The concept of value (which I will occasionally interchange with worth) is the most important yet complicated part of this series. Even though this was one of the last things I completely understood, I hope it’s not for my readers.
About two years ago I received my first full-time civil engineering offer. My title was Nuclear Engineer II and my salary was more than my mother makes as a registered nurse with 16 years experience. I knew when I received the offer I wasn’t going to take it. However, I took several days to let it soak in. I called my parents, posted on social media, and even asked school advisers if I should negotiate the offer. That week I felt more important and valuable than I ever had before. That week I clearly confused my work-value with my self-value.
When I think of my work-value (how much I’m worth in the workplace), some things that come to mind are my resume, salary, net worth, position, and power. These are some tools that people use to identify and measure my work-value. Work-value is normally contingent upon what work a person does and the demand of said work. Clearly, Beyonce has a higher work-value than I do.
The self-value I’m talking about has nothing to do with my work-value. As I searched for universally accepted tools to identify self-worth, the best thing I could come up with are core values. Core values are great and I believe every person and business should have them. Personally, they are my favorite discussion topic during an interview. However, I know my self-value goes even deeper than my core values.
If I go to work without confidently knowing my self-worth, I may believe my worth is in my work.
To attain Life-Work balance, I had to not only understand both my self-value and work-value, I couldn’t confuse the two like I did so easily in college. Here are..
3 Things That Helped Me Understand My Value In The Workplace
1. My self-value is rooted in Christ
My self-value stems from understanding my identity in Christ, not engineering. Since engineering is a valuable skill, I have to renew my mind daily to remember it is only part of my unique qualifications. Engineering is a gift that gives me unique opportunities to be used by Christ.1 God helped me understand this through a sermon at One Church Los Angeles called: You Are Not Your Gift.2
Even though I knew God, I didn’t fully value myself like God values me. I was living with identity issues mainly because I was uncertain how my design (i.e. my race, gender, and upbringing) was a part of my purpose. I will discuss how I came to understand my self-value as I cover more Unique Design blogs. For now, I will reference some material below that significantly helped me identify my worth in Christ.3,4
2. Pay doesn’t equal value and respect
As a woman entering an industry dominated by men, it’s easy for me to jump on the feminism bandwagon and demand equal pay as men. However, as I understand my value more, demanding equal pay isn’t the approach I want someone else to value me. In my intro blog, do you remember what I said about the work environment conducive to personal success? “.. an environment where I am valued and respected for who I am.” Most feminism would just slap a period after valued and demand a promotion/pay increase. Not me. I believe God created all mankind in His image and likeness and he values every person on earth the same.5 I’m interested in (or creating) work environments that respect and value each person for who they are. I believe that the companies that understand and respect people for their differences, will naturally convert that value to wages appropriately. I have no interest in working for a company that is forced to like me. I wouldn’t want a husband or serve a God who is forced to love me. So I’m not settling in the workplace either.
3. My work-value is based off my resume
In order to get my work-value right, not only does an employer need to respect me, they also must consider my skills and experience. Most employers won’t pay me my true work-value, but rather the value of the work they employ me to do. From a business standpoint, I get that. However, as I move through my career I must understand what I’ve learned from my experiences and be able to communicate that and potential value to an employer.
No one taught me work-value better than the CEO of a small project management company I met in Los Angeles at a National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) event. She is an African-American business owner, wife, and mother who desires to honor God in every aspect of life. She instantly became a role model. She temporarily hired me for two separate projects; both only lasted a few weeks. All she needed me to do was organize and format information in Microsoft Office and ensure she addressed all the proposal requirements. This woman paid me like an engineer to basically be her assistant. When she sent me the offer letter, I thought for sure she made a mistake. She did not. She made it very clear to me that since I had a degree in engineering, and she wanted to hire me, she was going to pay me what I was worth (not what the job was worth). Mind blown.
“Father God, please help me as I strive to live out my mission to end cycles of poverty through empowerment, embracement, exposure, and service. I pray this blog empowers readers to know, love and be themselves in the workplace. God help us value ourselves like you value us. Give us the wisdom to know how our experiences qualify us for other opportunities. Thank you for setting the standard on love and giving us the choice to love you with our whole hearts. Thank you for knowing and loving us before we even knew and loved ourselves. I’m forever in awe of who You are. Amen.”
Thanks for reading my blog! The next part of my life-work balance series will be published next Thursday (1/5/17). Wishing you a Happy New Year and prosperous 2017!
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With God’s Love,
Jamara Beard ❤