Lessons learned in the European marketplace


About a year ago, I received word that I had been hired at my current job. I had been on a job search here for about four months and was delighted that God had opened this door at last.

Looking back, while the time has flown, it's been anything but easy. But this first year in the European marketplace has yielded some terrific professional, spiritual and general life lessons.

Here are the top 10 lessons I've learned during this first year of my professional career in a European workplace:

1. I can only do what I can do. Duh, right? Well, yes. But toning down my driven-ness has been a constant struggle this first year. It's the adjustment to the "work in order to live" mentality instead of the American "live to work" mantra. I'm learning to have more mercy on myself and not to let myself be so affected by my perceived productivity here.

2. Words matter. I knew this before, but it's been a struggle to use my words in an edifying way when faced with the temptation to gossip, lie or react to a situation with harsh words. I want my words to make a positive impact on people's lives, no matter what's going on around me. The way I use words can be a reflection of Christ's work in my life.

3. Take time to hang out with colleagues. I spend 40-plus hours a week with my colleagues, so why not take advantage of the chances to get to know them over coffee and, in some cases, outside of work? Thanks to these opportunities over the past year, I consider some of my colleagues to be good friends. I am honored that they would adopt "the American girl" into their already-established professional and social circles.

4. Rest. I'm becoming disciplined about taking coffee breaks almost every day. I'm going to enjoy every single one of the 30 vacation days I now have. I love my weekends. We need rest, and I'm learning how to make sure I rest amid the chaos of my job.

5. Striving for excellence is a great way to worship. At the end of the day, sure, I like to do things well because it's my work and because I take pride in a job well done. But at the end of the day, the chief motivation behind doing a great job should be an overflow of love for my Savior. It is an act of worship if I think of it as such.

6. Don't be defensive. We as humans are territorial. I don't know if people's sense of self-protection and defensiveness are heightened in this particular culture, but sometimes I find my attitude slipping into that. I have nothing to hide and, ultimately, nothing to fear. While I should be wise, it doesn't mean I have to be suspicious every time someone asks me for something, or act like people are out for my job. To me, not being on the defensive is a big part of being authentic with people.

7. Live simply. This is mostly a lesson I've learned outside the office, but adjusting to the economic reality in my host country has helped remind me that I don't need as much stuff as I once thought. Plus, the quality of life--and charm--here has more to do with time spent with people, out in the streets and enjoying the city, rather than having a bunch of stuff in one's home. I'm happy to make time outside my home with people I love a priority over what I have inside its walls.

8. My work is not who I am. Some of you have already learned this. I am still in the process. I am so passionate about my work that it's hard for me not to take things personally, but my colleagues are helping me learn to lighten up and remember that my identity is not what I do.

9. Getting along well with one's colleagues is a blessing--one I've often taken for granted. Our department has a great thing going right now relationally, and I want to enjoy it. We all have our quirks and disagreements of course, but on the whole, we really enjoy working together.

10. It's still all about God. Even though I'm not a full-time Christian worker any more, that doesn't make my job any less of a spiritual experience. I can connect and commune with God even as a sit silently at my desk pounding out e-mails. I still need to ask Him to be in my attitudes, thoughts and words as I interact with people, since I'm in a service role.

My day still revolves around Him. The expression of that may just be different than in my previous job. And as I'm learning what that looks like, I pray He'll keep helping me learn these lessons so I can follow Him more closely, do my work with more excellence, and treat people as He would.

This article was written by a Skybridge member in Spain.