By Regina Brett
Read by Cassandra Livingston
Formats and Prices
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 7, 2015. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
In this inspiring collection, Brett focuses on how we relate to our work, or lack of work, and the seeking of something deeper and more meaningful in our career and life. With essays like “Every job is as magical as you make it” and “Only you can determine your worth,” this book relates tales of discouragement turning into hope, and persistence paying big dividends. People with challenges in their jobs or job search will find solace and advice.
In the past five years, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking in front of thousands of people at countless appearances and book signings. The question I’m most often asked is: “What’s your next book going to be about?”
When I tell audiences I want to write a book to help people find more meaning and passion at work and in their lives, they cheer and want to read that book right now.
So here it is.
God Is Always Hiring is a collection of inspirational essays, stories, and columns with lessons to help people look at their work and their lives in a new light.
It’s for people who no longer love the work they do.
It’s for people who love their work but want to find more meaning outside of work, in the rest of their lives.
It’s for people who are unemployed, underemployed, or unhappily employed.
It’s for people who have been derailed, temporarily or permanently.
It’s for people who are just graduating into the world of work and want to know what to write on that clean slate.
It’s for people who have retired or can no longer work who want to live a more meaningful life.
It’s for people who love the work they do so much, they want to inspire others to find their unique passion in life.
It’s for people like me who once felt lost in life and wandered aimlessly along a broken road that ultimately led straight to the perfect place in life. I believe there is a perfect place for each of us. Our job is to find it. Or to relax and let it find us.
I wrote this book to help you find the work you love and create a life you love around your work. Regardless of who your boss is, what your income is, or what the economy is doing, you have the power to expand, enrich, and deepen your own life and the lives of others.
These lessons come from my life experience as a single parent for 18 years, from my perspective as a breast cancer survivor, and from the lives of others I’ve met at various jobs and in my 29 years as a journalist. My hope is that each lesson helps you jump out of bed in the morning, enjoy a lunchtime boost, feel tucked in at night, or simply gives your life a jolt or a bit of sparkle to make your work and your life matter.
When you don’t get what you want, you get something better—experience.
Most résumés don’t show the broken road life takes you on or the names people called you along the way. We pretty up our résumés, rename the jobs we had, leave out the parts we wish we could have skipped.
My résumé used to change every six months. Early on in my life, that’s about how long I lasted at most jobs. Six months. I was a work in progress. I just wasn’t making much progress.
The song “Take This Job and Shove It” was the sound track to my life. I could relate to that other country song, “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere,” which describes a time when the boss pushes you over the limit and you’d like to call him something, but you’d better just call it a day. One day I didn’t. I stormed out of the restaurant and quit my waitressing job. I didn’t even stop on my way out to empty the tip jar.
Some people climb the ladder of success. I walked under it. For years I didn’t seem to have much luck, and the luck I had seemed bad. My first boss was a real bitch. Seriously. She was a poodle named Mam’selle who lived next door. My first paying job was to walk the neighbor’s dog. Mam’selle wore bright red nail polish and a bow. After a long walk with that fluffy ball of white, she finally did her business and I brought her home. The owner lifted up the poodle’s puffy Q-tip of a tail.
“You…didn’t…wipe her?!” she gasped.
I swear Mam’selle gave me an evil grin. I didn’t last long at that job. I thought I was hired to be a dog walker, not a dog wiper.
My next job was to be a personal assistant at a dinner theater that had just opened. The boss ran me ragged cleaning dressing rooms and bathrooms. I was in high school and didn’t get home until after midnight. My parents fired me from that job. Then I upgraded to being a cashier at Clark’s Pharmacy, where I spent most of my time dusting vitamins and trying to look busy and not get caught sneaking candy bars. Then on to waitressing at Widener’s Family Restaurant, where people left me pennies for tips in a puddle of ketchup.
I moved on to the local hospital, where I wore a pink uniform and a hairnet. I stood in white shoes for hours putting prune whip for sick patients on trays on a long conveyor belt. The employee ID card I carried gave me the lovely title Kitchen Help. The title I put on my résumé read Dietary Assistant. I still have the hairnet and ID badge glued to my scrapbook to remind me of those days working 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the dish room hosing down trays and dishes that sick people threw up and bled on. I’m not sure we even wore protective gloves back then.
