Stop Obsessing About Having the Perfect Career Plan  

That was the headline that captured my attention in a Wall Street Journal article from 9/17/23. Basically, the premise is that while people for decades have pursued the mysterious “perfect career”, the reality is false advertising. Multiple global factors, coupled with the speed of technology and change, reinforce this point. The author ended with a great point, “Even though this (a career path) is laid out for me, is this what I want to be?” 

Heed the Advice of King Solomon

A famous historical and Biblical author, King Solomon, summarized his notable career with many comments throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, ranging from the well-known, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind”, to his conclusion in 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” Despite having one of the most illustrious careers in the history of mankind, his conclusion steers us away from manmade career structures. 

Ok, so I know I’ve got you hooked with all the encouragement so far, right?!? What happened to “Be all you can be”, “Shoot for the stars”, and “You can do anything you put your mind to”? Well, those phrases, among many others, are man-made snapshots which paint a picture, etch a sketch, or draft a canvas that we can chase and achieve an incredible career path, in some cases believing we deserve it.

You Are Not What You Do

Many wonderful, well-meaning organizations, including my alma mater, Arthur Andersen, created career ladder structures to help ambitious, career-minded individuals see more clearly the steps to follow to achieve that perfect career. Yet for me, when Andersen hit a bump called Enron and imploded, the reality of the article’s author’s statement struck home: “Is this what I want to be?” Suddenly, having been a partner at Arthur Andersen and partially equating my identity of who I am to what I did and then realizing that despite when what I did disappeared, I remained. (May need to read that again!) Conclusion: Who I am is NOT what I do. 

In both my professional HR and Culture career, and my Crossroads Career experiences, I’ve interacted with thousands of professionals pursuing their careers and trying to ascertain the right steps to take to achieve whatever the vocational goals are they’ve outlined. Many of them enter that pursuit believing there will be a job, or series of jobs, to help them create the “right” outcome.   

5 P’s to Prioritize Finding Your Calling

Chip Ingram, pastor, author, and leader of Living on the Edge, a teaching and discipleship ministry, created a series entitled, “How to land the job of your dreams”. In it, he identifies and describes 5 P’s for people to prioritize finding their calling.  They are as follows: 

  1. Person – The effectual call of salvation from Jesus Christ. 
  1. Purpose – God’s call to become Christ-like.
  1. People – We’re called to engage in Christian community. 
  1. Process – From justification through sanctification. 
  1. Place – Last of the P’s, bloom where you’re planted or find someplace new. But only after you’ve answered the other 4 calls. 😊 

Ingram is clear in this series that he is not saying to stop paying attention to how God wired us all to do different things. He’s also not saying to avoid listening for God’s call to #5. BUT, he is saying that many times we get our priorities out of whack and spend an inordinate amount of time looking for #5 rather than resting and receiving what God has in store for us as we diligently pursue #’s 1-4.   

Solomon tells us not to “grasp the wind”.  Stay grounded in God’s principles and plans as you seek to do the work He’s already prepared for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). Blessings! 

Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.

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