Monday, October 15, 2007

Vocational Advice for Twenty Somethings

In a prior post, I've mentioned the work of Gideon Strauss, the editor of Comment. Comment is an online publication focused on promoting a Christian worldview on work and public life. In a recent issue, Gideon addresses the challenges facing 28 year old Christian professionals in big corporations. Here's Gideon's take on their dilemma -

"...some of the people.... who have the hardest time, vocationally speaking, are 28-year-olds working in big corporations. They are no longer novices....but they don't really have any significant institutional power yet.... they must conform very closely to institutional expectations if they want to keep their jobs and build their careers. They have limited opportunities to offer leadership or take initiative . . . and their dreams of changing the world—of making a difference—are turning a little stale."

In the article entitled Finding our way to great work: called to work and live in the city, Gideon solicits advice on how to sustain a vision for working and living in the city. Here's a sampling of what some of these older, wiser voices offered to the 28 year old Christian professional:

"Being salt and light in big organizations and big cities comes with all the challenges of climbing a mid-size mountain. You need a good community of close friends with you to help you make the climb...These close friends, nearby and across the miles, are committed to living a shared way of life and longing for "Kingdom come" in the face of frustrations and broken systems. With these kindred spirits I can taste the life that is really life at work, at home, and in the world."

Stephen Lazarus
Director, Civitas Programs for Leadership in Faith and Public Affairs
Center for Public Justice

"Consider yourself to be in a time of training and preparation: Life has many seasons, and it is important to grow in each one of them...There are some wonderful opportunities to thrive where you are, and build a base for future growth...You are also in an ideal time of life to learn "followership," although our fallen nature seems to cause us to fight this. Great leaders know how to follow well, and know the value of submitting to authority... Being a good follower means watching the culture of your organization and learning from its patterns, but it also means that you must never, never, never compromise your values or your faith. "

L. J. "Sam" Helgerson
Writer and consultant
Great Ridge Group, Inc.

"...I have accepted that it is not through my work that I necessarily wish to be remembered. I am, first and foremost, a husband and father, a neighbour, and a friend. These things mark more decisively who I am, and how I wish to be remembered. Gideon Strauss has a motto on his website that includes these sentences: "Enabling whole-hearted work. Equipping worldchanging organizations." For some, these two are one in the same. But for most of us, especially those in the corporate sector, they are two distinct tasks. Yes, our work matters, but we can change the world right where we are—in our homes, our neighbourhoods, our churches. "

Brian Janaszek
Computer programmer

"To the kind of person you describe, I would say the following: God has positioned you to be a salting salt in our culture, even though you may think that you presently have little scope for making a difference for his kingdom. Be faithful, and settle in for the long haul. In the mean time, seek out contact with other believers in a similar situation to yours for mutual encouragement and inspiration. "

Al Wolters
Professor of Religion & Theology, Redeemer University College and author of Creation Regained

What kind of advice would you offer a 28 year old seemingly "trapped" in a corporate environment? How can the young Christian professional find inspiration for daily work?


Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

faithfulness in small things matters. it is a training ground for bigger things but they only come if the faithfulness in small things has been proven. how to do this - focusing on the goal/joy set before Him, Jesus despised the shame of the cross and kept being faithful in all things. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, singly, daily, with devoted obedience, trusting Him that the tasks He assigns in the humdrum life of work actually have eternal significance. it is not that we can see the significance, it is that we can see the faithfulness of the Significant One and that is why we work and trust and wait.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I was going to touch on Hebrews 12:1-3 just as Half-Mom Susan did. I think it's important to maintain a close walk with God in fellowship with other Christians. Be a servant of God and in that context, of others. Be humble; take the lower place willingly.

And be in it for the long haul with eyes fixed on Jesus. It's a marathon, not a sprint in this race layed out before us.

Every Square Inch said...


What good advice and biblical too! I like what you said -

"It is not that we can see the significant, it is that we can see the faithfulness of the Significant One."

Words to remember.


Good advice. Be a servant, be humble - it's challenging for a person of any age...I suspect twice as hard when you're 28.

L.L. Barkat said...

I remember feeling that sense of being trapped. But today I see how all those tight places, even boring days, prepared me to take on my current responsibilities (which I find anything but confining and boring). As with most of life, I try to remember we live in seasons. And each folds into another in ways we can't imagine when we are in the thick of it.

Every Square Inch said...


For many Christians, I think the feeling of being "trapped" comes from a loss of purpose. It's almost an existentialist issue - "why am I doing this job...does what I do matter?"

Your reminder of preparation and seasons is wise counsel...something that's hard to see at 28 but becomes clearer a little farther down the road.

Aaron said...

Wonderful article. I guess next year when I turn 28, I'll have alot of testing to look forward to :)

In all actuality, most of my time over the last 5 years has been spent thinking and trusting God with this topic. I've found that the best medicine for the climbing the mountain is to daily pray for those in authority that God would bless them and the organization. Next, that he would use the leaders to bring progress, and lastly, if he can't find anyone else to do the job, to use me. The other best medicine is to constantly say "Thank you" to Him who places us wherever he so chooses.

Every Square Inch said...


Thanks for your thoughts. It's important to be grateful for every job, in every season. Sounds like you have a great perspective

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

I was thinking about this post again today – see what the luxury of occasionally working from home does? It allows me a topsy-turvy schedule so personal reading and laundry get to come much earlier in the day!

Starting a second career at 40 that normally would have started at 22 and then progressing through that career at a slower pace than the “norm” of a young male scientist, puts me work-wise at about 32 rather than my actual soon to be 54.

“longing for "Kingdom come" in the face of frustrations and broken systems” from Lazarus and the comments by Helgerson and Wolters remind me that God knows what He is doing even when I do not. He understands why He has put me in the position He has, no matter how difficult; He has a plan to bring glory for Himself and good for me out of it. My job is just to trust Him and to continue to seek Him, doing what He lays on my heart no matter how goofy it seems. I must stick with what I know to be right and work wisely in the context of the authority structure set up by my employer.

Time and time again, I must rely on one of my favorite verses, Mark 9:24, “I do believe; help my unbelief”.

Every Square Inch said...


What many Christians, young and old struggle with is a matter of purpose. When you frame your life under God's loving sovereignty as you've done - it becomes easier to walk through different seasons of life.