A Responsibility to Both Yourself and the World
It’s worth mentioning again that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to pursue a career they love. There are real economic and social reasons why certain individuals do not have the same opportunities, and it’s important to be aware of this. Especially with respect to those in poverty, or who have grave health or psychological issues, the idea of finding their “element” often must be sacrificed to taking care of their material and physical needs.
However, there are some who do have the opportunity to find a career they love but don’t do so for reasons that have to do with fear, peer pressure, a lack of willingness to take healthy risks, or complacency. Although not everyone may have the ability to stop working in their current role, many do have the time and capacity to begin transitioning incrementally. This might require going back to school, having less free time, getting up earlier in the morning, and losing weekends, but if finding a career you love is important — and for many it is — then these sacrifices are usually worth it.
Wolf made a career change himself after 15 years of working in executive recruiting because he felt there was something else that was a better fit for him.
“Even if you’re 40 or 45, nowadays I think there’s much more of an understanding of people wanting to potentially shift gears,” Wolf said. “For me, when I left executive search it was about family. I will say this, you have to be willing to potentially reduce your income. And so that’s a big thing. You have to be willing to take a step back. And so for me it was, ‘Okay, I’m going to take a step back, and then I’m going to go volunteer.’ I thought I wanted to go into education. Primary school, elementary school education, and so I went and shadowed a friend of mine.”
Wolf ended up getting his credential and teaching for a year, only to realize that elementary school wasn’t the right fit. Yet, he eventually made his way to PLNU, where in addition to doing career counseling, he teaches as an adjunct professor in the business department. Today, he loves what he does and where he does it at PLNU.
Related Article: Karen Woodmansee (18) on making a change mid-career.
“Sometimes I have students that just tell me, ‘You know what, I just need the job.’ I get that and I would suggest doing whatever they need to do to make sure that the bills get paid, that their kids get the daycare, and that they’re taking care of their responsibilities,” Rios said. “But I also tell them not to just push their dream under the rug. It might not be right away, but maybe we can start making a plan to make a change so that it won’t impact the other parts of their lives as much as if they woke up one day and changed everything.”
Rios is highlighting the reality of circumstances that can make career transition hard, but still urging the need to consider ways of transitioning slowly over time.
It’s important to consider the role of salary with respect to a career choice as well. Of course, there is nothing wrong with desiring a higher salary or striving to make more money for your work and effort, but when this involves knowingly taking a position that pushes you further away from your passions and natural aptitudes, this should give you pause. Barring legitimate reasons why taking on a higher salary might be the better option (to take care of family, pay for budding medical bills, etc.), taking a job only because it promises a better salary and title can be problematic. In fact, Miller Jr. writes this about the matter:
“To accept, knowingly and willingly, a position that requires someone driven by a purpose that is not our driving purpose shows a total lack of integrity. It is unfair to the position, to the people offering the position, to those affected by the position, and above all, to our own self, our own personhood.”
This is strong language, but there is some truth to it. Finding a career shouldn’t just be about our own self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction, but also about impacting others positively beyond ourselves. The famous theologian Frederick Buechner, when talking about our life’s work, or vocation, writes that “the place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
The second and, perhaps, more important part of the equation is the “world’s deep hunger,” or in other words, how our work fits into serving others in love. This is emphasized also by Dorothy Sayers, who sees our work as a gift to be offered:
“Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.”
We are responsible for serving others in the work we do, and so if we take a career, or continue in a career, that is not well suited for us, we might be doing more harm to ourselves, the organization, and others than good. Of course, there are times when we don’t have a choice, and it’s important to be mindful of that, but when we do have a choice in the matter, pursuing a role that does not allow us to serve others well is not gifting others and the world with our talents and abilities. And not only that, but if we end up in a career that isn’t a good fit, it can do harm to us physically. Miller Jr. cites:
“…evidence is growing that job misfit (whether it involves underutilization or an inappropriate use of giftedness) and the stresses it creates contribute directly to heart and other circulatory ailments, marital breakdown, alcoholism, drug addiction, and other mental and emotional disorders, premature death, or crippling disability.”
Rios points to the need to be aware of the dangers of feeling like your current career isn’t a good fit as well.
“Sometimes you feel stuck just because it’s easy to stay where you are, it’s easier to get more money in a role, it’s easier if you go to work and push that feeling down,” Rios said. “Don’t ignore that feeling, because if it keeps eating away at you, year after year, and you don’t take action to do something different, then it changes your personality, changes your outlook, and just does damage.”
Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do.
Finding a career you love matters because it doesn’t just affect only you, but the entire world. If we have gifts and talents that allow us to serve others in unique and unrepeatable ways that can be applied to a career, then it’s important to do what we can do bring those gifts to light in service to others. Sometimes we’re not able to do so because of circumstances beyond our control, but we should be careful to not equate job fit only with title, reputation, or salary, but instead with how we can best serve others in love and find inner contentment doing so.
Questions to Consider:
- How does my current career or desired career serve others and make a lasting impact in my community?
- How important is salary and reputation to me? Am I placing too much value on these things at the expense of other factors related to my career?
- What kind of an impact do I want to have on my communities? Can my career intersect with my goals?
- If I’m stuck in a career I don’t think is a good fit, are there things I can do to change this? Do I have valid reasons for staying, or am I not making a change because of complacency, comfort, or fear?
Hopefully this guide has helped you to start thinking about finding a career that you love. We encourage you to revisit this guide often as you take the steps necessary to move forward in your pursuit. While there are certainly challenges involved in finding a career you love, the journey is worth it. In finding a career that fits your natural way of being, passions, and desire for meaningful work, you’ll not only come to find a deep sense of contentment and joy, but share your unique gifts with the rest of the world as well.
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