3 Characteristics Every Career Should Have ~ Rev. George Kelly, Catholic Youth’s Guide to Life and Love


by Rev. George Kelly, The Catholic Family Handbook

What Career for You

Philosophers say a great world of meaning is packed into a popular six-word slogan: “It is later than you think.” Those words apply to you especially.

It will be just a few years at most before your high school days end. Most people begin working then, and don’t stop for forty or fifty years. Others enter college or take special vocational courses. No matter what you do, you’ll need a clear idea of where you’re heading.

If you begin to work, you’ll want to choose a job that suits you. If you go to college or some other school, you’ll need a fair idea of what your career will be so that you can choose your courses wisely.

If you’re interested in medicine, you’ll want to prepare for medical school. You won’t spend your time studying business administration. If you intend to be a lawyer, you won’t take music as your major. And so on.

Right now, you don’t need a detailed, filled-in picture of your future. But you should have a general idea of the goals you should seek, and the kinds of jobs a person with your aptitudes and interests can succeed in.

Three Characteristics Every Career Should Have.

Any line of work you choose should give you a sense of satisfaction. You want to feel that you’re accomplishing something, doing something worthwhile. In addition to the particular interest it provides, your job has three fundamental tests it must meet for you.

Your life’s work should help you lead a good life and save your soul.

You remember the answer in your catechism as to why you were born: God made you to know, love and serve Him in this world so that you might be happy with Him in the next.

 So any work should help you gain this foremost goal of your life. Most jobs will help you achieve this objective. At least, they won’t stand in the way.

You can save your soul as a doctor, lawyer, teacher, farmer, factory worker, nurse, salesman, musician—in almost any job you can think of. You can also lose your soul in those careers.

But it’s not the job itself that’s good or bad; it’s the use you make of it. A doctor may gain his eternal reward by healing the sick poor without any idea of personal gain. Or he may work his damnation by performing criminal abortions in defiance of God’s law.

An entertainer may do noble work by bringing laughter and sunshine into the lives of his audience. Or he can present smutty material and encourage his audience to sin.

A building contractor may do necessary work by repairing the homes in which people live. He might also be the type frequently exposed by the Better Business Bureau—one who deliberately uses shoddy material and cheats his customers without regard for common decency.

It should help you serve God and mankind.

It’s easier to do this in some careers than in others. A teacher has a wonderful opportunity to open a pupil’s mind and heart to the magnificence of God’s world.

A nurse can bring Christian sympathy and love to the sick and needy. A librarian can encourage young people to search for truth and beauty. A writer can give his readers an idealistic vision of loyalty, courage, and unselfish love.

If your career enables you to provide a necessary, useful service, your rewards will be much more satisfying than any that your salary alone can give.

Many surveys have been made to determine the degrees of happiness among persons in various professions. It’s no coincidence that the greatest contentment is found among teachers, writers, social workers and others who know that they are really helping the public. You can serve God and man to a high degree in many more careers than you probably realize.

One woman, a secretary to an executive in a television broadcasting station, exerts a great influence just by alerting her boss to programs worth showing to the general public.

A former college football star helps youngsters to develop sound bodies by teaching them to play various sports—he’s a community playground supervisor.

A dancing studio habitually cheated its customers by signing them up for long-term lessons at exorbitant rates. Single-handedly, one instructor convinced his bosses that this policy was wrong. Now students can take lessons at a fair price.

Your career should make use of your talents.

God gives each of us certain native abilities. Suppose you have a flair for science—a curiosity about how things work and a desire to improve them. Your talents would probably be wasted if you became a bank teller.

Or say you’re quick at arithmetic and have a natural interest in business matters. You’d be at home in a bank, and a fish out of water in a science lab.

You should use your talents in the best possible way because God will want to know what you’ve done with the gifts He gave you. To some extent at least, your happiness in the next life will hang on your answer. Your happiness in this life will, too.

It’s a well-known fact that we enjoy doing the things we’re good at. If you like to meet people and enjoy trying to convert them to your way of thinking, you may have the talents of a salesman. But you’d probably be miserable if your job forced you to sit alone at a desk all day with no one to talk to.

On the other hand, if you’re scientifically inclined and like to work alone for hours, having to call on people as a “hail fellow well met” might be a ghastly experience.

Moreover, if you’ve been given great talents which you don’t put to use, you may always have a gnawing regret that you’re not getting the satisfaction from your work that you should.

Since your own happiness depends upon your choice, you alone should decide what work to do. No one can possibly know you as you know yourself. No one knows your feelings, your interests, your hopes and fears as well as you. Nobody but you really knows how you react to different people or things.

Your parents, your guidance director at school and others can give you the benefit of their experience and help you make up your mind. But you have a right—in fact, a duty—to make the final decision for yourself.

Since you should take all the responsibility for your success or failure, you shouldn’t have to bow to anyone whose wishes conflict with your own. Some of life’s greatest tragedies often begin when young people can’t or won’t make up their own minds about their careers.

For instance, a prematurely gray, bent and glassy-eyed man shuffles along Skid Row in Chicago. He’s only thirty-five, but his life seems wasted and hopeless.

In school he showed a strong artistic talent. He wanted to become an artist, but his father forced him to study law instead. Ill-equipped for a legal career, the young man flunked.

His father prodded him to try job after job—anything but art. He was always a square peg in a round hole. He turned to drink, and the man who might have been happy as an artist is now a miserable bum.

The employees in a large manufacturing plant can’t understand why their boss is always in a vile humor. “Old sourpuss,” they call him behind his back. He has a fine job, makes huge profits, has a beautiful wife, lovely children—almost everything a man could ask for. Almost, but not quite.

He always wanted to be a scientist and to work on research, but his father insisted that he enter the family business. And despite his position of power today, he thinks he’s a failure because he’s not using the talents God gave him.

There is no doubt that a married woman, if she is a good manager and is not encumbered by some job outside the home, can find time for normal religious exercises and can even provide for meditation, spiritual reading and a relatively frequent assistance at Mass and reception of Holy Communion; time, after all, is something that varies in its possibility for adaptations and compressibility and woman excels in the heart of putting many things into a small place…. -Christ in the Home, Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J., 1950’s

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