I Don’t Know What I Want To Be When I Grow Up!

In a world of seemingly limitless opportunities, bright young people can be frustrated trying to narrow down what career to pursue. Most don’t have enough work experience to know the great variety of jobs available. Others have aspirations but don’t know how they can make a living pursuing their passion or interests. They search the Internet, talk with parents and guidance counselors, and perhaps talk with friends but cannot discern the path they should take to a fulfilling career.

I wrote an article previously with general advice for young people on choosing a career that is satisfactory and allows them to glorify God in that vocation. In it I provide advice on handling adult criticism or worry about non-traditional career paths (social media manager, artist, trades) and how to use the career to support godly service. However, they may feel like they are trapped in a room full of doors wondering which one to choose. If this is you, I hope the advice below provides some important considerations and ideas for selecting a door to open.

You will probably have several careers

In contrast to my parent’s generation who generally stayed with one company for most of their career, you will probably work for several companies throughout your career. On the job you will likely start in detail-oriented production work until you become an expert who manages, jobs, projects, and/or people. As your skills develop you may discover new ways to maximize your joy and increase your income by pivoting from your initial career path to something you find more challenging or fulfilling. This may happen within one company but will more likely be a couple of moves within one company and moves within other companies as well. You may even be freelancing, that is, doing several projects or jobs (possibly quite diverse) for multiple companies while working for yourself.

Many pursue a course of work for a decade or two then change to something quite different that uses their knowledge and experience in different ways. The marketer becomes an inventor. The accountant becomes a consultant helping other businesses with financial decisions instead of detail money tracking. The successful businessman becomes a preacher. The stay-at-home mom becomes a nurse or teacher when the kids leave home. What you choose today may suit you for a period of your life until you choose something else to pursue.

Start with the tasks not with the title

Much of the frustration I had, and shared by some of my children, is not knowing what job “title” to pursue. We are accustomed to a person with a job title doing a particular job and our challenge is to uncover the one that is suited for us. I want to suggest a better path that will produce less anxiety: focus on what you want to do instead of what the job is called.

Choice Of Career OrientationThink about what you want to do in a job, not its title, who hires for that work, or will it pay enough to support you. Think about what kind of tasks you want to do every day (understanding that every job has some tasks that are unpleasant but necessary) or accomplishments you want to achieve. List those tasks and/or accomplishments and think about what skills you will need to do that work. You can search the Internet for the tasks or objectives (i.e., writing, computer programming, welding, building houses, helping people recover from illness…) to determine what skills are needed and perhaps read about individuals who are successful in this work. I would suggest being broad in your thinking and have similar overlapping options of the things you want to do. For example, if you are interested in gardening, consider skills in landscaping, food cultivating, and hydroponics as they are distinct but related.

Next, search to see how you can develop those skills today. There are many things you can study online, watch YouTube videos, read books, or learn how to use specific tools, whether the tool is a complex machine or computer software. You can also discover what trade schools, colleges, or apprenticeship programs teach those skills. An important boost to your career is finding hobbies that use the skills for personal enjoyment. Use this knowledge to determine how you can start learning the skills now, even if it just learning the fundamental principles until you can go to a college or trade school. Think of ways you can use the skills now as a volunteer (help in a hospital or nursing home) or experiment on personal projects  (i.e., building web sites, apps, animations, furniture, rebuilding an engine…) to gain practical experience you can demonstrate to employers. Following this path, some jobs and employers may find you!

As your knowledge grows and your skills improve the career options and  perhaps people or companies that will help you pursue your passion will start to appear. In fact, I don’t think some job titles or career paths will become evident until after you have started the journey following your interests and have accumulated knowledge and skills. So explore what interests you, what brings you joy or excites you, the things you can get lost in and truly enjoy doing, or the things you have enjoyed doing since you were a kid. Chances are, if you take a broad interest approach as described above, you will eventually discover what you cannot see by anxious seeking.



Advice to Young Christians on Choosing A Career

Though work is important, it is not the center of the Christian’s life. Work should support our mission of serving God.

Though work is important, it is not the center of the Christian’s life. Work should support our mission of serving God.

Choice Of Career OrientationChristians must not consider work as something separate from their spiritual life. Some say, ignorantly, that “business is business” and do not apply Bible principles of honesty to sales or management. Some use work as an excuse for not serving God. The Bible teaches the importance of diligent and honest work, but not at the expense of one’s soul. After all, “what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Do not put your career above God’s work

Honest employment is important but earthly work is not the primary focus of the Christian. Men of the world are defined by their jobs and judge one another by the prestige of the job title, their authority, or salary. Christians have a job that has nothing to do with the workplace.

Ecclesiastes 12:13: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

The kingdom of God is our primary occupation, Matthew 6:31-33.

But Christian men are commanded to work!

1 Timothy 5:8 – “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Paul condemned men who would not work in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12. The Christian’s career should support godly service. 2 Corinthians 8 describes Christians giving of their money to help needy Christians. We work so that we can provide for our own and help others.