For a while I worked as a secretary. That was BC—before computers. Back then, you were lucky if you were issued an IBM Selectric with eraser tape. I got ink-stained hands from arm-wrestling carbon paper. I used to be a Wite-Out wiz. I’m surprised my boss didn’t find me passed out over the keyboard from the fumes. I hated the job. One day it took me all morning to type a three-page letter, only to have my boss hand it back to me after he drew huge circles of red ink around typos that Wite-Out would have covered. I had to retype the whole thing.
It took me many jobs to realize I wanted something more than a job. A job is where you work so you can pay the bills. A job is a place where you’re penalized if you’re five minutes late even if you stopped to help a stranded motorist. A job is a place where you call in sick so you have time to look for a better job. It might be stable and safe, but it’s boring. You do what’s expected and you go home. You call in sick every time you rack up enough sick pay because you’re sick of the place.
A job is for making a living. A career is for making a life. A job is a paycheck. A career is a bigger paycheck. A career requires education, training, and taking risks. So I set out to get a career. I changed my college major six times, from biology to botany to conservation to English to public relations to journalism. Kent State University had mercy on me and applied its academic forgiveness policy to my GPA after I flunked chemistry and got Ds in zoology and child psychology. It took me 12 years to get a 4-year degree because I took time off to work and raise a child. I started college in 1974 and didn’t graduate until 1986, when I was 30. Then it was time to take that degree in journalism and find my mission in life.
I used to think only people like Mother Teresa and Gandhi had a mission in life. We all have one. How do you find it? You listen to your life.
All those dead-end jobs? There’s no such thing. In God’s economy, nothing is ever wasted. The dots all connect in time. As a kid, I used to love those coloring books with the connect-the-dot pictures. Each dot had a number, which made it easier to discover the final picture. In real life, the dots aren’t numbered.
My zigzag route looked like a broken road for the longest time, until one day all the dots connected. As one friend told me, God writes straight with crooked lines. I love that Rascal Flatts song lyric that says, “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.” God did bless my broken road. I was never lost. God always knew right where I was.
All those jobs I used to call meaningless and mindless vastly enriched me. I just couldn’t see it at the time. That meager $200-a-week paycheck blinded me to the wealth of experience I was getting.
Jobs that some people call menial gave my life meaning. My tour of duty as a waitress taught me compassion for the blind man who came in every Wednesday for liver and onions and knocked people out of the way with his white cane as he shouted out his order.
The job at the funeral home taught me how to comfort people in grief so I could have compassion years later as a reporter when I interviewed the father whose son was shot riding home on his bicycle. Working as an emergency medical technician, straddling that place where life meets death, taught me more about deadlines than any editor in a newsroom could.
Every secretarial job taught me how to type better and faster. My job as an alcoholism counselor taught me how to tell when people I interviewed were lying, like the client who served time in prison but didn’t think killing a man while he was drunk had anything to do with having a drinking problem.
Working as a clerk in traffic court writing ticket information in court dockets helped me know where to find court records when I did an investigation into how a man with 32 DUIs kept getting his license back before he killed two college students with his car.
My job as a legal secretary typing long legal briefs helped me understand the court system, so when I wrote about an innocent man on death row, it led to a law being changed in Ohio so prosecutors could no longer hide evidence. After 20 years in prison, that man is now free.
They say, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” So does your résumé. It takes on a life of its own if you let it. Some people try to map out their paths and plan every step, but in reality, life hands you something better. A dead end is really a detour to a new route you hadn’t planned on taking. Every experience enhances your life now or later. Without my knowing it, each job I tolerated prepared me to do the work I now celebrate.
You can’t always see the growth when your life is taking root. If you’re one of those people who feel lost in life, take heart. Being lost could lead you to the very place life planned on taking you anyway.
Everything changes when you change.
It was either the key to the future or a deal with the devil. I wasn’t sure which, so I wasn’t sure what to do with the document in my hand.
