Forget Your Career And Pursue Your Vocation

discernment

My So-called Career Development

For the most part of my adult life, I thought I knew what I had wanted to do.

I wanted to pursue a career in HR. I wanted to make money. I wanted to make my resume as impressive as I could possible make it.

And so I tried my very best to achieve these. I knew they would make me happy.

At particular points, I would find myself dissatisfied with certain facets. So, I just decided on changing some things along the way.

Not enough money? Join a better-paying firm.

Resume not impressive enough? Get an advanced degree.

Still not happy? Party and go out with friends.

In my fourth company, Chikka, I became extremely confused.

I was doing well.

It was a dynamic firm. I had a great boss. I made key decisions in my function. I was paid well. It was fun.

I SHOULD be happy, I thought. So I pretended a bit, trying to ignore my restlessness.

But I just wasn’t happy.

Almost instinctively, I thought of leaving for another firm. But I knew one thing which bothered me to the core: after 3-4 months, the novelty would fade away in my theoretical new firm, and I would be left with the same dissatisfaction I had wanted to escape from.

Was this how life is? Just trudging from one place to another like a plodding headless chicken? 

Could I start anew in another field?! No! How can I just waste a decade of my life and start from scratch?

This was how effective my “career management” endeavors ended up being. My own decisions brought me to the brink of desperation.

Direction

Finding My Vocation

In How God Founded Our Startup, I talk about how God intervened at this particular point in my life.

It wasn’t an instant thing.

I think I really only found Him around two years before that fateful leap.

Prior to that, I had no prayer life whatsoever (except maybe when I needed something, then I’d say a short prayer), I did what I wanted when I wanted. I would usually skip Mass. In retrospect, I never let Him be a part of my life nor of my decisions.

When I decided to really follow and love God – and get to know Him and talk to Him more consistently in prayer, things slowly started to change. I learned I needed to let go of the wheel and surrender. Very tough for someone as independent as me.

Little did I know that 2 years after, God would ask of me all that I found important in the world – money, titles, security, clarity, control – in making my great leap.

I had never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be an entrepreneur, much, much, less a helper of entrepreneurs. It was never, ever a career option.

Up until I wrote the first Juan Great Leap post, blogging was something very very foreign for me. I never in my wildest dreams thought: “I want to start an entrepreneurial blog and a build a community of entreps who help one another.”

Yet, this is precisely where God has led me.

Only He could have designed something that fits me perfectly in so many profound ways, I cannot even begin to describe. I have found my vocation, and my soul cannot stop celebrating.

Career versus Vocation

When we speak of “vocation,” it is usually reserved for just describing someone entering the priesthood or the convent.

No way.

All of us are missioned. God has a purpose for EACH one of us, and until we find that purpose, our souls become restless. We may try to numb this restlessness with money, power, control, or even relationships, but until we find that purpose, I believe getting rid of this restlessness will be elusive.

Vocation hails from the latin word vocātiō, meaning a call or a summons. Quite literally, vocation means being were we are called by God.

path

Heeding our vocation  –  which connotes seeking and following what His will is for us – is quite a different process from developing our careers – which frequently involve mental decision making.

The goals of a career are quite different from what the goals of a vocation are as well. The goal of a developing a career will likely revolve around some of the things I mentioned earlier: money, power, security, control.

The goal of a vocation, meanwhile, is to find our place and God’s purpose for us.

Careers are typically goal-based. We try to find jobs that pay us x amount per month let’s say, or will allow us to travel to countries, or will give us a certain title, or a certain type of car. There’s an endgame.

Vocations, on the other hand, to quote Fr. Ramon Bautista, SJ, in a retreat I had earlier today, “are never ‘mission-accomplished'”

Putting it most bluntly: careers don’t usually involve God. It seeks satisfaction in the external, specifically, that which we do not have.

“My dream job is out there. I need to keep looking.”

Vocation, on the other hand, makes you look at your interior self.

How has God moved in my life? What are my deepest desires? What are the gifts God gave me? How and where can I use them best for Him?

These internal questions, which I now so often use when I discern, are so different from the questions I used to ask, when I decided: 

What field will I be happy in? How much will my minimum salary be? Are the benefits comparable? Is my boss cool? What is the salary increase rate here? How fast will I get promoted? 

For lasting happiness and fulfillment, I think it’s pretty easy to see here what to pursue. You’d be glad to know following God has a practical angle as well: God’s plan will surely involve developing the best you that you can possibly be, maximizing your gifts and talents. When this happens, opportunity abounds. (In the end though, the bottom-line is this, if you surrender to God, don’t you think He will be faithful and take care of you?)

My social media spat

I got a note from someone around a year ago who said something like:

“Religious faith has no place business decisions. I would understand things like ‘having faith in the company,’ but religious faith? I fail to see how that can help any business.”

After everything that happened to me, I felt like going nuclear on the guy.

But then I realized that I felt the same way just a couple of years ago. Come to think of it, I NEVER involved God before in my career decisions. In fact, it was a little weird to mix “careers” and “God” in the same sentence for me.

I’m sure a lot of us still feel the same way.

So perhaps its best to start with something most of us can agree with: God loves us so very much.

Incredibly. Uniquely. Infinitely.

If you believe He loves us this much, then surely, You have to believe He must have a unique plan for each of us. A purpose.

If we believe He does have a plan then doesn’t it make sense to begin the process of trying to find out what it is?

Comments

  1. Thank you for putting into words what my heart felt. It downright inspired me to listen to my restless soul and the whispers of my heart. Thank you.

  2. Thank you so much, Mr. Cauton! Your articles have been a blessing to me ever since I took the leap of finding out what my purpose in life is. Around 7 months ago, I quit my corporate job and ventured in a couple of projects which I find meaningful and in which I think my talents would be best used. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I am finding myself even closer to God because of this.

    • Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your story Leng! I can relate to your story so much – right down to the struggle and finding God in the struggle.

      Do trudge on! I believe it will be worth it! (and you can bet God will always be faithful)

  3. Hello Peter,

    Awesome post, man! This sounds like a Rolheiser book. :) If you’d like, I can suggest you grab a copy of The Holy Longing by Rolheiser and The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by Fr. James Martin, SJ. These are spiritual books which touch the heart. :)

    Also, I liked how you boldly proclaim the name God in this post—it just shows how much He has done for you and how much you want to continue doing His will. Just like what Fr. Arrupe, SJ said in his prayer, “Nothing is more practical… than finding God”.

    Keep up the good work! Would love to connect with you.

    Sincerely,
    Geoff

    • Thanks so much for your kind words Geoff :)

      I actually have the Jesuit Guide somewhere in the house. SJ formation is something very close to my heart, and as I gather, yours.

      Agree – nothing is as practical IF you are after the ultimate prize. But in the eyes of the world, a lot can seem impractical. Taking huge risks and leaps for Him can easily be deemed as impractical. Making business decisions where the bottom line ISN’T the primary concern can easily be deemed as impractical.

      But you know what, for true peace of mind, an unparalleled sense of happiness, and inner joy, yes, nothing is as practical as finding God ;)

      We do need to connect,

      Peter

  4. Hi Peter. Please do every Juan a favor —— please publish a book! :)

    • Thanks for the encouragement Aaron! You know, I HAD wanted to publish a book, but I was taking so much time I decided to blog instead:)

      The book is in my bucket list though :)

  5. Hi Peter.. Please do every Juan a favor —- please publish a book! :)

  6. I’m not the most religious person out there, but this post struck my heart. Just the kind of reading I need before I take a grand Leap of Faith towards something I hope would lead me to where I should (and want to) be.

    Thank you!

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