Skinning a Cat
Career Junction - Part 1

If you are reading this you probably have struggles with your career choices. Me, too.

When I was a boy I used to admire my father’s list of jobs: ice plant worker, insurance debit, railroad steward, post office, etc. As I got older I realized that there were other men who had found professions, stayed in them, done well, and found that elusive thing we call “success.” Bravo for them!

My Montana friend, Wayne, knew when he went to college he was going to become an accountant. He did so, and has now spent decades in that profession. I, on the other hand . . . well, let’s just say I had something definite in mind but . . . it kept changing. And changing.

There are lots of ways to “skin the” proverbial “cat,” they say. But when it comes to occupation, career, life’s work, etc., many of us tend to get stuck in a very narrow way of looking at . . . success.

I don’t for a minute want to downplay the importance of financial stability, wise and strategic monetary decisions, the acquisition of helpful insurance (health, life, etc.), and planning for the future. But there are other considerations that need to be made, too.

Back when I was teaching high school (in the 1980s) I asked one of my favorite students what motivated her to try so hard and do such excellent work in school. I guess I expected an answer that included lofty ideals that exhibited amazing maturity and exemplary foresight. What she said was: “Well, I want to make good grades so I can get a scholarship to a really great university, so I can get a degree that makes it possible for me to live in the kind of house I want, and drive a really nice car.”

Well all right then.

And if that is what one really wants out of life, if that is indeed their definition of “success” then by all means that is the answer that will define his/her career. [BTW, that student became a school teacher, so somewhere along the line she forfeited her stated ideals for some that brought her more personal satisfaction].

Human beings are gifted beings; they possess talents and penchants and missions in their lives. Daily food and clothing are certainly necessary, but what truly rings an individual’s bell (so to speak), what makes his/her heart soar that is what he/she really lives to do.

So, the first questions I would ask as you and I try to unravel our career/job enigma:

  1. What thing(s) truly make you come alive?
  2. If you can picture yourself doing something that brings you great joy, what are you doing in the picture?
  3. If you believed you could find a way to make an honest living without doing a job you hate, how would that make you feel?

6 comments

  1. I agree with you that if you can do something for your work that you have a passion for it will be better, you will feel happier and more fulfilled. One of the worst things, to me, is to be in a job that is not a good fit for your talents and interests. I have been there to a certain extent and you feel like something is not right..kind of like being a square peg in a round hole. I was much happier doing something that came more naturally to me..in my case being a CNA because I loved helping people and trying to make their lives a little brighter. I only wish I had gone farther in my education.

  2. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I got an arts degree or just the economic climate, but somehow, just about everyone that I’m really close with seems to have given up on the traditional “career.” I think there’s a sense that job security just isn’t a thing any more, and that if you want to be able to support yourself, you have to cobble together a bunch of small lines on income. A part-time gig here, sales on craigslist there, a short-term contract, a room you can rent on air bnb, a sale or two on your etsy shop. Devoting 40 hours a week to an employer, with no guarantee they’ll give you any notice or severance if they let you go, seems like a horribly tenuous situation. If you can whittle it down to a few commitments with lots of flexibility, it can be really great thing. But if you’re working 60 hours a week and barely keeping the lights on, it’s pretty freaking awful! But I guess the same can be said of being salaried one week and unemployed the next.

    1. Thanks for reading, and sharing your experience and insights. The world keeps changing, and it is hard sometimes to keep the pace. We grow up learning “how the work game works” (supposedly), and then the game changes. It can be frustrating. But there is always a way to survive, it seems; albeit not always in the way we had envisioned.

  3. It’s hard to parlay a Bible/theology degree in the business world! Someone tried to tell me that when it was suggested that I might want to get a minor or second degree in something that could actually pay the bills if I left the world of compensated ministry. But of course that would never happen to me… I think you might know how that feels.

    So…training/schooling in other areas to make “a living” follows — and what you wanted to do and felt like you were gifted to do is left far behind in a cloud of “what ifs.” In my journal that chronicled the early days of a career transition, I believe I said something to the effect of “now begins the humiliating search for a new job.” Well…that’s always a good perspective with which to begin anew! What I discovered along the way was that there were indeed opportunities–in fact, more opportunities of a different sort–in a new direction of work that I could not have imagined. Maybe not what I had envisioned or even hoped for (see–Joseph), but non-the-less, a redemptive career path.

    I work to live; I do not live to work. I’m grateful I have a job that allows enough income to meet obligations–but more so, to meet the pressing needs of others. Therein is a sense of satisfaction and usefullnes that far outweighs a “successful career”–or perhaps, even redefines that concept.

    Blessings, brother.

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