At 22, I had become a parasite on my parents. I had no job and no prospects of one. As an unwed mother, I couldn’t support myself or my new baby. It wasn’t fair to live rent-free with my parents forever. Plus I felt like I was wearing an invisible scarlet A. It stood for Awful. Awful daughter. Awful sister. Awful mother.
Getting help from my daughter’s father was out of the question. I wrote him off before she was born. I told him I didn’t want to marry him, so I couldn’t go to him now. What if he took her away? What if he told the courts he could give her a better life than I could?
I had dropped out of college after I got pregnant. I quit my job working as an emergency medical technician when I was four months pregnant. Back then, the local funeral homes ran the ambulance services. In addition to saving lives, I had to make death calls at hospitals, nursing homes, and residences. Picking up dead bodies wasn’t glamorous work, but it paid the bills, and, as we used to joke, no one complained. But after I got pregnant, I couldn’t afford to hurt my back or my baby lifting people who weighed more than 300 pounds. The funeral home didn’t want to pay for more than two attendants on duty, so I quit.
I didn’t know where to get my next job. How could I leave my baby all day to work? She had only one parent. If I was gone all day, it would be like she didn’t have any. Factory jobs were out. There was no flexibility. Working 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. meant she’d wake every day to spend the day with someone else. The 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift meant I’d never get to tuck her in. The 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift meant she’d never get to sleep at home.
I applied for jobs, but I had few skills. I couldn’t even type. Buying a car seemed impossible, so I borrowed my dad’s. When you’re a single parent, it’s hard to dream alone. You need money to go with dreams. Other than having a baby, my life was bankrupt. That’s how I ended up with those papers in my hand.
Officially the document was called an application for Aid to Dependent Children. But in my small town, we called it what it was: welfare. I debated what to do with the 32-page form. Going on welfare seemed so much easier than finding a job and day care that wouldn’t eat up every dollar. With welfare, I would also get medical care for me and my daughter. It seemed like the responsible thing to do.
But every time I tried to sign my name to the forms, I couldn’t. I would have to legally name her dad as the father so they could go after him for child support. I didn’t even name him on her birth certificate. In the end, the real reason I didn’t sign the form was this: I was afraid if I ever got on welfare, I’d never get off. Welfare is a tricky benefit. It starts out as a lifeline to freedom that can become a rope that keeps you in bondage. Any time you want to earn any extra money by working, you risk losing all your benefits and health care.
It’s hard to find work in a small town when you don’t have a car. There’s no bus or subway, no public transportation. Just personal transportation. You’re limited by how far your two feet can carry you to and from work. The funeral home a mile away was walkable. I didn’t want to go back to picking up bodies, but they offered me a job doing office work, so I took it.
I fell in love there. Not with the job, but with the boss. Bad idea, but desperation does funny things to you. It can make a raging alcoholic look like Prince Charming. I fell in love with everything he had: success, money, and happiness. He owned a gorgeous home. He wore suits to work. He ate out at restaurants. So he drank a little. Okay, a lot. Blackouts, driving drunk, missing work.
In the months we dated, I made it my job to save him. If I could save him, I could have my happily-ever-after. I would make him want me so much he wouldn’t want to drink. We spent hours in deep conversations that he never remembered. We made plans to meet at 8 p.m. and he would call at 10 p.m. from a bar saying he was on his way. When the bars closed at 2 a.m. he would finally show up too drunk to stand and then pass out on the couch.
Finally, my friends who knew about Al-Anon told me I needed to detach with love, to stop counting the number of drinks he had, and to stop counting on him to change. There was no future with him, but there was no future without him. I loved his home. It had a breakfast nook and a big porch and bedrooms for all the imaginary kids I fantasized we would one day have. Before I could leave la-la land, though, he left me.
By then my daughter was a toddler. She was growing up even if I wasn’t. I finally saved enough money to move out of my parents’ house and into an apartment two blocks away from them. It was scary to depend on that meager paycheck for the $210 rent and the utilities. Plus, it was my first time on my own. I had never gone away to college, never lived in a dorm, never had to manage my own life.
