• Sarah Y. Tse

The Value of Selflessness and Surrender while Job-Searching in a Pandemic

Sarah: Good afternoon, everybody. This is Sarah Tse, I am the president of TSE Worldwide Press, and I am conducting this interview as a mentor of Christina Lee, who has been my mentee since October 2018. It’s been an honor, a privilege, and a blessing to mentor Christina for the past few years, and today I am excited to be able to interview her about her life. So my first question for you is, can you share a little bit about yourself?

Christina: Yeah. So, I currently live in Los Angeles. I graduated from Biola with an MBA degree in May 2020, and I graduated from undergrad at CSUN in 2017. I’ll be sharing a little bit about my journey of how I got to where I am now. I’ll also be sharing about the time of waiting I went through when I was unemployed, which was one of the hardest seasons of my life. I would love to share this experience with others and be an encouragement and reminder that God is alive working in everyone’s lives.

Sarah: Great – Christina, what did you get your undergrad degree in?

Christina: I got my undergrad degree in marketing at CSUN, so the California State University of Northridge.

Sarah: And what year did you graduate from there?

Christina: I graduated in the year 2017.

Sarah: Okay – and what made you decide to pursue an MBA?

Christina: Well, to be honest, I never wanted to pursue an MBA degree. However, after I graduated from CSUN, I was searching for jobs because I didn’t want to work in the legal industry anymore, and wanted a job related to marketing. I kept looking for marketing positions, but no door was opening, and I felt that I was doing the right thing, but since the doors were closing I prayed and asked God for counsel. This was a struggle for a couple of weeks, because I hadn’t surrendered my future and my career to God because I felt like he was going to give me something I didn’t want. So, it was like a tug-of-war where I would surrender, then try and take my life back and pull it away from Him, and I would try to do things on my own. And eventually, as I surrendered, I felt that God was leading me to apply to graduate schools, and that’s how I came to pursue my MBA degree at Biola.

Sarah: What was your thought process when deciding whether or not to attend Biola University for your MBA?

Christina: So, I had two schools in mind – I was contemplating between the business schools of CSUN and Biola. I really liked that Biola integrated biblical truths with business, but a part of me had doubts because I had never heard of Biola’s MBA program, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to look good on my resume. So those were the thoughts in my head during this time.

Sarah: After going to a secular university for undergrad and a Christian university for grad, what were the main differences you saw between both schools?

Christina: I think the main difference was the relationships I built at the two schools – the CSUN relationships were more surface-level, and I don’t really talk to anyone from CSUN anymore. But, for Biola, I still keep in contact with my mentor as well as my professors, and I have a couple friends that I’m still in contact with as well. I think that the most important aspect that was shocking to me was that, at CSUN, everyone was about prioritizing their own career and success – it’s all about themselves. But at Biola, the school really emphasized how we can be a blessing in the workplace and how we can be selfless instead of being selfish. That was the biggest takeaway I had from these two schools.

Sarah: That’s great. How did you get the impression that there were selfish motivations at CSUN?

Christina: When I took my last class at CSUN, it was a strategic management class, and I think that, for the entirety of the class, the professor only talked about his accomplishments and how he went to Harvard for business school. This was a business simulation program as well, and that simulation became a competition to see who won and who didn’t. I think the competitive spirit in me made me feel like I needed to beat these other people for me to be successful, and I think we were constantly challenged to be better than other people and better than other teams.

Sarah: What were your immediate first impressions when beginning your MBA program at Biola?

Christina: When I first walked into class, everyone was welcoming and everyone was immediately talking, which was really great. I was also shocked when the professor started the class in prayer. So, I think when the professor first said “let’s open the class in prayer,” I was like oh my gosh, you can pray before class? I just fell in love with the entire process of incorporating faith with the education I was receiving.

Sarah: That’s wonderful. What key things do you remember learning from the program?

Christina: I remember that, during one leadership course I was in, we took several assessment tests to find out our behavior and our personality and leadership styles. I remember we took one specific assessment called the DISC Personality Test, and when I first took it I was so discouraged that my results did not come out how I wanted them to. I wanted to be the dominant, charismatic leader that everyone looked up to, and when I saw that I wasn’t what I wanted to be I was very discouraged. From there, I began to learn more about myself, and began embracing who I am in God, not trying to compare myself or be someone else that I’m not – I’ve learned to be comfortable in my own skin. It was like I was breaking free, and I understood that I’m created to be the leader God created me to be. So that is one key thing I remember during the program.

Sarah: That’s great. What did you learn about yourself before, during, and after the MBA program, if you were to break it down into three different stages?

