How will God tell a Christian what career to choose? What does the Bible say about choosing a career?
Choosing a career can be a confusing task. As Christians we obviously always want to do what God wants us to do. The tricky part is knowing what God’s will is for us, including when it comes to our careers.
Here are 6 Christian pieces of advice on how to choose a career.
Christian Career Advice #1: Define the Purpose of a Career
The first thing that is helpful to do is to first define what a career actually is. I talk more about this in 6 Ways to Thrive in a Job You Do Not Enjoy. Here’s a quick excerpt from that article:
A job is task you accomplish to make money. A career is field of work you plan to get specialized training in, make advancements in, and make more with money over time. A calling is a ministry where you use your spiritual gifting to love people by helping them with their needs.”
Sometimes we can get paralyzed in choosing a career because we are confusing it with a job or a calling. Sometimes we just need to make money as quickly as possible to provide for the needs in our lives. That’s when you should just take any job you can.
A calling, however, can change over time and is simply the place where God is leading you to serve. Usually your calling is where your gifts and the world’s needs collide. When you have spiritual gift that can help people in the world, that’s usually where your calling is. But you do not need to be paid for your calling. Most people do not get paid for a ministry calling.
A career is different than both a job and a calling. A career should be a field you are dedicating to growing in so you can provide for yourself and your family in a greater way over time. A career can sometimes include a ministry calling, but it doesn’t need to. The primary goal of a career is sustainable income and growth over the course of your life.
Obviously, however, since this will be a long-term endeavor, it should be something that you are good at and that you are passionate about otherwise it will not be sustainable.
Christian Career Advice #2: Choose a Career That Fits Your Life Goals, Don’t Choose Life Goals to Fit Your Career
Many times people arrange their lives by picking a career and then saying, “What can I do that fits around my career.” On a practical level this is needed since we all have to go to work. We cannot just do whatever we want and act like there are not responsibilities in life.
But when you are picking your career, you should first consider what type of life you want to live and choose a career that is conducive to that lifestyle. For example, if you choose to become a doctor but you wanted to work a 40 hour week and go on vacations like everyone else, you might be choosing the wrong career. Doctors must work a lot of hours and vacations are often limited. But if you enjoy working lots of hours and would like the lifestyle of a doctor, then go for it.
Also, if you desire to have a certain type of house, send your kids to a certain type of school, or if you want to be able to generously support other ministries, you should consider these factors when you choose a career. Don’t choose a career that would not provide the finances to fit the life goals you have.
In summary, you don’t want to choose your life goals based on your career. Rather choose your life goals first and then choose a career that fits and supports those goals.
Christian Career Advice #3: Be Realistic About the Market for Your Career
The common advice kids grow up hearing now is, “Follow your dreams.” While this is great and can be very encouraging, this advice works best when balanced with practical advice as well. When choosing a career, you should not just look at your emotions, desires, and personal dreams. You must also pay attention to the marketability of the skills you plan on acquiring.
Too many people go to college nowadays with “Just follow your dreams” as their main guiding principle. This causes them to study things they enjoy but that do not necessarily translate to employment upon graduation. Is it any wonder so many college grads end up with massive debt only to be unemployed or starting out with a low paying job? I’m not saying to ignore your dreams, but you have to be realistic. A career has a purpose and it’s not just fulfilling your dreams. A career needs to be a stable means of income as well.
Proverbs 13:11 states, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” We have to use wisdom and not just emotions when choosing a career.
Christian Career Advice #4: Don’t Undervalue Money But Don’t Love Money Either
It’s easy to swing between two extremes when it comes to money. The Bible clearly says not to love money (1 Timothy 6:10). But the Bible clearly does not say to hate money. Money is a tool that Christians are called to use wisely.
So when you are choosing your career as a Christian, it is not wrong to look at the money each career choice will produce. It would be wrong if you chose a career in the worship of money. But it would also be wrong to pick a career that you can’t make money at and then your family starves. If you make a lot of money and you use it for the glory of God, this is pleasing to Christ. If you feel called to make a lot of money and so you want to be an businesswoman, that is not a sin. Money is not evil. Loving money is evil.
Therefore Christians should absolutely consider the salary of each career choice.
Christian Career Advice #5: It’s Good Career Advice to Develop Hard Skills First and Soft Skills Second
On the practical side, I believe it is wise for younger people to develop some hard skills first so they can have a more predicable income while they develop their soft skills and pursue loftier career goals as times goes on.
A hard skill refers to those skills that are specific and measurable like learning how to weld, accounting, nursing, creating blueprints, or learning how to drive a tow motor. Soft skills are less measureable and include skills like communicating, leadership, or strategizing. Hard skills are usually easier to predict their market value but also usually have a cap on how much impact and money one can create with these skills. Soft skills can be harder to find positions for but also have a greater potential for larger impact and revenue creation.
I think it’s wise for younger people to learn a hard skill when possible so they have a tangible way to make money and provide for themselves. Hard skills are more predictable so it’s wise to have something to fall back on. Soft skills can be developed over time. If you only develop soft skills you are running the risk of not finding a good fit and it might be difficult to make money. Additionally, most careers value age and maturity when the job needs more soft skills than hard skills. Thus it is wise to start with hard skills and then develop the soft skills over time which will better coincide with the job opportunities that come later in life (leadership, management, strategizing, etc.).
You may want to run the company right out of college, but realistically that is not going to happen. You may need to start as an engineer, work your way up to manager, and perhaps down the line you will run the company. But to get in the door you will probably be valued for your hard skills first. Hard skills can be seen in Jesus, Paul, and the disciples.
Mark 6:3, “ Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.”
Acts 18:2-3, “And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.”
Matthew 4:18, “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.”
These men, including Jesus, used their hard skills first and then later in life moved on from those careers as more influential ministry opportunities became available.
Christian Career Advice #6: Trust the Lord as You Move Forward While Being Open to Changing Your Career Choice Later
When choosing a career, Christians must trust the Lord and do their best to follow him (Proverbs 3:5-6). We can do our best to make the right decision, but ultimately we eventually have to move forward even when we are unsure of the future. When you trust God you can have peace.
Lastly, all you can do is make the best career choice in the moment. If there is better choice that is revealed to you later, be open to changing course. You don’t want to bounce around too much, but just because you felt led by God to make a career choice earlier in life does not mean you cannot make a different career choice later in life.
Following God’s leading is a fluid situation. So if you want to make a good career choice as a Christian, trust God, be open to change, and do everything for his glory.