Vocation: What Will I Do With My Life?

"Whatever you do,

work at it with all your heart..."

Apostle Paul

In one of our "heart-to-heart" talks, my son Jud said, "Dad, I don't know what kind of work I should do. I think about it and try to weigh all the factors. Sometimes I want to know so badly that it hurts, like a pain right here in my chest."

Youth probably think a lot more about their future than we realize. They have to experience much of the thinking, and the hurting, themselves. Yet, at some point we may have gone through the same process.

Perhaps we still wonder whether we made the right decision. If we have recently changed to a new line of work, we may understand some of their pressures. Examining our own experience helps us respond when teens ask, "What will I do with my life? How do I decide? What do I need to know?"

Vocational Facts to Consider

* Choosing a career without giving it much thought can produce long-term unhappiness. Management experts estimate that nearly 80 percent of all Americans are dissatisfied with their work. Surveys have shown that many associate work with apathy, boredom, nervousness, shouting matches, and daily humiliation.

* Most high school students do not have realistic expectations about their careers according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

* People skills-being able to relate well-rather than technical skills top the list of what's needed for promotion in both technical and professional vocations.

* Work that draws upon one's interests, skills, and training can be immensely satisfying and rewarding.

* Overwork can be counterproductive. Surveys conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan suggest that long hours of part-time work by high school students are linked with weak school performance, low college aspirations, and higher drug use.

Vocational Values to Share

Vocational values help clear away the fog that surrounds a multitude of career choices. They make clear the path that leads to satisfying results. You may need to dig deeply into your own supply of values to mentor well. Here are some of my work values that may stimulate the development of your own.

* Happiness at work often results when people use their natural abilities.

* A sense of mission or "rightness" about a particular work can lift it out of meaningless routine.