Written by Julian Panga, India
Julian grew up in India, went for higher studies to Melbourne, Australia and then stayed on for 12 years and worked in the Banking and Finance Industry there. At the same time, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer and Bible teacher in his local church. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s call and is currently involved in training Christian workers for effective ministry within the Indian context. He loves reading, listening to music and long country drives.
I’ve been down this road many times before. I did my postgraduate studies full-time and worked part-time as a lecturer in my university. Then the roles reversed and I worked full-time in banking and studied theology part-time. After that, I went from full-time work to full-time theological study and then back to full-time work.
Each time I made those transitions, the experiences were different and always beset with new and varied challenges. What I’ve observed in my own life and with others is that when we transition from study to work, we take certain attitudes, habits and behaviors with us into the workplace. Soon we find to our utter disappointment that those things don’t fit there. We realize that working life comes with a new and different set of challenges.
Some cope well—and hats off to them—but some others get disillusioned, discouraged and often give up. Others go to the other extreme and become ambitious and strive hard to be over-achievers. This leads to its own set of pitfalls such as neglect of family, poor health, undue stress, addictions, and a constant fear of failure.
So how do we handle this transition from studying to working? How can we develop that which is essential to handle these new challenges that come our way and how can we continue to remain a follower of Christ in the workplace or business world? I’ve listed three attitudes that are non-negotiables when handling such a transition.
1. Be Authentic
Proverbs 14:23 warns us against empty words: “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty”. Pretense, in whatever shape or form, shows up eventually. Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” So, regardless of how you’ve aced that job interview by parroting responses to routine questions, or put up a masquerade at work pretending you’re someone you’re not, there comes a point where you will be found out for who you really are. Being authentic is important because that will keep us in good stead along life’s journey.
What does it mean to be authentic? Simply put, it means you don’t pretend to be someone else on the outside. Rather, you are truthful, honest and straightforward. Of course, this doesn’t mean you are insensitive to others around you; instead you exercise wisdom in all your dealings—and who better to teach you wisdom than God Himself?
In my own corporate experience as a senior project manager who regularly handled post-sales situations, I sometimes found myself in a tight spot. I knew that what had been sold to the customers by my predecessor was not the ideal product for them. So I had a choice to make: Do I just do my job and leave it as a problem for someone else to handle, or do I rectify the mistake and go the extra mile (often with lots of extra work involved) to provide something that will benefit the end customer?
To me, that decision came easily and naturally because I wanted to honor Christ, who had blessed me with that job, in the workplace. I also knew that by my actions, I was upholding the reputation of my employer. Whether those noble actions get you into the good books of your boss or not, always remember that we serve an “Audience of One” and your job is to please Him above everyone else. The Apostle Paul encourages us to do exactly that in Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”.
2. Be Accountable
As a student, you are often accountable to no one but yourself. You can stay up late, wake up any time you like, turn up for classes if you feel like it or turn in your assignments late. In a student’s life, the constant temptation is to slack off in areas of accountability and responsibility.
But in the corporate or business world, accountability is pivotal. Workers are accountable to management, who in turn must answer to senior management, who are accountable to the Board and the Board to the investors. Even independent traders need to be accountable to their customers, the law, the government etc.
As we all know, being accountable doesn’t come easy. We often like to take things into our own hands. In fact, we may dislike or even detest anyone to whom we may have to give an account for what we do or how we do it.
Consider this: right from creation, when Adam and Eve turned their backs on God and sinned, they were held accountable for their actions. Bad decisions or actions have negative consequences, but we must find the courage to own up and set things right. We must strive to conduct ourselves in such a manner that we take responsibility for what we do. If we are accountable to someone, then we ought to respect them and their authority over us.
Much of the conflict that happens around us is down to our fallen human nature and our stubborn refusal to be accountable. Always remember that we are also accountable for our feelings, thoughts and actions to God, and so we conduct ourselves in a way that brings Him honor and glory.
3. Be Excellent
Going to work each day can be a drudgery for many. We struggle through it since there are bills to pay, loans to clear, family members to feed, elderly parents to care for and a myriad of other basic needs to be met. Regardless of what factors compel us to work, the attitudes that we take to work is what matters most. I find from personal experience that when I take a bad attitude to work, it affects me and everyone around me negatively. I tend to be harsh, negligent, arrogant or half-hearted at work.
But if I take a spirit of excellence into my work, with an intention to do my work to the best of my abilities for my employer and for the Kingdom of God, it just turns my day around. I am able to greet people with a genuine smile, talk to them from the heart, care for them and show my concern in practical ways. It brings a joy deep within me that positively affects everyone around me.
My personal motto has been that I want to do my very best at work, not because I get paid for it, but because by doing it, I am being faithful to God and also my employer. Such an attitude brings many blessings along my path but more than that, it gives me a chance to reflect the nature of God at my workplace. This then gives me unsolicited opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus in meaningful and practical ways.
It is often said, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people read”. In many workplaces where matters of faith are often not talked about or are seen as being intrusive, having an excellent spirit will speak for itself and give you favor among your peers and employers. Excellence begins deep down in our hearts with intentionality and purpose and works itself out through our thoughts, behaviors and actions.
We can be encouraged by God’s word in Titus 2:7-8 to do what is good, and show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech in our teaching so that those who oppose us will have nothing bad to say about us. Won’t that be a powerful and impactful testimony in the workplace?
Transitions are not easy, but with God at the center of your life and armed with the right attitudes, you can manage those transitions well and help others along the way too.