Are you … dissatisfied with your job? At a career crossroads, not sure whether to continue in the same job or to make a change to a new job or career? In school, feeling uncertain about how to choose a career that will be interesting and fulfilling? Concerned that you will soon be downsized" at your company? Feeling anxious and confused about what to do?

Or, are you grappling with knowing what God wants you to do with your career and life? Has the Lord been at work within you in a new way? Are you are feeling an emerging desire to serve Him in new ways through your work, but the specific direction is not yet clear to you? 

If you are experiencing situations similar to the above, you are not alone! To live is to grow and change, and nowhere is that more evident these days than in the world of work. We are living in a time of transition and change. Approximately ten percent of the U.S. workforce changes jobs or careers each year -- in a recent year that meant that ten million workers went through the career/job change process!
 
A season of career change can be triggered by external events such as being laid off, moving to a new city, finishing an educational program, getting married or divorced, having a baby, starting school or leaving home. Internal "nudges" can also compel you to contemplate making a  job change: perhaps you feel unfulfilled or dissatisfied by work you previously enjoyed, maybe you have "outgrown" your job and now feel underemployed or under utilized, or perhaps you have experienced significant  spiritual growth, resulting in a change in your outlook, goals and values.        

Although making career/job changes is something most people will experience 8-10 times during their lives, most people do not know how to choose a career direction effectively. The majority of people do not make an actual career choice; rather, they let circumstances or other people dictate their path. For example, when we meet with someone new in our career counseling practice, our clients often describe "falling into" their job or career path: "Uncle Joe told me about an opening at his company, and I've been there ever since" or "My friend was majoring in accounting, so I decided to become an accountant" or "I was skimming the classified ads, this job caught my eye, they offered it to me and so I took it even though I didn't know much about the job or the company." 
 
Letting other people or circumstances direct one's course often results in taking the path of least resistance, which usually leads to one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Becoming dissatisfied, unhappy and/or stressed (which impacts one's physical and emotional health as well as family/friend relationships and all other aspects of one's life)
  • Being underemployed, underpaid and underappreciated
  • Feeling unprepared and even "victimized" in the event of a lay-off or other external change
  • Having a lowered sense of self-worth and ability
  • Struggling with one's relationship with God -- feeling confusion, distrust and even anger about the perceived lack of God's "leading" in one's life.

So what is the alternative? Proactively PLANNING your career and life! Most people spend more time planning their vacations than they do planning their careers and lives! Why? Usually it is because they either don't see the need to invest time and energy in career planning, or they just don't know how to go about it. (Our schools, universities and seminaries haven't done a very good job, unfortunately, of teaching people how to chart a course for their careers and lives.) 
 
Taking responsibility for and learning how to plan your career optimizes  your potential to produce these outcomes in your life:

  • Experiencing the satisfaction that comes from using your most enjoyed skills and abilities within meaningful work
  • Creating a life that supports your physical and emotional well-being, your relationships with family and friends, and other important aspects of your life
  • Achieving your financial potential within your career area as well as gaining the respect and appreciation of others
  • Developing "employment security" (the ability to secure appropriate employment quickly in the event of an unexpected job/income loss)
  • Having confidence about how to make job/career changes as the marketplace or your career goals change
  • Knowing you are working in partnership with God to discover your mission in life and to determine how to be a good steward of your gifts and abilities within work
  • Living life as a joyful witness to God's goodness and provision in your life.

In our career counseling private practice, we guide our clients through a process we call "Career Master Planning." As we use the term, "master planning" means developing a plan that gives overall guidance in your career and life; and, it means that we, as Christians, should view career/life planning as a spiritual process in which we acknowledge that there is a Master (God) who is sovereign in our lives. As Proverbs 16:9 states, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."

Master planning means taking responsibility for planning your life while recognizing that the Lord is ultimately in charge. As Richard Bolles, the Christian author of "What Color is Your Parachute?" has written, "Pray, as though everything depended on God; then work, as though everything depended on you." Career success comes through working in partnership with God!
 