Ephesians 4:28 – “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”

I had an old friend who was a successful college professor and business man. He had a great relationship with his family and was very active in the Lord’s work. He always quoted the saying, “No one, on his deathbed, said, ‘I wish I would have spent more time at the office’.”

I have known extremely successful people who were alienated from their children and often divorced. No amount of money or possessions can replace the importance of family time and influencing them to serve God.

Christians overly focused on a career may lose their soul since they neglect to feed from God’s word, pray, and do not serve in the kingdom. As Mark 8, quoted above, and Matthew 16:26 observe, it is of no profit to achieve great success and financial wealth at the cost of your soul.

As great as you may be at your job, you can be replaced (and you will be replaced). The President of our company often notes that the cemetery is full of business people who thought they couldn’t be replaced.

For the Christian, work of any kind done well is its own reward

Ecclesiastes 5 describes the vexation and emptiness of great possessions. The possessor cannot enjoy wealth for fear of losing it to bad investments, thieves, or con artists. Perhaps worse is working hard in the heat of the sun to leave your wealth to a lazy person who is given the money gets to spend it.

Enjoyable work is a key to contentment

Ecclesiastes observes that the pursuits of this world are vanity; however, the servant of God can find some contentment by serving God, enjoying his family, being satisfied with the fruit of his labor, and doing work he enjoys, Ecclesiastes 5:18-20. The work doesn’t give meaning to a vain life but when we realize that work is not our life, just a part of it, we can keep it in proper perspective and focus on living with God. Therefore, one should choose a career that he will enjoy and that will allow him to serve God. Wise people have said, “choose work that you enjoy and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Challenges with career choices

A young person may say that he wants to pursue a particular type of career. Often the reply will be, “You can’t make money doing that” or “You may have a hard time finding a job doing that.” I’ve told young people going into unique careers that older people often respond this way when they don’t know anyone who does that type of job or do not know much about it.
In fact, I have heard older people give young people advice to go into a certain career field that was undergoing massive job layoffs! In the past they knew that this kind of job paid well and was stable but their information was outdated.

I’m not saying don’t listen to the advice but take it as advice, not the absolute truth. Investigate career paths for yourself. Learn what you have to do to succeed and pursue your dream. Perhaps your dream job doesn’t pay a lot but if you can conform your life to live within that pay then you will be successful. If you are not covetous requiring the nicest house, cars, clothes, luxurious vacations, eating out all of the time, etc. you can live the life described in Ecclesiastes 5.

There was a career path I would have loved but didn’t pursue it because I listened to the “experts” in my life telling me that it wouldn’t be a good choice. Sadly, I gave up something I would have really enjoyed instead of trying to see how I could make it work.

Whose dream is it?

Sometimes parents will drive their children fulfill the dreams they didn’t pursue. A father may have been a good athlete but didn’t play at the college or professional level and pushes his child to do this. The child may want to please his father but does not have the heart for sports that his father did and will be miserable playing. Some people, following the dreams of their parents, pursue careers as accountants, lawyers, business owners, or other high profile jobs and are miserable because they wanted another career path.

If you are in this situation, discuss your dreams with your parents, be prepared to deal with the objections mentioned in the last paragraph, and share the career path you want to pursue. With career, as with choosing someone to marry, choose one that will help you serve God, draw closer to God, and live in godly contentment.

Let your light must shine in the workplace

A mature person works when it’s not fun and he is tempted to goof off. Proverbs 12:11 and 28:19 reminds us that we are rewarded for work, not laziness. Talking about work accomplishes nothing; doing the work has profit, Proverbs 14:23.

Remember your career is built with each job you have no matter how different the work is compared to what you ultimately want to do. Flipping burgers, cleaning restrooms, sweeping floors, or stocking shelves are steps upon which you can build a successful career. Doing these jobs well helps you build up to greater responsibilities and more pay.

Christians should have a reputation for responsible and diligent work. Consider these exhortations:

  • Proverbs 21:5, 25 – Purposeful progression without irresponsible choices
  • Proverbs 15:19 – Hard work is a highway to success
  • Ecclesiastes 9:10 – Work hard at whatever you find to do

Consider especially the wisdom of Colossians 3:22-24: Don’t just work hard when the boss is watching but work as if Jesus were your boss. Besides, if you don’t work hard when the boss is not around it will still be obvious because your production, or output, will indicate your work ethic.

So work hard at whatever you do. A good attitude toward every task will lead to increasing responsibility, accountability, and rewards. There is work that does not seem challenging, or might seem beneath you, and you are tempted to not do your best as you wait to do greater work. It is doing the little work effectively that paves the way for you to be given greater work.
As a manager, I’m not going to give someone work that has great impact on the company if they consistently fail to do work that is not as critical. Consider also these thoughts:

  • Proverbs 20:4 – You build your future by work you do today
  • Luke 19:16-18 – Faithful in a little and given more authority
  • Luke 16:10 – Also, dishonest in little will be dishonest in much
  • Proverbs 22:29 – Talent developed by hard work will make a place for you

What value do you provide to an employer?

