Confronting Career Decisions
By Alec Miller
July 18, 2008
With summer more than halfway over, and college graduation but a fading memory, many people in their twenties are faced with a grim reality: They're going to have to find a real job. Twentysomethings are at the difficult transition between allowing life to happen and learning to take charge of life. Understandably, it is a frustrating and frightening time, but also a potentially rewarding one. It is the important season when a person begins to understand his or her uniqueness and feels the desire to connect this new sense of identity to their faith and to the larger community. You could say that this is the moment when the adult is beginning to emerge from the young adult. Assuming you earn a satisfactory income, how do you discern when it’s time to leave your job and how to make your next move the right move?
The sense that it’s time to “move on” from a current position looks different for all people, but there are many common experiences. Not everyday will be a party, but the obvious sign that it’s time to go is when you find yourself mentally convincing or forcing yourself to go to work. What you do throughout the day should be challenging, yet should also return some kind of energy back to your sense of purpose. If you have given your current job every chance for success and still find yourself wondering about another line of work, it may be time to listen. However, it may not yet be the time to go. As a young adult, it is important to be able to build a resume to show that you can and have done what is necessary to be successful. For some, it might be necessary to hang on a while longer in order to gain more experience, to demonstrate more leadership or to take a few more classes to become marketable. Taking charge of life requires patience and the ability to know if it’s the job that’s the problem or the person doing the job. Paul’s reminder to the Corinthian church (1Cor 10:31) is as relevant today as it was then, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Scanning the classifieds is a practice that should begin long before walking out of your place of employment for the last time. By regularly checking the classifieds while you are happily employed, you enter into a dialogue with yourself. Seeing the opportunities, demands and expectations of other positions helps you to clarify what you want in life, what you might dislike if it were your job, and what might provide the perfect motivation or challenge to do your current job better. If, in reading the want ads, you find yourself frequently excited and drawn to positions in another profession, you should ask yourself what it is about the positions that resonate with you and whether or not those same dynamics are available in your current job. If you are unsure about what career might be good for you, now is a good time to turn to the friends and family who know you best. Discernment is ideally a community practice. Develop a questionnaire that will ask them to honestly rate your strengths, weaknesses, passions and dislikes, as well as brainstorm what they believe would be your dream job. Make sure to give whoever is completing the questionnaire complete freedom to give you low marks on, for example, “Works well in a team.” Their honesty and your humility to accept this constructive feedback will help you to see yourself in a new way and understand the possibilities that others see in you.
These years are incredibly challenging, formative and often confusing. It is necessary to engage in daily prayer to gain the discernment necessary to understand how you, your values, your goals and your faith are all developing in relation to one another. The result of these changes is the stirrings and longings you might feel in your daily life. Invite God into this discerning process without shying away from the ideas, challenges and questions that may arise. What you do is ultimately up to you and God, but it is important that your outward actions match your inward values. Micah 6:8 reminds us that God requires us “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” You may not be called to the pastorate, but as a person of faith you are asked to do no harm to your neighbor and to uphold the dignity of human life. It may be that you’re already finding yourself drawn to this intersection where your gifts and talents meet the needs of the world. Your vocation should encourage the better qualities of humanity and be life giving to you so that upon leaving the office, you find yourself engaged in activities that provide a sense of fulfillment and joy.
Whether it is a new career move or another major change in life, it is important to learn to listen to the gentle whispers of God, the advice of those who have gone before you and the deep stirrings within yourself. Listen, contemplate and decide to give your next decision the very best chance for success!
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