In her newest book, “Jesus, Career Counselor: How to Find (and Keep) Your Perfect Work,” bestselling author Laurie Beth Jones cites a surprising statistic: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average 38-year-old will have held between ten to fourteen different jobs.
That’s a lot of resumes. And interviews. And resignations. But it doesn’t mean we’re all walking around aimlessly either. As Jones points out, a career is rarely a linear progression from point A to point B. Most of us wind up in unexpected places somewhere along the journey, only to discover a set of skills and some passion we didn’t know we had.
Jones gives us some examples: Successful televangelist and author Joyce Meyers was a secretary until the age of 42. Georgia O’Keefe was a school teacher in Canyon, Texas until she met the successful man (Alfred Stieglitz) who became her husband and prominent promoter of her artwork. And a tennis star ended up as an astronaut (Sally Ride)!
Having recently come to a crossroads in my own career, a time to consider all my options, I found Jones’s book helpful in identifying my mission–which, I found out, is different from my job–and trying to figure out ways I can fulfill my mission within a lifestyle that makes sense for me. The way to do this hinges on four foundations, or guideposts she presents in the book.
First, you must compose a simple mission statement, ideally containing three verbs and based on one of your core values. For example, my mission statement is this, borrowed from my Facebook page: “I am a mother of two, a wife, and a writer whose mission is to educate folks about mental illness and to offer support to those who, like myself, suffer from mood disorders. But I do all of this with a sense of humor.”
Second, you assess your personality profile. Jones works with the four elements, using the symbolism of fire (possessing leadership skills), water (possessing relationship skills), earth (possessing good habits and character traits), and wind (possessing creativity and innovation). I tend to use the Myers-Briggs Assessment here, as I am an ENFP (extrovert, intuitive, feeler, perceiver).
Third, you explore your four greatest talents. To help you with this step, Jones advises a person to ask himself two questions: What do people tell me I’m good at? What do I most love to do? In my case, I decided my best talent was making people feel less alone and scared by becoming transparent on paper or online. That means if the publishing industry doesn’t work any more for me, I don’t have to limit myself there.
Finally, you craft a vision statement. I like the way Jones goes about this. She asks you to imagine that you have just won the lottery and don’t need to work for money any more. On Monday morning of that week, she asks, what are you doing? What about on Wednesday at noon? Who are you having lunch which, and where? It’s Friday evening now. What are your plans?
Jones promises that if we keep these four guideposts in mind at all times, we will find satisfaction in our work and fulfill our vocation or calling, that “Jesus, our ultimate Career Counselor, has his door open and is eager for [us] to have life, and to live it abundantly.”