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Post #9 (VaYetze) - "Protect me on this journey"— Adaptability and tolerance of career uncertainty

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” Dolly Parton



“Jacob then made a vow: ‘If God will be with me,’ he said, ‘protecting me on this journey I am taking, giving me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and if I return in peace to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God” Genesis 28:20–21.


Jacob had just extracted a blessing from his visually impaired father Isaac, the blessing that Isaac had promised Esau, Jacob's brother, thus incurring the latter’s wrath. Jacob's mother, Rebecca, overhearing Esau’s anguish and his plans for revenge after feeling cheated out of a blessing, sought a way to save Jacob’s skin. She advised him to flee to her brother Laban in Haran. Adopting an alternative narrative with her husband, Isaac, Rebecca shared her fear that Jacob would marry a local Canaanite woman, and a solution needed to be found. Consequently, Isaac instructed Jacob to go immediately to Laban's family in Haran to seek a bride. With Isaac bestowing Jacob with the "blessing of Abraham," Jacob was off.


Thus, an anxious Jacob embarked on his journey northeast, away from the land of Canaan, with few resources and much uncertainty about what awaited. In Jacob's famous "Jacob's ladder" dream, God promised to always protect him, even as he departed for a foreign land, and return him to his father's home.[1] This will not be the only time God anticipates Jacob's fear of the unknown and seeks to assure him that He will not desert him. Jacob awakes, overwhelmed and undoubtedly heartened by his dream and by God's presence. He used this opportunity seemingly to extract yet another layer of affirmation of God's commitment in the form of a vow: "If God will be with me...protecting me on this journey I am taking...and if I return in peace to my father's house, then the Lord will be my God." [2]


When Jacob realized that he was in God's presence at the site of his ladder dream, he said, “Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it![3] A revealing homiletic interpretation of this verse manipulates the word order, suggesting an alternate meaning that would resonate with Jacob in the future: "Not only did I not know God was here, but it was also I (myself) that I didn't really know."


Jacob was setting forth on a path to self-discovery, leaving his home and anticipating new challenges. As we follow Jacob's career, we will be impressed that when away from home, he appears insecure and even fearful of confronting transitions. After reaching his adulthood in a stable, comfortable setting, conversant with the local rules and customs, he seems clueless regarding what to anticipate in wholly novel circumstances. He was soon to discover his true love when meeting Rachel, his future wife, then remained to work for many years for Rachel's devious father, Laban. He fell victim to Laban’s trickery at first but then was able to adapt by learning new coping skills along the way to enable him to hold his own and gain control over his destiny.


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Our career counseling agency staff was challenged by having to transition from paper-and-pencil career testing, to in-house computerized testing, and then to remote assessment. We were convinced we were losing invaluable diagnostic data by succumbing to these newfangled methods. Today, remote interviewing for job recruitment or remote performance evaluations often replace the traditional interview format, and we wonder how we will ever be able to evaluate a candidate without actually feeling the dynamics of their handshake. We have now found that remote career counseling sessions are preferred by our clientele, often to the chagrin of veteran professional counselors. Big data and artificial intelligence have already penetrated the job market and career services, erasing some jobs and generating others, and the impact of quantum computing is around the corner. These disruptive developments are both daunting and exciting. Challenges await, so prepare yourself!


Whether changing jobs or careers or adapting to a new job description, we need no reminder that the world of work is typified by change, instability, and uncertainty. A popular managerial acronym, VUCA, summarizes these contemporary work dynamics that will characterize most career paths: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.


One tool to help deal effectively with career uncertainty in this post-modern world is to cultivate the central trait of career adaptability. Career adaptability has emerged as one of the leading "soft skills" underpinning an individual's employability over time.[4] It represents the cluster of skills needed to adjust effectively to predictable and unpredictable transitions in the workplace and in one's career. Individuals who resist accommodating to new, unfamiliar situations lack career adaptability. These adaptability-challenged individuals will experience uneasy transitions to a new boss, new regulations, new technology, and workplace restructuring. They may not have confidence in their ability to thrive in an unfamiliar setting.


However, as individuals learn more about themselves through formal and informal lifelong learning and open themselves to alternate ways of performing in their field, they will acquire the confidence needed to take risks and expand their comfort zone. This path will help mitigate the individual's fear of failure and help accommodate the inevitable ups and downs of a normative career ladder.


Points to Ponder:

  • Career adaptability comprises a cluster of career-relevant traits and behaviors. Sample items from Savickas and Porfeli's Career Adapt-Abilities Scale[5] present examples of what strengths should be cultivated to enhance one's “career adaptability quotient”:

*Thinking about what my future may be like" ('concern' scale).

*Counting on myself" ('control' scale).

*Observing different ways of doing things" ('curiosity' scale).

*Overcoming obstacles" ('confidence' scale).

*Cooperating with others on group projects" ('cooperation' scale).


  • The extent of our career adaptability will continue to be tested at all career stages, given disruptive technological advances, personnel transitions, and the implementation of new ways of doing things. Career adaptability has already found its place as one of the critical skills sought by recruiters. New job functions can be taught, but the employee's attitude toward transitioning to new areas is more difficult to modify.


  • Try this: During your job search, think about concrete instances when you were called upon to accommodate new technology, train a new team member, or orient a new boss. In your job interviews, be prepared to tell stories of how you had to sink or swim in unpredicted circumstances and how, through your efforts, you gained some insights about yourself and were able to expand your comfort zone as you anticipated further change.

[1] Genesis 28:15.

[2] Genesis 28:20–21 [3] Genesis 28:16.

[4] 'Soft skills' are personal attributes sometimes referred to as 'transferable skills' that accompany you from job to job and from career to career. This includes skills such as communication, networking, creativity, critical thinking, time management, team work. [5] Savickas, M., & Porfeli, E. (2012). Career Adapt-Abilities Scale: Construction, reliability, and measurement equivalence across 13 countries. Journal of Vocational Behavior 80(3), 661–673.

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ted plavin
ted plavin
09 พ.ย. 2565

Anyone who enjoys and respects the Bible will be grateful to Dr. Benjamin for revealing insights we can gain from it and apply to our daily lives.

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