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The Right Career?

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How Can I Choose the Right Career?


Steve Answers:

This question was much easier to answer back in the "good ole days.” If you are a male, the answer was that you'd be a farmer. If you are a female, the answer was that you'd be a housewife. That's it. The men worked the fields, and the women took care of the house and children. There are still some societies (primarily agrarian cultures) where this way of life continues today.

My guess is that you're not in that situation, or you wouldn't be asking this question. So I'd like to suggest two different answers to your question about choosing the right career.

The first answer depends on when you're asking the question. If you're a child, say around five or six years of age, you may want to become a fire fighter or police officer, or some other figure of courage and public safety. In your teen years you might want to take the path of a superstar, either in sports, music, entertainment, or business.

If you're the type of person who goes to college, your answer might be how many years you need to attend college before you finally settle down on which major to complete, or how many degrees you need to finish before you actually begin a career.

When you become a young adult, you might live in the tension of getting a job that pays the bills, versus holding out until that dream job might be available to you.

If and when you start a family of your own, you're apt to face the dilemma of investing in your family or investing in your career. Should your family be your career? Should your career open possibilities for your family? If so, at what cost?

After that, you might try a completely different career.

So which career was the right one for you? Did it change at different stages of your life?

The second answer depends on what's important or valuable to you. Do you want a secure career, or an adventuresome one? Are you a company person, or an entrepreneur? Do you expect to stay in one job a long time, like a dentist who buys or builds up a practice? Or do you plan to climb some corporate ladder and change with each opportunity you get? Do you know what you want to do, or will you start work with an expectation that things will change, including what you do in your career? Do you have a job already, or will you enter the job market and try to get a job? Do you think that God will bop you on the head and tell you to go into a specific career, or do you think it will be a process of making evaluations, getting educated or trained, and applying for jobs instead of the job dropping into your lap?

My parents had pretty steady jobs throughout their adult lives. My mom has been a nurse for years, and my dad has been a businessman, most of the time in real estate. But my siblings and I, as well as our spouses, have been through several career shifts, sometimes radical ones. And with even more options today than when I was a teen, it makes narrowing down one choice even more difficult.

One familiar passage that people use about parents actually relates to careers. It goes like this: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, KJV). Frequently people share this with distraught parents when their adolescent children leave the church or do something crazy, such as running away from home. The implication is that the adolescent will return since the parents certainly did the proper training.

I don't think that's what Solomon had in mind at all when he wrote that. The Israelites weren't “leaving the church.” For them, they were Israelites no matter what. The issue has more to do with a person's career or vocation. Parents need to be sensitive to a person's talents and interests, otherwise their child will either be miserable when it comes to work, or else they will switch if it isn't a good fit—they will “depart from it.”

Here's an example. What if parents push their child to be an athlete or perhaps a physician? Then the child tries to please the parents and follow their prescribed path, but the child is really cut out to be an artist, not an athlete or a physician. Is the child being trained “in the way he should go”?

I know a young person who finished medical school and decided he really never wanted to be a doctor. So he did something else after he completed all that expensive training.

What is the right career for you? Some think that the specific career doesn't matter as much as what kind of person or worker you are. Solomon wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesi-astes 9:10). If you're a hard worker, that's more important than a specific career. While that sounds like a good work ethic to me, it seems to ignore some other important elements.

Jesus told the story of the talents, and how we are to take what God has given us and put it to good use while we wait for His return (see Matthew 25:14-30). Many teens try out many things—sports, computers, science, arts, drama, relationships, photography and videography, leadership, spirituality, academics, and more—as they seek to identify their talents.

Can you identify some of your talents? If so, in what type of career could you utilize what God has given you? It's ideal when you can do something you have talent to do, and you really want to do it! Not everyone gets that opportunity. Many who have a talent in music aren't able to do that as a career, because the competition is so great that most musicians have to earn money in another area and do music as a hobby. The same is true for athletes, actors, and others. Just because you want to be an attorney doesn't mean that you'll get into law school.

I know some people who have gone through a dramatic conversion experience in which they got so excited about God that they decided to become a pastor. That's certainly a possibility, but pastors are not simply people who are excited about God. That's a description of a Christian, not a vocation. In fact, God wants to have excited Christians in all kinds of careers and work places.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian curch about changes in their lives after they became believers in Jesus. This included a person who became a Christian, even if the spouse didn't (see 1 Corinthians 7:12-17). He also wrote about circumcision and slavery and finished with this basic principle: “Whatever situation you were in when you became a believer, stay there in your new relationship with God” (1 Corinthians 7:24, NLT).* In other words, be a Christian right where God has planted you!

How can you choose the right career? Commit yourself and all you do to God. Identify and develop the talents God has given you. Look for options in which you can use your talents for God's glory (not limited to church or religious settings). Then give it all you have, and look for opportunities to serve.

The entire search process can also lead to a deepening prayer experience for you. That’s probably better for your relationship with God than a quick answer anyway.

*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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