how to decide on a career

The question that has been elusive for me is: what kind of a job or career or work should I do? I’ve spent almost 2 decades of my life trying to figure that out, venturing into computer engineering, electrical engineering, seminary studies, pastoring, software development, customer relations, donor development strategies for non-profits. All of that has finally converged along with my affinities and a rare opportunity.

In all those years, I didn’t hear good clear teaching about how calling, vocation, job, career, and work fit together. (I might have sat under good teaching, but I didn’t hear it.) The overly-spiritual love to tell stories of how God called them by speaking audibly or in some miraculous way. I feel resigned to have to use so-called common sense and be more practical. To quote Steve Jobs, “Yuck!”

That aside, by divine intervention I’d say, for 2 months now, I’ve been doing my dream job, working at Leadership Network as “Director of Digital Initiatives.” Yes, that really is my title. Actually, my full title is more like “Director of Digital Initiatives and Asian American Church Research,” but that wouldn’t fit on the business card.

Pastor Tim Keller revisits the often-asked question, “What kind of work should I do?” in this month’s newsletter for Redeemer Presbyterian Church (New York City) — excerpted here:

But what work should we do? Many people choose their work on the basis of status–which work will bring the biggest cultural rewards? Others choose their work on the basis of self-fulfillment– which work will make me feel good about myself? But we are not the product of society or of our own choices, but we are created by God. Work is God’s appointed way to care for creation and be useful to others, and you have particular God-given abilities and aptitudes for doing so. We are God’s workmanship, created to do good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10.) So we must discover our aptitudes and abilities and work within our giftedness.

How can we do that? First, consider your affinities. This is the existential aspect to determining your calling. It is asking the question: “What people-needs do I vibrate to?” Second, consider your abilities. This is the empirical aspect to determining your calling. It is asking the question: “What kinds of tasks am I good at doing?” Third, consider your opportunities. This is the “providential” aspect to determining your calling. It is asking the question: “What actual doors are opening for me? What needs to be done?”

Ultimately it takes the deep rest in Christ’s finished work for your salvation (Heb 4:1-10) to avoid over-work. Only then will work cease to be an idol, a means of self-definition. Only then will you be free to work according to your gifting and according to the needs of others rather than according to social pressure. Only then will you periodically be able to regularly “walk away” and rest from your vocational work.

Read the full article, “God’s Work; Our Work” in January 2007’s Redeemer Report (PDF). The better question to ask is perhaps: what kind of work did God uniquely create you to do?

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  1. Terry says:

    The only speech at a graduation cerimony was the one for my oldest daughter. The speaker, Drix Neihmann, said, “Where passion meets ability there you have calling.” I’m sure that is not going to go far in helping you since your abilities and passions are so diverse. It would like your career path is not a normal one, but where is the Bible verse that tells us that a career path should look a certain way. I think Paul’s career path would not be considered a normal one either.

    Thanks for sharing the post. By the way, I really liked the word count and estimated time to read the post. That is really cool. I think such a feature could help some other blogs. Once the writer understood the amount of time that is being asked, they might reconsider how lengthy a post they would write.

  2. djchuang says:

    Terry, thanks for the comment. It’s not that I’m looking for a normal career path, but that it’d be more easily to discern for those of us who are seeking and pursing God, as the typical preacher seems to suggest it’s as easy as a prayer and God will show a clear revelation. And it’s just been a more involved and time-consuming for me, not so clear cut.

  3. Terry says:

    DJ,

    I too struggle with such things. I don’t think my choices are as many as your own. Please take it that my comments were only meant to encourage. I’m not sure it is a bad thing to process the decisions with much consternation. I do so. A lot of people tell me to simply lighten up and count my blessings. Well, I don’t think I’m wired that way. I don’t think it is simply a matter of not worrying either. So, long story short, I tell you a lot of what I’m like so that you can count your self as blessed, not as bad off as myself. 😉

    Terry

  4. tom steers says:

    what do you think of john 6:29? what does that kind
    of “work” imply? and, what kind of ‘over’ or ‘under’
    spiritualizing can we pervert it with?

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