It seems like my whole life up to this point has been building toward getting a job. When I was a kid, people constantly asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. In high school, I was told to make good grades so that I could get into a good college so that I could get a good job and thus have a good life. Now I’m in seminary receiving theological and practical training for whatever ministry job I feel called into when I graduate. All of this is moving in one direction: my career. And that can be sort of scary.
This mentality of everything in a young person’s life building to getting a job can really get into a person’s head. It can lead one to believe that getting a good job is all that there is, and that if one cannot find a good job immediately after going through school, he or she is a failure. It leads young people to believe that they are products they have to sell to potential employers, and their ability to sell themselves is indicative of their self-worth. Basically, we’re all just trying to make ourselves marketable.
I have a problem with this. First of all, this mentality puts a huge amount of pressure on young people. If one does poorly on an exam and fails a course, his or her career opportunities can suddenly seem unrealistically limited. And that’s not healthy. When I’m learning about something in a class, my mind should be on the subject at hand, not constantly on how my grade in the class could affect my future. I can’t learn properly if I’m constantly distracted by thinking too far ahead.
I also think that there is more to life than one’s career. Yes, that’s an important aspect of a person’s life, but it’s not all that there is. A person should seek a career that is fulfilling, but success isn’t just defined by how good of a job one has. There’s family, friends, faith, creativity, and any number of other things that contribute significantly to a person’s quality of life. Spending the first twenty-two years of your life believing that your career is the only important thing about your future isn’t healthy.
After going through public school, four years of high school, and part of my seminary degree, I’m still not entirely sure what I’m qualified for, if anything. I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an expert at anything. I’m educated in a variety of areas. I can have an intelligent conversation with other people about most topics. But I’m not ridiculously good at any one thing. And that’s OK.
The truth is that I’m still learning. And honestly, we all should be. It takes years to master something, and it certainly takes a lot more than just studying it in school. In order to become “marketable,” a person needs real-world experience. He or she needs to be learn the trade by doing it, not just by studying it. I’m not saying education is bad. I’m obviously a firm believer in it. But I know that I’ve got to do a lot more than just study books in order to become a minister. Each of us should be constantly striving to learn more and to improve ourselves in whatever area we find ourselves working. As long as we’re doing that, we’re going to be just fine.
I am not a product. I am a person in the process of growing, learning, and changing. Maybe I’m not the most marketable commodity on the market right now. But that’s OK. I’ll get there. My career path will take some twists and turns, and I have no idea where it will actually end up. But I know that as I long as I find the right thing, work hard at it, and continually strive to improve in it, I won’t have to worry about marketing myself because I’ll be right where I belong. And I wish the same for each of you.