit, and keeping one purpose in mind. Do not act out of selfish ambition or conceit, but with humility think of others as being better than yourselves. Do not be concerned about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others. (Philippians 2: 2 to 4)