Choosing a Vocation

There comes a time in the life of every person when he or she must choose a vocation.

For various reasons this is necessary. A living must be earned and a settled occupation is simply the accepted manner of doing this. Besides, definite and steady employment, whether in or outside the home, is essential to man’s happiness. Without the former the latter would be impossible for one who has been created an active creature. Therefore a prisoner invariably prefers to pound rocks day by day in the prison yard to being placed in solitary confinement, where he is deprived of every opportunity to be active. Therefore most men, though wealthy or aged, seek some form of physical or mental activity. Moreover, there are countless human needs, of the individual or the family or society in general, physical or mental or spiritual, which must be satisfied. We need houses wherein to live, food to eat, clothing to wear, means of transportation, recreational facilities, spiritual guidance, education and numerous other things. All these can and must be produced, maintained, provided in the only possible way of—WORK. Finally, the Christian realizes that he is made for a purpose and that he has been endowed with gifts and talents and is given strength and opportunities in order that he may be active, to the advantage of himself and others, and to the glory of the God, Who created him. Whence the necessity, in due time, of seeking a definite vocation.

Now the vocations from which one can and must choose are numerous and various. The United States Census Report for 1930 lists no less than 557 occupational groups which, in turn, could be divided into some 20,000 specific jobs. Today this number is even greater. As life develops it becomes increasingly complex and specialized. There was a time when occupations were comparatively few in number and each family provided for most of its own needs. That was the age of the Jack-of-all-trades. Think of the days of our early pioneers. The man was carpenter, mason, tool-maker, hunter, farmer, soldier, sheep-shearer, butcher, tanner and what not. The woman, too, had to be adept in many things, which today she can leave to others. Life then was simple and individualistic. All this, however, has changed. Today society functions more as a unit. The age of the Jack-of-all-trades is past. The occupational world has become so complex, that one can hope to become expert in only a fraction of a single field of human endeavor. Our age is one of specialization and mass production of single commodities for society as a whole. In this system each individual does not do many things for himself, but each seeks the vocation wherein he can make his small contribution to society as a whole. Thus each member of society works for all the others, and all the others work for him. In this way those 20,000 or more jobs, listed in the 1930 Census Report, came into existence.

From this great number and variety of occupations it follows, that our pursuit of a specific vocation should be for us a matter of careful and deliberate choice. This it must be for also another reason. Think of the great difference in the people themselves, the diversity of gifts and talents and aptitudes in them who must be busy in these various vocations. Obviously, all men are not fit for any and all occupations. Each person has his own peculiar combination of physical and mental capacities. Also herein great diversity marks the work of our Lord, Who has endowed all men according to His infinite wisdom. Some are physically strong, others are weak; some are brilliant, others are mentally inferior; some have the gift for music, others have propensity for drawing, etc. Thus the need of being careful and deliberate in our choice is doubled.

How important that this choice be a wise one and that each man spend his few years on earth in a vocation for which he is best fit! Now more than ever this is necessary. The crushing competition of our present age and the ever increasing difficulties on the way of success make it more imperative than ever that we labor with all the enthusiasm and energy, which is possible only when we are doing the kind of work we desire to do and for which our native capacities and acquired abilities best qualify us. Besides, think of how much more hinges on a right choice of vocation. On it depends your entire life, your welfare and contentment in life as well as those of your dependents. Whether you face each new day with joyful anticipation, morbid indifference, or positive dread depends to an appreciable extent on the type of work you must do each and every day. Hence, much depends on a wise choice of vocation, and the latter you make only when there is the necessary harmony between the requirements of the occupation you select and your personal talents and aptitudes.

One must choose, therefore, sanely and deliberately. Let no one permit this vital issue to be decided without due consideration of everything involved. Know the difference between merely hunting a job and choosing a vocation. And beware of the tendency to simply allow yourselves to drift. Many plunge blindly into the first job that presents itself. The folly and danger of this method lies at the surface. Such people seldom succeed in the work they have selected. More often than not they drift from one job to another. Doing so they never become established, never attain to any degree of proficiency in any specific line of endeavor, often find themselves unemployed, usually remain in the low wage bracket and invariably derive a minimum of satisfaction from the work they do, Let us avoid this error so many make. Here is one reason at least for all the discontent in the occupational world of our day. In this way we get an army of misfits, who skip from job to job and eventually contract a distaste for all manner of profitable labor in general and their own specific occupations in particular. Let our choice of a vocation, therefore, be the fruit of calm deliberation.

