What Does God Want Me to Be When I’m an Adult?

With school finally over and a summer job or college on the horizon, you may be wondering what the future holds? Here's something to help you think about the Lord's plans for your future! For more great articles in our quarterly magazine, subscribe to Higher Things online or a print copy of the magazine today! http://dtbl.org/2084

Rev. Rick Marrs

Before the 1800s, answering lifelong career questions was fairly straightforward for young people. Most of them did what their parents did (e.g., farming, local merchant, trade skill) or whatever apprenticeships their parents arranged for them, sometimes starting before they were teenagers.

That was true for boys, at least. Girls got married and became mothers and cooked and cleaned and milked cows. But in our diverse culture and economic system today, teenagers literally have tens of thousands of career options available to them. While having options is a blessing, having that many options can be overwhelming. Think about how easy it is to choose between two to three flavors of ice cream in your home freezer and how difficult it can be to choose between the scores of tasty options at Baskin-Robbins. Then consider how difficult your ice cream selection would be if that was going to be the only flavor you could have for ten years!

Questions, Questions
Teens realize that much hinges on their career selection. Not only will their career choice directly impact how they will spend more than 80,000 hours of their lives, but it will influence their marriage and family, their type of home and neighbors, their socioeconomic status, and the like. This process of career decision-making (and it is a process, not a one-time event) leads to many important, inter-related questions for teens:

“Should I do what I’m interested in or what I’m good at?

“Should I seek the vocation that will pay the most money, or do something I’ll be happy (yet poorer) doing?

“What if I start in one career and then change my mind?

“Who can help me make such important decisions?"

“And how does God’s will work into all this?”

Who can help? Most high schools have counselors who have been trained to know how to give career guidance to teenagers. They may introduce you to computer programs (like Discover) or inventories (like the Strong Interest Inventory or the Self- Directed Search) that can help you sort out your interests, abilities, values, and decision-making processes. Many of these programs and inventories are available to take online for a fee, but your counselors will likely be able to provide such services for no cost, and they can then help you understand the results.

One of the most helpful models used in these programs is called the Holland Hexagon. This heavily researched theory proposes that there are, broadly speaking, six categories of careers and six types of people who feel compatible with those careers. Realistic people prefer jobs in which they are doers, handling mechanical or material problems (e.g., engineers, builders, farmers, athletes). Investigative people like math and science. Artistic people like art, music, and drama as a way to express themselves. Social people like to help others (e.g., counselors, teachers, pastors). Enterprising people like to work with people also but in more persuasive modes, like business and sales, politics and law, etc. Conventional people are the organizers in life, keeping records and analyzing information (e.g., accountants, administrative assistants, etc).

Actually, all people are some combination of all six types, and nearly all jobs require some skills in all six areas, but people do tend to have two or three areas that are of greater interest to them than the others. Simply put, people who find a vocation that matches their interests and skills are generally more satisfied than those who enter a vocation that is a mismatch for them.

High school and college counselors can also help you learn to investigate career options. Most teens simply do not know how people in various occupations actually spend their time and energy. It is important to read books, articles, and Web site descriptions about various occupations. Teens can also ask to shadow adults in their work for a day. Many adults are impressed with teens who take such initiative and are intrigued by what they do.

A Word of Warning
One modest warning about some career counselors: if you are considering a church-work career, some counselors may subtly steer you away from it. My experience suggests that career counselors are not necessarily anti-church or anti-Christian, but they have subtly bought into the world’s notion that really bright people should seek after high income, high status jobs. If you make good grades and have high test scores, your counselor may suggest that a career in medicine or law or engineering would be best for you because you can make more money. If you are considering a church-work career, but they push you to consider a higher paying career, this may be your opportunity to gently and respectfully tell your counselor about the hope (and riches) in Christ that are yours (1 Peter 3:15).

What Does God Want?
And how does God’s will work in this career decision-making? Our culture would lead us to believe that career choice is only about self- fulfillment. However, young Christians should be aware that the Lord has created the infrastructure of our world’s economy. Most people’s work allows them to contribute thousands of hours of good works that God has prepared in advance for them to do (Ephesians 2:10) in order to help feed others (through farmers, truckers, grocers), to heal others (through doctors, nurses and therapists), to care for others (through administrators, counselors, social workers), to educate others (through teachers, administrators, government officials), to protect others (through police, firefighters, soldiers), to build and repair things (through manufacturers, carpenters, mechanics), to share the Gospel professionally (through pastors, DCEs, deaconesses), even to entertain and provide beauty for others (through musicians, actors, artists). These roles are what Luther called vocation, God’s calling (voca) for us all. Beyond our callings as workers, we also have callings as fathers, mothers, children, citizens, and Christians. All of these are blessings to us from God that we are called upon to balance and do as a loving response to Christ blessing us in the Gospel.

The Lord will likely NOT Facebook you or send you an e-mail telling you what profession He wants you to enter. But He will provide you, if you are looking, with a variety of possible experiences that you can then pray about and sift through to decide how you think He has gifted you and how you would like to use those gifts.

Created: June 5th, 2012