- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2000

A month before Matthew Shaub was to graduate from Pennsylvania's Grove City College and weeks before he was to be married, the company where the would-be mechanical engineer had eagerly accepted a position went out of business, leaving him jobless.
Many students in his situation might worry about their future, but Mr. Shaub, now 23, turned to his school's career service office, where he says their unusual approach to employment counseling gave him hope.
Instead of focusing on helping students find the best-paying job, the private Christian college near Pittsburgh helps them to identify their God-given talents to tap into their spiritual destiny for working.
"We really believe that if it's your particular calling, there will be a place for you in the marketplace," says Jim Thrasher, director of career services at Grove City, a school affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA. "This is really a motivating factor for students and one that gives them an expectant attitude."
Mr. Shaub, who had worked with Mr. Thrasher on personal and job assessment skills since his freshman year, relied on his faith and says he was patient after his setback. Working with Mr. Thrasher, he soon found new work as a product marketing engineer at York International Corp. in York, Pa.
There, he gets to use his personality and creative side, rather than rely solely on his technical expertise, talents he would have needed less if the first job had panned out.
"It just wasn't my calling to be sitting behind a computer with very little people interaction," he now says, looking back and reflecting on how events transpired in his favor. "I'm actually working in a position that was much different than what I thought I'd pursue."
Mr. Thrasher concedes that Grove City's "presuppositional and philosophical" approach to employment is unusual, a shift from traditional college career counseling. But, he says, it helps to keep students from being "enslaved in a never-ending merry-go-round of career searching."
He cites a survey from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed most U.S. workers are likely to have at least eight different jobs between graduating from high school and the time they turn 32. About 25 percent of all workers have been at their current jobs for less than one year, he added.
For many students, he says, a job search is trial and error, a frantic end-run in their final semester in hopes of finding someplace, any place, to earn a paycheck. He wants his students to identify their transferable skills early in college, build dynamic resumes and be able to articulate what they can do for future employers when the time comes to find a job. He also wants them to be open in talking about their spirituality.
Job recruiters seem to appreciate the approach, Mr. Thrasher says. More than 170 companies recruited at Grove City this year, a coup for a school with only 2,300 students.
Corporations also are flocking to Harding University in rural Searcy, Ark., though it has only 4,700 students, says its president, David Burks. Ninety-eight percent of its graduates are employed within three months.
"We think it's because of the Christian component," Mr. Burks says. "The employers like it that our students have a faith in God. They don't always talk in those terms. They say 'we like the fact that your students have values … their people skills, their work ethic.' That's just another way of saying that it is their faith, their example that is coming through."
Like Grove City College, Harding University, a private school affiliated with the Church of Christ, also counsels its students on their job choices with attention to the spiritual, rather than the wallet. The Web site for the school's career services office bears the scripture from James 1:5, which Mr. Burks says translates to "if you lack wisdom, ask for God's help."
It is commonplace, Mr. Burks says, for career counselors at Harding to pray with their students and to talk with them "specifically about how they can [affect] the world in a Christian sense as a servant through their jobs."
Many students at Harding take a second major in addition to their primary field of study in what the school calls "vocational ministry," he says. "We try to tell our students that the most important thing they do when they leave Harding is to consider the spiritual aspect on how they will be of service to their fellow man."
Stewardship, Mr. Thrasher says, is also key at Grove City.
"That's a big problem in the marketplace today. A lot of people are in misfit positions, where they are not utilizing the gifts that they have and are not in a position where they are thriving because it is not a right fit," he says. "A lot of people think that work is a necessary evil, but we believe that work has meaning … to serve God and transform the culture."

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