Career Master Planning consists of four consecutive action stages. Each stage has specific questions to be addressed, as indicated below:   
    
Action Stage 1 –  Assessing My Design: Who am I? What is my God-given design? What do I enjoy doing, what do I value, what motivates me, what brings me a sense of fulfillment and meaning? What gifts and abilities has God given to me to use in this world? What needs, issues and/or causes do I find compelling and desire to address in my work?        

Action Stage 2 –  Exploring Careers: Which careers (or self-employment opportunities) potentially fit my design? Which would give me a sense of mission and purpose in my work?        

Action Stage 3 –  Making My Career Decision(s): Which option best fits my design (and other important criteria such as impact on family, salary needs, etc.)? Which best enables me to make a contribution to making this world a better place? In which do I believe I could serve God and others most effectively?    
   
Action Stage 4 –  Implementing My Decisions (Conducting a job search; gaining training or education; beginning self-employment, etc.): What are the necessary action steps to achieving my career dream/goal? How do I obtain a job in my chosen field? What are the best job search strategies to use? How do I best market myself? OR What are the best options for getting necessary training/education? OR What is the sequence of steps I need to take to become self-employed successfully?    
   
Career Master Planning is based on the belief that God has created you to be a unique individual, with a specific design of abilities and interests. His desire is for you to work out of your design; that is, find work that utilizes what you love to do. He wants you to experience the joy and satisfaction that comes from doing the work He created you to do. In so doing, you glorify Him. To work out of your design, however, you must know what it is. Therefore, you begin your master planning by discovering and/or deepening your understanding of your design through an assessment process which can include career tests, exercises, etc. 
 
Once you know the key pieces of your design such as the skills you most want to use within work, the interests you are passionate about, the values that are critical to your sense of work satisfaction, the work factors that motivate you, etc. you are then ready to explore possible options that fit your design. Exploration can include brainstorming strategies to identify and create options that would utilize your design, using written resources like "The Occupational Outlook Handbook" and "The Dictionary of Occupational Titles," and conducting informational interviews with people who are doing the types of jobs in which you are interested.
        
Making a good career decision depends on three factors: 1) Having the right information about yourself; 2) Having the right information about the world of work; and, 3) Using good decision making strategies. Action stages 1 and 2 will provide you with the right information; your task in action stage 3 is to learn how to appropriately evaluate the information. Most people go with a "gut feel" about a job; sometimes this works out, but often it doesn't. Comparing options against key parts of your design, evaluating both the short-term and long-term pros and cons of options, and other strategies will help you make a well-thought through decision. Prayer certainly needs to be a part of the decision making process, but it doesn't replace our responsibility to develop maturity and wisdom in how we make life choices.        

Making a decision, however, is not enough. You must take action! And, to take effective action, you must have a plan. Many people do their "career planning" by seeing what is available in the classified ads, or sending out resumes, or enrolling in an educational program hoping that will help them to determine a direction. By now you can see how taking these types of actions, when the person has not completed action stages 1, 2 and 3 is really just gambling that their "choice" is going to be a good one. 

Once you have systematically worked through the first three action stages, you can easily develop an action plan to accomplish your goal. Your action plan may include conducting a job search. You will be ready! Action stages 1 - 3 will enable you to: (1) target the work for which you are well suited; and, (2) describe your abilities to a prospective employer. Thus, by completing these steps you can not only target the type of work that would be most fulfilling and meaningful, but you can also prepare yourself for "marketing" yourself much more effectively. You job search will be easier and much more productive!

We hope that you can see how these action steps build upon one other, and allow you to work in partnership with God to use your gifts and abilities in work that you love to do. If you would like assistance with any of these steps please contact us about individual career counseling. We would consider it a privilege to assist you! Learn more about our many services that can assist you.


Kevin & Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors, are the directors of the Christian Career Center and Church Jobs Online. (Through these sites you can search hundreds of current job listings from churches, ministries and Christian employers, post your free or featured resume and obtain career counseling and testing to discover work that fits your God-given design.)