• The Fellows Initiative

The What and Who of Vocational Exploration

by John Kyle

I have the pleasure of working with a lot of college seniors and other young adults who are thinking about their career options. Some are pretty sure about what they want to do. Others are mostly unsure about it. 

Making these decisions is hard because we don’t have a lot of (accurate) information about the world of work before we actually start working. Our views of work might have been formed by television shows like Suits, Grey’s Anatomy, or The Office. Maybe we envisioned work looking like the careers of our favorite musicians and actors. Maybe we learned about work from Mom and Dad. Or, like many young people, maybe our ideas about work have mainly been formed in college where we have primarily learned the theories and concepts of a field of interest, but not as much about practical, day-to-day work life. 

What? The Typical Starting Point

Many young people start their career exploration with the question: “What should I do?” This might come in various forms. What career or role is best for my skills and interests? What field is God calling me into? The “What should I do?” question is good and right for anyone to ask as they start their career. 

Along with this question, there should be some other questions: What interests me about this field? Are my interests consistent with a biblical worldview or are some of my interests selfish? What do I know about this field and how did I learn those things? Specifically, is my knowledge of this field based in reality or is it mainly informed by TV, movies, social media, cultural values, etc.?

Who? The Better Starting Point

While “What should I do?” is a good place to start career exploration, I encourage young people to also ask, “Who am I?” I have found this to be a better place to start.

For Christians, this question cannot be answered without also asking “Who is God?” As his image-bearers (Gen. 1:26-27), we can only understand ourselves as we consider Him. This is extremely relevant to career exploration because we bear his image in every aspect of life – at work, at home, at church, and in society.

A Practical Example

Let’s consider a real example. Each year, several fellows in our network are considering medical school. When asked why they’re drawn into medicine, many of them express an interest in science combined with a desire to help people. Sometimes they will also admit it doesn’t hurt that society holds doctors in very high regard and that they are well compensated.

When we talk about these things, I like them to dig into the motivation to help people. Why do people need medical help? Because people are broken, sick and dying. Our rebellion against God introduced suffering and death. In response to our sin, God promised a solution and revealed himself as the Helper and the Healer.

Someone in the medical field can have a keen sense of the image they bear at work by understanding these things about God. They can see that their vocation, as my friend Steve Garber says, is integral not incidental to the mission of God. The Who am I? and Who is God? questions provide a solid footing for vocational exploration.