All the pieces of my life that had shattered when I became pregnant were starting to fall into place. Every six months I moved to a better-paying job. I found new female friends, including a woman who took me on a retreat to help me get my life on track. There a priest advised me to change the pattern I had with men. I never got around to it. Two weeks later, I was in love.
David was six foot something, drove a Mazda RX-7, wore designer clothes, and didn’t drink. He was a teenager emotionally, but so was I. One day he showed up with a souped-up Corvette and I drove 130 mph down the highway. We took off for weekends on a whim, with my mom stuck watching my daughter.
David sent me flowers, bought me clothes, and took me on vacations. He had money to blow all the time. When he blew it on me it was fine; when he blew it elsewhere, I got angry. I didn’t know that it wasn’t his money; it was his parents’. After one vacation, the credit card company sent someone to his house to cut up the credit cards.
David was going to college for free on government aid. He was skipping classes to play poker and ride his motorcycle. I worked long hours at jobs that paid little. He drove a fancy car while I drove a used bright orange Ford Fiesta I bought for $2,300, every single dollar of which I had saved. It was held together with the duct tape and gutter seal my dad put around the windows.
My future? David was it. I wanted to finish my degree, own a house, have a family. Marriage to him would make all that possible. When we got engaged, the diamond was as big as my fantasy. I had it all.
I lost it two months later. While I was out trying on wedding dresses, he was sleeping with other women. The only thing worse than finding out he was cheating on me was finding out at a bowling alley. He had been acting strangely for days, so I bluntly asked, half joking, “What, are you cheating on me?” When he didn’t answer, I stormed away. Then I decided, No, I’m not going home to boo-hoo all alone. I went back to him, yelled at him, even grabbed him by the collar and ripped his designer shirt. I didn’t like him, but worse, I didn’t like the person I had become.
It was over. I gave him back the ring and told him to give it to me when he wanted me and me alone. I never got that ring back. I got something better.
I got angry. Angry at him. Angry at me. Angry enough to get my own act together.
I was 26. It was time to grow up. When I broke up with him, I broke up with the person I no longer wanted to be. It was time to take charge of me and my life.
Without David, the future was blank. It was up to me to write something on it. It was time to own my life. First, I returned everything he left in my house—including the Playboy magazines he had hidden in my dresser. I exchanged the sexy miniskirt and slinky black dress he bought me for sensible skirts and slacks I could wear to a career job. Then I got a college catalog and opened it. I had no idea what I wanted to be or do, but I did know this: I wanted to be happy.
That’s when the world opened up. Everything in my life changed when I decided to change me. I didn’t need to find the right person. I needed to become the right person.
Burying your talents won’t make them grow.
One day in high school we all took an aptitude test to see what we were destined to be. We laughed at the results. I was supposed to be a respiratory therapist. My friend Betsy was supposed to be a truck driver.
Betsy ended up working as a nurse. I ended up a writer.
Somewhere inside, we did.
Somewhere inside, we all know.
We just do a great job of burying our deepest passions.
I did everything in my power to avoid using my talents. I buried them as deep as I could and I resisted anyone who came at me, with a shovel. In ninth grade, my English teacher, Mr. Ricco, made us write a paragraph each week. I balked. I wrote mine right before class and picked the most boring subjects to wear him down. Instead, he wore me down and polished me into a writer without my knowing it.
Still, I resisted. I never wrote for the high school newspaper or yearbook or took any creative writing classes. I was too scared of the one thing I desperately wanted to be: a writer. So many of us know deep inside that one thing we were meant to do, would love to do; but it’s too scary to actually do it because we might fail at it, so we leave it buried inside where it will be safe, untouched and untapped. The dream and desire to do it seem so much safer than actually taking action and risking failure and rejection.
I wrote in secret, filling diaries and journals. One day, out of bravery or ignorance, I let my sisters read them. Later, when I realized what I had done, I took the diaries to the metal trash drum in the backyard and burned them. As the flames ate my words, it seemed they were putting out the fire in me.
