#42: How Not to Plan A Career

#42: How Not to Plan A Career

Some people discover early in life what they enjoy doing, start doing it, and never stop. For them, a childhood science set or kitchen experimentation reveals innate talents that they will eventually develop as the years go by. They just know, from a very young age, exactly what they will be when they grow up.

I don’t have one of those stories, myself. When cleaning out the attic recently, I ran across a number of my childhood books with a complex coding system in them, evidence of my early librarian tendencies. I also found a treasured chalkboard, the one I used to teach math to my dolls utilizing many a backward 5. In the end though, I became neither librarian nor teacher.

I always loved to write, and my stint on the high school newspaper staff taught me it was something I could do reasonably well. I assumed I would carry that proficiency with me to my college paper, and eventually, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. But I didn’t become a journalist, either.

In college, I discovered the fledgling contemporary Christian music scene and road tripped to many a concert. I volunteered for churches and concert promoters, and enjoyed a short but sweet tenure as a DJ at a Christian radio station. Surely my love for free CDs and t-shirts would lead to gainful employment in the music industry! But terrific interviews with three leading promoters all ended with: “You are great! But we aren’t going to hire you!” Spoiler alert: I was never going to be a concert promoter (though it took a long time for God to convince me of that).

I decided to take a job, any job, “until God opened up something in my chosen field.” Having already done my time in fast food and retail, I started casting about for office work. I took a temporary position as a secretary in my home church. In my off hours, I met with recruiters and scoured the want ads (this was pre-internet, when job listings were printed on actual paper with smudgy ink). I went on useless interviews and copied reams worth of resumes onto high quality paper. I endlessly pressed my one interview suit.

Do you know what actually led to my gainful employment? It wasn’t a seminar or a networking group. It wasn’t even conscious thought. In an act of desperation, I opened up the phone book. I flipped to the business section. I started with the A’s. I made one phone call.

That was all it took.

Working GirlFor those counting along at home, that was 4 potential dream jobs that I appeared to be hurtling towards at one time or another. I didn’t end up doing any of them! The job I took while waiting “for God to open something up in my chosen field” became my chosen field. I have been working for one employer for (are you sitting down?) TWENTY-ONE YEARS. My “temporary” job turned into a fulfilling career.

I have some stories I’ll eventually tell you about what it’s like to work for the same organization for over two decades. It has not always been employment perfection (nor have I always been employee perfection). If you had told me at any point during years one through eight that I would still be hanging on eons later and actually LOVING what I do, I would have put my hand to your forehead to check for fever and looked deeply into your eyes for signs of concussion.

But at some point I took a deep breath, looked around my office, and realized this is the work God has called and equipped me to do. It’s not work I studied for, planned on, or dreamed about. I just consistently prayed, “Show me where to go.” Eventually He said, “You’re already there.”

And it’s a funny thing. Glancing at some of my work responsibilities, you will see a complex resource coding system (librarian tendencies!). Software training and writing workshops (teaching!). Composing and editing statements for publication (print journalism-ish!). And there is a warehouse (CDs!), a bookstore (t-shirts!), and a broadcast studio on campus (visiting recording artists!).

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that “Make lemons into lemonade” transitioned into “Bloom where you are planted.” But I’ve got the business cards and the W-2′s to prove; it can happen. It happened to me. I believe it can happen to you, too. Ask God, “Where do you want me to go?” At some point in the future, you might be surprised to hear Him say, “You’re already there.”

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