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.



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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