Yesterday I talked about American men feeling disappointment and burnout at mid-career. Today I’ll raise several key issues you should consider carefully and prayerfully if you’re among the growing number thinking about making a career change.
1) There are elements of repetition in every career, and few repetitive actions remain continually thrilling. Are you in the right place, but just needing a minor change of pace, or is your lack of enjoyment indicative of something more fundamental?
2) Are you wrestling with getting less recognition than you think proper? Is this a legitimate grievance, or your reticence to live contentedly before an audience of One?
3) Is your career disappointment a reminder that perseverance is needed, or an indication that your work is not the type worth pursuing for a lifetime?
4) Where does income figure in to your dissatisfaction? How does money fit into your value system, and affect your feeling of self-worth?
5) Are you giving your time and energy to something you can be proud of?
6) Is your career providing the opportunity to make a contribution to something you deem important?
Men, these are important questions. So please don’t make impulsive moves without answering them prayerfully, honestly, and with the help of trusted and spiritually mature input from others. Many of you may find God’s calling you to grow right where you are. Others just may be called to take heart and follow God to other things.
If you’re a man feeling disappointed with you career accomplishments, you should prayerfully and carefully consider the reasons. God’s image isn’t best reflected in a man tarnished by frustration and discontentment. Some reasons for disappointment could be carnal, like the desire to be rich’to boost one’s ego or status. If that’s the case, a Christ-centered value system will relieve some of your disappointment.
Yet other disappointments could be both legitimate and addressable. Many men enter careers for the wrong reasons. Their parents may have adversely influenced them. They may have begun a career because they didn’t know what else to pursue. They may have lacked financial opportunity to get the training necessary for the career they really desired. Or they may simply have had a ‘eureka!’ experience at mid-life and discovered a calling previously unknown to them. In such cases, a career change, if possible, could be a completely legitimate pursuit.
Some disappointments can be resolved by adjusting expectations that were unreasonable or illegitimate all along. However, lowering the bar on a legitimate expectation isn’t a path to fulfillment. Far better to put steps in motion to achieve what’ll bring fulfillment than work another two or three decades in disappointment.
The challenge is making changes at mid-life. If you’re able to switch careers or make adjustments, great. If you’re constrained by obligations you can’t move, the process will be longer. It’ll require patience and creativity. But escaping disappointment and fulfilling your calling will make it worthwhile.
My dad was probably the hardest-working man I’ve ever known. He worked for twenty years at a large university in Texas while also running drive-in restaurants and selling real estate. He was simply an outstanding provider for our family.
One of the reasons my dad worked so hard was because he got a late career start. His father owned a successful machine shop during the days of the Texas oil boom. Somehow my dad was chosen to help his father manage the business while his four brothers went off to college. Then the oil boom ended and the family business floundered. My dad was left without either a career or a college education.
Men’s careers often take unplanned and unwanted turns, don’t they? It’s easy to incur mishaps, expenses, and responsibilities, and then feel stuck. I imagine more men today feel like they have jobs rather than careers. That can be a debilitating feeling, especially if you’ve got one of those ‘change the world’ types of dispositions.
I know my dad quietly struggled with those feelings. He sacrificed to serve his father, and played catch-up for the rest of his life. Yet he succeeded at honorably providing for his family despite his late start. For that I hold him in the highest esteem.
Men, sometime you have no choice but to grow where you’re planted. When that’s the case, don’t lose heart. There’s always something to be, even if you’re not crazy about what you do.