How do you make good career choices? What do good career choices look like when you’re trying to make a decision about your life’s work?
In past posts, we looked at how “follow your passion” is actually important advice, though it’s been recently criticized by some thinkers.
We also discovered that our passions are actually specific activities in our jobs and not just excitement for a certain industry, though that is important.
Finally, we learned that our strengths are not just activities we are good at, but activities that strengthen us.
So, rightly understood, “follow your passion” really means finding not just the industry that excites you most, but also the jobs within that arena where the specific activities that energize you will make up the main part of your day.
That’s what it really means to follow your passion, and that is truly helpful, enlightening advice.
There is one more component to add to the mix: our passion, even when understood in the above sense, needs to intersect with a real need in the world.
The way to identify your career path or the best fit for your next job, then, is to seek work that is at the intersection of three things. I refer to these three components as the “Threefold Model for Identifying Your Life Work.”
- You enjoy the activities of the work (that is, you are passionate about them). They strengthen you rather than drain you.
- You are excellent at the specific activities of the work.
- The work meets a real need in the world.
Now, with those three criteria in mind, what do you do if you don’t know what you are passionate about? How do you still make wise career choices? Let me suggest three things.
Just Start Doing Things
This is where those who reject the advice of “follow your passion” are partly right. Though our passion is not simply what works well for us, neither is our passion something we are supposed to find by just sitting back and reflecting. Most people find their passion by doing a lot of stuff, and seeing what things they enjoy most.
Years ago, spiritual gifts tests were common. The well-known pastor Rick Warren said when he took one back in the day, he only had one gift: martyrdom. Another guy who went around mooching off of others all day turned out to have the gift of “poverty”—which turned out only to reinforce him in his crazy efforts!
In contrast, the way to find out what you are good at and love to do is not to take a test or just think to yourself “this is my passion,” but to do stuff. Then you find out what you love, what you are excellent at, and what is actually serving people—and build on that.
Increase Your Opportunity Stream
This means that in addition to doing things that seem like they might be interesting and learning what energizes you by trial and error, you should also seek to surround yourself with more activity.
This means things like going to conferences, networking with others, and seeking out those chance encounters that lead to new experiences and friendships. Sometimes, we identify a passion when new doors open to us that we didn’t know about in advance.
Care About The “Who” as Much as The “What”
When there are several different types of activities you enjoy, pay special attention to what type of people you like to work with and be around. Some of my best decisions are decisions I made because they enabled me to join forces with quality people who I respect, who love the Lord, and who make me a better person.
When you aren’t sure what to do, the next best thing is to navigate your course on account of who you want to be with. Proverbs 13:20 says,
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
These are some tips I hope you find helpful as you prayerfully think about your career and calling. Maybe you’re using these to help someone else navigate these issues. Either way, I’d love to hear your story, as well as any other suggestions you might have regarding making good career decisions.
Editor’s note: Happy New Year! Start the new year with discovering the biblical meaning of work in How Then Should We Work?
This article was previously published on Nov. 19, 2013.