Career and Spirituality, Can They Coexist?
The questions I often get, especially from those preparing to enter the workforce
is, "can career and spirituality coexist in the workplace, and if so, how do you do
it without compromising your morals and values?" Based on all the recent news headlines
about the "Me Too" movement, the "Varsity Blues" college admission scheme and the
MLB sign stealing cheating scandal, we can see why this is such a popular topic. The
answer is yes, the two can co-exist, and not only can career and spirituality coexist,
but God can use our profession as a vessel to help others in their careers, which
has been a driving force for me.
I was hired into my first corporate job in 1987. The eighties were known as the Young Urban Professionals era, or "Yuppies" for short. Others referred to it as the Machiavellian Ethic generation, where the "end justifies the means" - the end being wealth and power that allowed for fancy cars, clothes and decadent lifestyles and the means being moral corruption. The goal was not comfort or security, rather stimulation. There was enormous pressure to be wealthy at a young age, and what appeared, at any cost. The movie Greed, which premiered in 1987, the year I graduated from Seaver College at Pepperdine, best exemplified this behavior. It was an eye opener for me since I was launching my career that same year. This movie was plagued with moral decisions and costly consequences.
Does this corruption truly happen in the "real" world? Unfortunately, it does, and as a Christian, I was not exempt from being exposed to it. After all, I was living in the "Yuppy" generation and working in corporate America. I felt torn by this quandary. How could I be eager to make money, advance in my career and serve God, simultaneously? Was it possible? I knew it was a challenge I had to face head on if I wanted a prosperous career. This manifested itself into making difficult and unpopular decisions that played on my fear. If I didn't join in the corporate game, did that mean my career was doomed?
As my career progressed, I started to see how the Yuppy era was playing out, and I became more determined not to fall into this trap. I wanted my life to reflect my morals and values and I wanted to use my work for good. The Bible states in Luke 12:48, "to whom much is given, much will be required." What this translates to is that we are held responsible for being blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, etc., and we are expected to use it for the benefit of others. With every promotion came the opportunity to use my leadership position in and outside of work as a platform to be a positive role model to others and to lead with purpose and intent and not compromise. With this mindset, my career soared and doors opened inside and outside of work for me to put this philosophy into practice. I discovered Girls Inc, an organization that mentored young girls, and I took on a volunteer leadership role. Along with a group of women, I revamped one of their mentorship programs and I helped young girls in the program get jobs. Through this effort I met lifelong friends with whom I share similar professional and personal goals.
My holistic life was in sync as I strived to navigate my career and success in a way that glorified God. Having a leadership position at my company allowed me opportunities to help others steer their careers, not only inside my company, but outside as well. One of the opportunities that presented itself was to moderate a panel of professionals on the topic of career navigation through a spiritual point of view. Wow, I thought to myself, my career journey had prepared me for this day. The turnout was so successful that for the following year the forum morphed into a larger event. As a corporate executive and a small business owner, I was asked to both moderate and sit on a separate panel that spoke on the topic of women in leadership, specifically in the workplace which addressed issues on work-life balance, careers and motherhood. Soon after, Pepperdine approached me to participate in their Career Coaching Program, teaching students how to prepare themselves for their careers and the real world in general. Gleaning from this career coaching experience, I naturally began helping the young professionals in my company navigate their career paths as well.
It's been 33 years since I entered the workforce, and today my professional life and my spiritual life coexist in harmony. I am grateful that I did not have to choose between my career and my Christianity. I'm grateful that I didn't let the fear of the 80's prevent me from going all in with my career. I'm grateful for all the people that I learned from and who encouraged and mentored me along the way. Most of all, I'm grateful that I'm able to pay it forward on a continual basis. It's all because I was determined that I could have a career in corporate America and remain true to my morals and values. I've been rewarded with a flourishing life beyond what I dreamed of back in 1987. I have been given an abundance of blessings that I get to share with others and I'm confident that the potential is there for every Pepperdine student and alumni to achieve a life filled with purpose, leadership and service.
|Sylvia Franson (Seaver College, 1987). Sylvia is Vice President, Advertising Sales, NBCUniversal and the Co-Founder of Rancho Capistrano Winery in San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente, California.|