Christina: Before the program, my life and career were basically about myself, what I could get, how I could be more successful, and how I could be the top dog in my next position. So I didn’t really know myself as a woman or leader in the workplace, and I struggled with a lot of insecurities of trying to be someone that I really wasn’t. Even in the workplace, I didn’t want to be a leader so I could lead other people, but rather I wanted to be a leader to prove to myself that I was a leader. During the program I learned that my heart was very sinful, and I gained a better understanding of God’s grace as He showed me my sin so I could grow from it. And then after the program, I realized that I wanted to become a servant leader, because that’s what Biola teaches; it teaches us to become servant leaders in the workplace. But in my heart I still wanted to be a leader for my position and for authority, and so I wanted to constantly prove myself and meet my own expectations of what I wanted and what I sought for in life. And even when I thought that I surrendered, I actually hadn’t. So during the entire process of waiting for jobs, I realized how I was holding onto my own life and wanting things my way. But when I surrendered, it was a total breakthrough moment where I got to trust God and understand that He knows better than me and that He is for me, not against me.

Sarah: When did you have that breakthrough?

Christina: The breakthrough actually happened two months ago, in June. A couple of weeks before my birthday, I was scheduled for an interview with a big tech company, but the interviewer did not show up to the meeting. My heart was shattered, because I wasn’t even given a chance to share what I had to offer. After that, I just mentally broke, and I lost so much weight during the process of grieving that rejection. I constantly kept reminding myself it’s okay, it’s okay, but in that moment I realized that I actually wasn’t okay, that I was just trying to make myself feel better. I then took almost two to three weeks to grieve for this entire season of waiting, and to actually process my emotions instead of brushing them off.

Sarah: Did you experience a milestone while in your MBA program at Biola? If so, what was it?

Christina: Before attending the MBA program, I always thought business was just a tool to gain money and to give to local churches or Christian organizations. I knew that business wasn’t evil, but I knew that it wasn’t looked too fondly upon in the church. I think that that kind of perspective was a part of my life because I was never taught the right perspective as a Christian, particularly regarding how God uses business as a ministry. During my MBA program, I began to realize that business is not just a way to earn money, but is also a mission field, and that every Christian that is in the workplace evangelizes by exemplifying and portraying Christ through our actions and work ethic, doing all things in excellence. What discouraged me most was when I saw Christians in the workplace who would want favors and would expect to be able to go to church events and receive grace for their absences. Maybe God will use that, but when I heard that I felt like business was not being held as very important in God’s kingdom, so I really learned that business can be used and that it’s valuable in expanding the kingdom of God. Through it, people can experience God’s grace, mercy, love, and kindness in the workplace.

Sarah: How did your education at Biola help better prepare you for your employment?

Christina: I think that, during my education, there were 2 practical tools I learned. The first tool was LinkedIn. During my class we had to work on our LinkedIn profile and make sure that it looked good, and our professor actually reviewed and made comments on what could be changed and what would make it more appealing to recruiters. This was very helpful for me, since I now had my profile ready to go instead of trying to make my LinkedIn look better during my job search. The other important tool was building relationships. I always felt like I was using people if I wanted to get to know about their job. Even reaching out to people on LinkedIn, I felt like maybe I was wasting their time – but I realized that building relationships is a great thing, and that I’m not being manipulative at all. With the right heart, networking can be fruitful, and in understanding another person I am being fruitful in what’s been given to me – I am being faithful with what I could do during my season of job hunting instead of just waiting for God to move.

Sarah: Very good. What obstacles did you experience after graduating from the MBA program?

Christina: The obstacle was actually a little before my graduation – I was unemployed from my job since November. So for almost 8 months I was unemployed, and I was constantly looking for jobs. I sent in numerous resumes, and I was always fixing my resumes to make them better. My biggest obstacle was my stress and anxiety about the future, especially with the coronavirus. I didn’t think I’d be able to get a job, and there was so much fear in me that God wasn’t going to pull through, and I had so many negative thoughts – I felt like my life was over, that I would never be able to find a job, and that I’d probably have to go back to Korea and live with my parents again. It was all these negative thoughts that I had to overcome during this process. My health was also at risk too; I was losing a lot of weight, I wasn’t able to sleep, and I was constantly emotionally unstable. One day I would try to numb myself by binge-watching dramas, and the next day I’d be okay. Everything was just very unstable, but I tried to find a routine for myself. Sarah recommended working out every morning, and so I took her advice. Working out regularly really helped tons, as did setting a set structure for my day. I tried to stick to this mentality even though there wasn’t much for me to do; I was making sure that I ate meals, slept, and worked out every day, and all of these little things really helped a lot.

Sarah: That’s great. How long did it take you to receive a job offer after graduation?

Christina: I received my job offer around 3 months after graduating.

Sarah: What were some valuable lessons you learned during your time of waiting?

