Arts & Culture & At Work

Choose Your Own Adventure: Helpful Tips for Navigating Your Future

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Recently, Barna Group has published as series of Frames, short booklets designed to address succinctly and poignantly some of the top issues facing those in their twenties and thirties. In Multi-Careering: Do Work That Matters at Every Stage of Your Journey, research reveals that finding meaningful work is a very high priority to recent graduates.

72% of graduating university students deem, ‘Having a job where I can make an impact…essential to my happiness,’ while 53% of all adults identify with that attitude. It’s becoming increasingly common to change jobs or even career trajectories multiple times, and the task of finding meaningful work has taken on a whole new dimension.

Yet even with this strong desire to find meaning in a changeable environment, only 26% of Millennials feel confident in their current life choices.

A recent grad myself, I resonate with these statistics. Often, articles and blog posts laying out tips and insights for those in their twenties will catch my eye, and as helpful as many of them are, they generally disappoint. Turns out, I already knew 7 of the 10 things that every twenty-something should know. What I don’t know is how my story is going to play out, and, unfortunately, the internet can’t tell my fortune. Notwithstanding this impediment, some articles have offered tangible, pertinent advice, generally in the form of anecdotal wisdom.

Though a bit unconventional, Bob Goff’s stories and tips featured in Multi-Careering are just this kind of advice.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Or, as Goff summarizes, “Choose your life, backfill your career.”

It’s easy to allow yourself to become defined by your job. This kind of performance-based identity becomes precarious if you have a bad day and what you produce simply isn’t good enough. It’s easy to become discouraged if you aren’t confident in your worth and priorities independent of your work.

As Christians, we are first called by Christ to be his children, and our secondary callings in the realms of church, family, friendships, and work are what we do. We need to identify first who we are and what we do well before we choose how we are to work.

For some, circumstances may prevent them from immediately pursuing the job of their dreams. Finding ways to meet pressing needs may trump strategic career moves. This caveat is not well expressed in Multi-Careering, but it’s safe to say that there is certainly no shame in fulfilling responsibility.

Avoid Comparison

Goff writes,

…comparison is a thief and will rip you off every time.

It’s tempting to look around you and wonder how you missed the boat. Somehow, your friends and co-workers always seem to have nicer, more appealing lives. But the truth is, as Goff explains, we all have different options, not better ones. We will each have to wrestle “with the same questions about meaning and work and fulfillment and legacy, but the viable options for each…is different.”

Ultimately, we are not called to make the most of others’ options, but of our own. Jeremiah’s reminder is comforting:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Regardless of just how confusing the present may be and how undefined the future, we can rest in the knowledge that God has already secured the perfect set of circumstances for us. Our envy of others’ plans stems from a distrust of this truth.

Love Freely

At one point in the book, Goff exhorts,

Whatever it is you do, give your love away freely. Give away so much of it that it looks like you’re made of the stuff. In the reverse economy of Jesus, the more extravagant you are with your love, the less it’s wasted. This will hold true in your life and your careers.

The only one we can compare ourselves to is Christ. Thus, in all of our career changes and job transitions, the only measure we have is how well we love each other in his example.

Though Goff’s advice doesn’t guarantee a predictable career or even success in the terms of this world, intentionality in all of these areas offer the stability of an identity well-established. You may always wonder where the next step of this adventure will lead, but what better way to approach the ups and downs of a career than to be grounded in unshakable identity of Christ’s love?

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  • Hi Lauren, thoughtful article!

    I wonder how much the statistic that “72% of graduating university students deem, ‘Having a job where I can make an impact…essential to my happiness,’ ” is intertwined with other findings that show that Millennials have a presumption of and need for appreciation, support and flexibility in the workplace as a quid pro quo for their contributions. Could a core need for acknowledgement sometimes be confused with a desire to have proof of “making an impact”?

    I believe that the area where Millennials are likely to have the greatest impact is in the area of entrepreneurship. I think something like 1/4 of them are already self-employed. Whether or not this is mostly due to recent economic conditions is debateable, but recent studies have shown that around 2/3 of Millennials are interested in entrepreneurship.

    This could be excellent for the economy going forward! The question that remains, though, is what *kind* of endeavors are going to be undertaken? Recent studies and anecdotes have shown Millennials to be much “more interested in extrinsic life goals and less concerned for others and civic engagement”.


    • Lauren Carl

      Hi Chaz!

      Thank you for your thoughts! I suspect there is an interrelationship between a need for affirmation and a “meaningful” job, although this study didn’t examine it. The instant gratification of others’ approval likely plays into a Millennial’s perception of whether or not his or her work is making a difference, but I think it depends on the individual and their own criteria for impact. I think for some it is important for their work to impact others’ lives in a tangible way, and that kind of feedback would necessarily be relational.

      I agree that Millennials have the potential for remarkable impact through entrepreneurship, and I’m excited to see how that may play out. I found the source of your quote, and I’m curious to read it further. Entrepreneurship inherently requires a meeting of perceived needs, and I think that Millennials will discern societal needs–and show concern for others–differently than will Baby Boomers, for example. So, I don’t know if I completely agree that Millennials are less concerned for others, as the quote suggests.

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