The embers still burned. In tenth grade, when I read Henry David Thoreau, something in my soul expanded. It was like I could take in more breath. I didn’t have enough money to buy my own copy of Walden, so I copied the text from the school’s copy word for word, starting with why he went into the woods.
To avoid writing, I almost ended up in the woods for a living. We’ve all heard that saying “Man plans, God laughs.” Had my plans been blessed by the gods, I would have ended up a forest ranger. I was too scared to be a writer, so I turned to conservation for a college major when I turned away from writing. How ironic that I ended up as a journalist filling newspapers and books with words. I pray that those forest rangers preserve enough trees to keep me in business.
I have loved newspapers ever since I was a toddler sitting on the floor near my father’s steel-toed work boots as he buried his face in the daily news. I pretended to read whatever section he dropped on the floor, curious about what mesmerized my dad after a long day spent patching up a hot roof. When my mom had time to read, which was close to never while raising 11 children, she loved newspaper columnist Erma Bombeck. Erma made writing look so easy. And it was, in my diary. There it stayed, safe and sound, for years.
I buried my talents out of fear they would never be good enough. I ignored the call to use my talents. I kept telling God I wasn’t ready, until one day it hit me: What if God stopped asking? What’s scarier than God calling you to use your talents is the thought that God will stop calling you and go elsewhere.
The parable of the talents in the Bible haunted me. A nobleman gave one of his servants five talents, another one two, and another man one talent. As time went on, the man with the five talents traded with them and made five more talents. The one with two talents doubled his as well. The man with one talent dug a hole in the ground and hid the money out of fear. When the master came back, he rewarded the first two men. The man who buried his talent returned it unused. The master was angry, took the talent, and tossed the servant out. The master told the first two men: “To everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance; you have been faithful over a little, therefore I will make you lord over much” (see Matthew 25).
When you have been faithful with what you have been given, you get more. You won’t get more talents until you use what you’ve already been given.
We’re all gifted, but some people never open their packages. We each have a calling, a vocation, a particular unique talent. Your calling isn’t necessarily your job title. It might not be written on the business card you carry, or on your job description, or on your résumé. It’s more likely written on your heart. I worked a lot of jobs before I found that place in life that writer Frederick Buechner calls “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
What does God want you to do with the gifts He gave you? Use them. Not hoard them. When the Israelites got hungry on their way to the Promised Land, God dropped manna from heaven. Free bread! Out of fear, the people hoarded the bread for the next day. It grew moldy. God wanted them to have faith that each day’s grace would be enough.
No hoarding. You have to use up all you have learned, uncovered, and discovered, or you don’t get more. My writing had to have life beyond my bedroom. But who would want to read it? Who would publish it? Who would buy it? That was all none of my business. It was time to take action. In prayer I might have been saying yes to God, but a yes without action isn’t truly a yes.
What are you called to do or be? The answer is in you. Instead of conducting a survey of family and friends about what you should do, survey the inner landscape to find the spiritual interpretation of your life. God has already whispered it to you. Most of us keep our lives too busy and noisy to listen.
Many of us stay clueless not because we don’t know, but because we’re afraid of knowing, because then we’ll have to take action. I was at a party once and listened to a woman complaining to the small crowd around her that she had all these career options and just couldn’t choose. Every time someone offered a great piece of advice, she rejected it instantly and said, “I don’t know what to do.” She was getting a lot of attention and mileage out of not knowing, out of being helpless.
I felt that tug of the Spirit, looked her in the eye, and gently asked, “Do you want to know?”
She looked appalled. Everyone grew quiet. Then she softened. “Yes,” she said, and proceeded to tell all of us exactly what she loved but was afraid of doing.
Someone once told me this beautiful story: Before we arrive in this world, we each possess all the wisdom we will ever need for this life and beyond. But right before we’re born, an angel comes and touches us on the lips, as if to silence us, and leaves an imprint there, causing us to forget everything we knew. We spend the rest of our lives recovering the lost data.
Sometimes I place my finger on my upper lip, right in that little groove, and listen.
Try it. It will remind you to stop talking so you can listen to the wisdom you already possess.
- On Sale
- Apr 7, 2015
- Hachette Audio