Christina: The first thing I learned to do was process my emotions, because I was home and not as busy – I had more time to process my emotions and actually acknowledge what I was feeling. So, instead of brushing it off by making myself busy, I actually sat through my difficult and painful emotions. There were a lot of things going on in my heart, and there were a lot of lies that came up that I had to deal with in prayer and by reading the word daily. Another valuable lesson I learned was the importance of living a life of surrender. I feel like many times I think I know better than God, or I think I know what I really want and need. So, when I don’t receive the things that I want, I tend to wonder why didn’t I receive that? And it turns into a sort of bitterness, and I tend to question God. But the process of surrender is a freeing moment where I get to really trust and depend on God, persevering in any situation. So I think it gave me a bit more confidence in my trust in God, even when things are as uncertain as they are today. As I continued to grow myself in prayer and in reading the word, I began to build faith in things that are unseen instead of just living for what is seen. Thirdly, I learned about myself – I realized that I had hobbies. I learned that I love doing puzzles (1000+), and that this and similar activities are stress-relieving for me. I also realized that I enjoy exercising and cooking. These are the things that I learned about myself during the process of waiting, so it’s not all suffering and surrendering – I was able to enjoy the process by learning what brings me joy.

Sarah: What were some key elements that helped you sail through the obstacles you experienced?

Christina: The first one is definitely your intimacy with God. I feel like this is the biggest thing. If I didn’t pray, and if I didn’t ground myself in God’s word, I would be discouraged every single day and live in defeat. It always says in the Bible that Jesus came to give us abundant life, but I would not live in abundance, I would live in scraps. The second key element that helped me was community – having friends, mentors, and even talking with my pastor has really helped me a lot, because I usually don’t reach out to people for help or for assistance. I think that it helped me be more intentional in reaching out to my community and asking for guidance and prayer. As I shared with my community, I came to understand that life is much bigger than I see it – I was not carrying my burden alone, like I thought I was. The third thing is just enjoying the little things, as I mentioned before, like finding new hobbies. It sounds very cliché, but I think it’s so important to get to know yourself. When you enjoy yourself you get to enjoy God even more, because God is fun as well. When we get to enjoy these little things, we get to appreciate them and live with grateful hearts.

Sarah: Looking back, what is one thing that you learned about yourself?

Christina: I think it was the worth and identity that I placed in my career. Since I lived with this unhealthy mindset for almost 27 years, it was very hard to break, and there were steps to it, but I think the biggest thing was understanding that my worth and identity are not in my career or future, but rather in Jesus Christ alone.

Sarah: What advice would you give to the newly graduated class of 2020?

Christina: I think it’s so easy for us to become discouraged and to compare our situation with someone else’s. I struggled with this a lot. I’d see someone get a job, and since I was unemployed I would wonder what’s wrong with me, what am I doing wrong? Instead of comparing, though, I want us to be more intentional in the season where we’re at, learning to be faithful in the little things. During my times of waiting I was serving at a youth group, and instead of just getting by and doing the bare minimum, I wanted to try and be faithful with what little had been given to me, even though I was tired. My advice would be to take care of the little things, because they will help you prepare for the next season of your life. When things are hard I tend to quit, but during this time I kept moving forward; sometimes I felt like I was crawling, but even in that time I knew that God honored and helped give me strength for tomorrow. Take things one day at a time – I personally had trouble worrying about the future. But I would encourage you to spend your time wisely today, worrying tomorrow about the things that will come tomorrow. This really helped me, because it can be overwhelming when we don’t know what’s to come, but trusting in God’s timing really helped me have a teachable spirit.

Sarah: One last question – what are some of the life skills necessary for persevering through a season of adversity and uncertainty, especially during unemployment?

Christina: The first thing is consistency in reading the word and praying. Intimacy with God is, I think, the most crucial, because it would be a waste to not draw near to God in this time – He wants you to trust Him and know more about Him, and He wants to use you in this time, but without reading the word or praying it is hard for us to actually learn or hear from God. Another thing is discipline. A lot of people tend to be late during this time, not being productive and sleeping in whenever they want; but I think physical and emotional discipline are very important, especially in times of waiting. I think that, as Christians, we need to take care of ourselves by working out and taking care of our emotions. God gave us bodies and emotions, and we should not let either control us. Third is understanding that we are weak and fragile. I hated that I wasn’t the perfect Christian I expected myself to be during this season, that I wasn’t as passionate or powerful as I wanted to be. However, understanding that we’re human is important, because then we have to trust in God. Another skill is to just take small steps in approaching the goal that you have – it doesn’t have to be big, but setting a goal that you can follow, maybe even once a week or every day, helps remind you that you can do something and accomplish something, and it gives you a sense of fulfillment as you live your mundane life. When we take these small steps and remind ourselves who we are in Christ, I believe it gives us the strength to persevere tomorrow.

Sarah: What would you say to individuals who do not come from a faith background, and what would you say about the life skills you just shared? Are they applicable to anybody and everybody?

Christina: Yeah, I think these skills are applicable to anybody, especially regarding discipline. It could be physical, emotional, or mental discipline, and understanding that it’s okay to be weak is important for everybody – I tend to meet friends who always want to be strong or always want to have it all together, but it’s okay when we struggle or have problems and need to reach out for help. I think all these things just remind us that we are human, and so all of these things are applicable.

Sarah: Very good, thank you so much Christina! This wraps up our interview today.

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What My Book is About, and Who Should Read It

This book recounts my personal stories, collected from seven long years of non-stop legal litigations and business setbacks. I experienced bitter betrayals, cutthroat lawyers, and a devastating death