In this matter of choosing a vocation there is usually need of guidance by others, older and more experienced than we are. As a rule this choice must be made at a comparatively tender and inexperienced age. Parents, therefore, must shoulder their responsibility in this matter and strive to aid the child as much as possible in the selection of a life’s vocation. You must not choose his occupation for him, for in the last analysis the person himself must make the choice. You must advise, give sane and loving guidance. That advice should be motivated by the desire to seek the good of the child, not your own convenience and temporal advancement. The Christian parent does not seek to get out of his children what he can, but he aims to prepare the covenant child for his place in life.

The school, too, should recognize the crying need of giving our growing boys and girls sound vocational guidance. What a service the Christian school could render here! The school as an institution has failed miserably until now in this respect. Yes, here and there, especially in the Vocational schools, courses are offered in various vocations. Even then, however, little or nothing is done to help the individual student make a wise choice and to aid the individual in selecting a vocation for which he is fit. Overburdened though our school curriculum may be, nothing could be more desirable and more in harmony with the purpose of the school, than a comprehensive, Christian course in vocational guidance, which would treat the whole problem from the viewpoint of the Word of God. What a concrete, practical purpose the school would then serve!

Which, now, are the things to be considered by the school, the parent and in the last analysis the one choosing the vocation? Which are some of the factors to be considered in selecting one’s occupation? How must we go about this?

We might begin by mentioning some things we should not do when selecting our life’s vocation. Don’t choose a certain occupation merely because one of your friends has chosen that field. Don’t drift from job to job, but map out a specific plan and pursue it. Don’t enter a field of employment without securing essential information concerning all it involves. Don’t permit your future to be determined by the wages offered at the start. Look ahead. Many jobs look promising enough at the beginning, but offer no opportunity for advancement. Don’t select work for which you have no liking at all. Seek your field. Never let some single superficial and incidental factor influence you toward a certain occupation. Generally speaking, don’t let any single factor determine your choice, unless that factor be so vital that nothing else matters. One may certainly decide on a certain vocation, like the ministry or teaching or mission work, because he feels himself called by God to enter that field. Even then, however, one’s abilities and gifts must be considered. If avoidable, don’t seek a field that is overcrowded. Last but not least, don’t choose a vocation that will be detrimental to your spiritual welfare, by involving you in practices and associations that are contrary to the Word of God, by depriving you of your day of rest or by robbing you of the preaching you are convinced you should have. Whatever vocation you select may never stand in the way of your calling to glorify your God above all and to seek first, always first, the kingdom of God and its righteousness. Parents, teachers, impress this on the minds and hearts of our covenant children!

In choosing a vocation four things are essential. First, you must study yourself, so that you may know your individual qualifications. Then, you must obtain some acquaintance with the vocational world in general. Seek, by reading and observation, a bird’s eye view of the occupational world. Thirdly, study thoroughly the specific occupations you have selected for a final choice. Finally, compare your personal qualifications with the requirements of the vocation you finally chose as your life’s occupation.

First, therefore, know yourself. Know your likes and dislikes, your ability to do a certain work, your natural aptitudes, your interests, your resources, but also your limitations. Know your character, disposition, and temperament. All this is necessary even where one feels himself called by God Himself to a specific work. There is something about being called to the ministry or the mission field that is different than with ordinary vocations. One feels that he has no other choice. Yet, also then we must examine ourselves and determine in a measure at least whether that calling is being verified by the qualifications God has given us. This self-knowledge must and can come to us only in the way of careful self-analysis. It cannot be gathered from things we did when we were babes. Don’t be like the father who decided his son should be a chemist, merely because as a little boy he had been fond of pouring water from one bottle into another. Neither can this knowledge of self be gained by examining the shape of the head or the size of the skull. Because one has a large head one is not yet brilliant. Many criminals and imbeciles have large heads, too. No, true knowledge of self can be gathered only in the way of careful self-analysis. But, this is not all.

We must have vocational knowledge as well as knowledge of self. Know something about vocations in general. Young people are often woefully ignorant of the vast number and variety of vocations open to them. In one school 66% of the boys confined their choice of occupation to only five vocations. They simply left thousands of occupations out of consideration. Know all you can learn about the vocational world in general. Then study in detail the three or four vocations you have selected as a possible choice. Know the conditions under which you must work. Know what these vocations require of a person, physically, physiologically, mentally, economically. Ascertain what is needed in the way of education and special training. In short, know the advantages and disadvantages, the pleasures and the hardships involved. Know above all what is involved spiritually. Must we work on Sunday? Must we belong to worldly unions or associations? Are we separating ourselves from our church? etc. All this should be ascertained beforehand.

Working along these lines, as parents and teachers and children, we may hope to find a vocation, wherein we can be happy in our daily work, wherein our spiritual life can prosper and God may be glorified also in the sphere of our vocation.