The problem with many resumes I read are they are about the person instead of what that person can do for the employer. “I want a job that will help me…” should be replaced with statements that indicate how you hope to use your skills to help the employer accomplish his goals. Your success will come when you help your organization be successful or bring value to others

Always remember, the company does not exist to provide you a job; the job exists because the company has some work that needs to be done. It’s not about you.

Aspire to financial independence

Working hard to achieve financial independence is the pleasant reward for hard work. This means developing independence from your parents: You’ll probably have to live without many luxuries but you can have your independence.

When my wife and I married we had the first meal in our apartment on an overturned cardboard box instead of a table. We have a lot of used furniture, shop at thrift stores, and do without many luxuries in order to live within our means.

When you are depending on someone else for financial support they exercise some oversight of how you spend your money. For example: You loan a friend $20 and he comes to you on Thursday and says he can’t pay you back until next week but you really could use the money. Sunday afternoon he asks if you’ve seen the latest movie that just came out this weekend because he saw it with his girlfriend and it was SO good!

What are you feeling? Happy that he saw this movie or excited to see it yourself? No, you are thinking that he could have paid you back and seen the movie when he earned his own money. You might even say, “How could you see that movie when you owe me?”

Parental example: suppose your parents pay your car insurance, mobile phone bill, or some other regular bill (not saying that it is wrong). Don’t be surprised when you start getting some grief about taking trips with your friends, going shopping, eating out a lot, or purchasing entertainment. You may hear your parents asking, “Can you afford that?”

They aren’t able to use the money because they are paying some of your bills but, like that loan, you also give them some control and the right to question how you spend your money. This is especially true if you have moved out of the home and are in your own apartment.

Work to develop full financial independence even though it will mean that you won’t have these luxuries you have come to enjoy. You can learn to enjoy playing cards, board games, or video games with friends. You can learn to cook your own food and save a LOT of money over eating out. You can lay your head down on your pillow in your second hand bed with a light meal on your stomach and be proud that you are paying all of your bills. Sometimes situations arise where you need to move in with your parents or accept some support but strive to make that period short if at all possible.

Use the money you earn to honor God

Proverbs 3:9-10 reminds us to honor God with our possessions and our income. Remember: the purpose of your career is to allow you to serve God and take care of your family not feed selfish desires or serve only your needs.

Why Older People Give Youth Advice (And Why You Should Listen)

Loving GranddaugherOlder people frequently enjoy the opportunity to share a lifetime of wisdom with young people at various stages in their lives: graduation, going off to college, workforce, or war, marriage, birth of a child, etc. Such a desire arises from love for the young and a desire to save them unnecessary heartache, suffering, or unnecessary painful, and often lifelong, consequences. The wise young person will realize that this advice is given out of concern and will recognize that they can avoid some mistakes by listening to the warnings of those who have already passed through a treacherous way.

A young person may be tempted to dismiss or diminish the advice because “things are different now” and “we live in different times.” Technology may change and many things may seem more advanced, but basic human nature remains the same throughout the ages. The book of Ecclesiastes emphasizes this cycle of life and that “there is nothing new under the sun.” So your parents may not have had iPods when they were young but they still had to make good choices about entertainment and their friends.

For example, consider this quote that speaks so well of the immorality in our nation:

“All is full of criminality and vice; indeed much more of these is committed than can be remedied by force. A monstrous contest of abandoned wickedness is carried on. The lust of sin increases daily; and shame is daily more and more extinguished. Discarding respect for all that is good and sacred, lust rushes on wherever it will. Vice no longer hides itself. It stalks forth before all eyes. So public has abandoned wickedness become, and so openly does it flame up in the minds of all, that innocence is no longer seldom, but has wholly ceased to exist.”

Yet this quote is not from modern times but it is Seneca speaking of ancient Rome! Time, technology, and political power may change but people remain the same. Listen to the godly advice of those who are older because the principles are timeless.

Don’t forsake the wisdom you have received from godly sources. For example, the book of Proverbs reminds us to not forsake wisdom shared by godly parents (Proverbs 1:8—9; 29-33; 3:1-4). Following such wisdom will decorate your life better than jewelry, direct your steps on the path of a good life, and warn you of dangers that can damage or destroy your life. As Proverbs 3:4 says to write such wisdom on your hear so that “…you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” (ESV)

You may not always understand or appreciate the godly wisdom from parents, Bible class teachers, preachers and Christians, but it can be the greatest treasure in life if it keeps us from making terrible mistakes that could make our life more difficult. Don’t hesitate to talk to those who are much older, like grandparents or older people in church, and ask them for advice to help you live a better life. Then listen carefully to the lessons of wisdom spoken in love to help you have the best life you can live.

Other Articles in this series:

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