Choosing a Career THAT REFLECTS YOU

It’s nice to talk about your identity and individuality but what if you come up with the conclusion that you were brought into this world to be an artist but you don’t see any way to secure your livelihood. True, many artist become teachers of art, but that is not for you. You are not a teacher. You are an “artist”. So what are you supposed to do now? Is the “real you” meant to starve to fulfill its inner purpose? Unfortunately there are many activities that provide people with tremendous inspiration yet cannot be expressed in context of a career. Must they spend the majority of their life doing something lacking that personal connection?

If you look closer at your talents you will find that there is something much deeper that defines who you are than being an artist or whatever other talent you have identified with. At the root of your talents are qualities that help you as an artist but are in no way limited to that one form of expression. For example, I am a musician. When I was in music school I thought that the only career that I could go into was music. But if you would have compared my personality and skill set with other music students you would have found a world of difference. I was not a performer. I was a composition major. I spent most of my time putting together the pieces of a big puzzle in a way that would sound good. The performers were taking other peoples music and trying to express it as beautifully as possible. These are two different worlds.

My natural talents were actually noticeable as a little kid when I used to sit on the floor working on three puzzles at the same time. When my mother would ask me to clean up one of the puzzles, I told her that I wasn’t finished because I was just working on another one and was coming back to the first one later. That is what I do when I write a few songs in the same time period, or a few chapters of a book or invent products to patent. These are all activities that come out of the same basic love of putting the pieces together in a creative and communicative way.

When you are trying to decide on a career, you must be flexible to see where you can apply your root personality and skills beyond the limited applications and jobs that are predefined by society. We are too quick to say that if you are good at writing music, you should be a composer. That may be true in cases where there is a promising way to make a living from it, but for many, it is just a hint to an underlying talent that can be applied to something that can be just as pleasurable and financially more secure. So try to take what you have learnt about yourself and separate it from any career definitions. Then use this clear picture of the root of your soul’s personality and explore what career options will provide for a good opportunity to utilize your gifted skills.

Rav Bachye Ibn Pakudei, in “Duties of the Heart” suggests the following to help figure out if a career is suitable for you.

DUTIES OF THE HEART

The affinity one has toward a particular vocation is a divine signal pointing him in that direction. Each person has a natural inclination toward a specific area of work more than another; for God has imprinted this affinity into each person’s nature ...When one finds within himself a desire for a particular type of pursuit, and believes that he is well-suited for it, he should invest himself in that pursuit and use it as a means for earning a livelihood. And he should not give up that pursuit when at times he fails to support himself; rather he should trust in God that He will give him enough to live all the days of his life.

The above lesson from Chovos HaLevAvos can be summarized by remembering the five words in bold.

Affinity - Make sure you will use your true natural talents

Inclination - You feel a preference towards this type of work

Desire - You can envision getting day-to-day enjoyment from the work

Invest - You believe in the potential and suitability enough that you will be willing to invest a lot of time and effort into it

Trust in God - Emunah that Hashem will provide you with your livelihood especially during the low times when it looks like you will not succeed.

Try to take what you have learnt about your personality and ask yourself if your choice of career can live up to these five requirements. In addition to the specifics of the career, there are always great opportunities to develop a closer relationship with God through the daily challenges faced in the business world. Being honest, greeting people in a pleasant way, knowing that your product can be of benefit to people's lives in some way are only a few of the considerations that shape the holiness that one brings into their career.

In God’s world, there is nothing or no type of pursuit that is devoid of holiness. Wherever refined character traits, kindness, and love of fellow man can be found, the work being done is elevated to the level of Divine service!

Each vocation brings its own store of challenges, whether it be the temptation to overcharge or underpay, the difficulty of always keeping one’s word, making sure to avoid selling forbidden things, or avoiding unacceptable business tactics, etc. When a Jew encounters such a situation, he must know that this is his mission –to rise to the occasion and observe the Halacha (law)

As we discussed in context of developing our traits, success is not to be measured by how the world defines us. We must hold on tight to our inner visions and goals. Once we place ourselves within the business world, this becomes even more challenging because the definition of success is so easily swayed by external values and social pressure so heavily emphasized in business. This can not only damage ones productive path in life, but it can also cause them to make bad business judgment and cloud their self awareness. So besides the effort required to choose the right career, we must be well prepared to hold onto the “real you” while in the business world.

Try to take what you have learnt about your personality and ask yourself if your choice of career can live up to these five requirements. In addition to the specifics of the career, there are always great opportunities to develop a closer relationship with God through the daily challenges faced in the business world. Being honest, greeting people in a pleasant way, knowing that your product can be of benefit to people's lives in some way are only a few of the considerations that shape the holiness that one brings into their career.

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Created with images by Leonid Mamchenkov - "Puzzle solver"

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