Most millennials have no idea what they want to major in, let alone what career they would like to pursue. One study estimates that as many as 50 percent of students entering college do so without declaring a major, while 75 percent of students in college will change their major at least once.1 This much uncertainty around one of life’s biggest decisions points to a deficit in career advice offered to young people today.
As pastors and church leaders, you are in a unique position to help alleviate that uncertainty and help guide millennials toward a career.
Assessing interests and aptitudes
The first step in helping millennials find a career is to identify their interests. Are they mechanical? Do they like animals? Do they enjoy playing video games? What about helping people: are they moved by compassion when they see others suffer? Identifying young people’s areas of interest helps them get a clearer sense of where to start looking for a career.
Another step in the process you can engage in with millennials is helping them investigate career prospects within their areas of interest. Teen students have limited experience with how businesses and services operate, which makes them unaware of many of the ways they could pursue a particular job. For instance, if you’re helping a high school student try to figure out a career related to video games, he may not know much about gaming as an industry. He might be trained to program and design them or to test them. Or if a young woman is interested in health care, she could explore the training and responsibilities associated with a registered nurse, a CNA, a nurse practitioner, a physician, a physician assistant, etc. Suggest that young people inquire at their local library for labor statistics and prospects to get a better sense for the various forms their prospective career path could take.
Next, you can help millennials assess their aptitude for whatever work they think they’re interested in. If a young person wants to be a brain surgeon, does she have the intellectual rigor to finish the schooling? If a young person has a physical disability, is a desired career path possible? For example, if a young man lost a hand in an accident, can he still pursue a career in chemistry? These aren’t easy conversations, but they’re vital to helping young people choose a successful and fulfilling career.
Once students feel like they’ve identified a job they would like to pursue, a next step is job shadowing. You could use your wide network of people in the community to facilitate a shadowing opportunity for a young person. It can be as little as two hours on one day or a regular commitment over a few months, as long as the time frame allows the student to get a sense of what the job is really like.
Navigating community resources
You aren’t on your own when it comes to helping millennials find a career path. Take advantage of helpful community resources. Some of these include:
- Job Service Agency: This is a state manpower program. Every state has them throughout their communities. They offer career counseling, and in some cases funding, to help workers learn new skills.
- Veterans Affairs: The VA offers service to help with job training, employment accommodations, resume development, and skills coaching for those seeking employment.
- Office (Division) of Vocational Rehabilitation: This office, commonly referred to as the DVR, offers job placement and rehabilitation assistance to those with physical or mental disabilities.
- High school guidance counselor: Many high schools have a guidance counselor who can be helpful in resourcing pastors or students in the areas of vocational training programs, determining if college is the best option for a student, or even setting up job shadowing opportunities in the community. If a guidance counselor is not available, another option might be a community college’s career assessment services.
When using these community resources, it is important to remember that counselors or people working in these organizations probably won’t offer advice from a Christian worldview. In such cases, help the students think through the process in light of their faith.
Putting God first
Christians seeking help with a career decision should wonder what God has in mind for them. They should want to know how God wants to use them. They need to start by praying, “God, what would you have me do?” Ask them to consider: How has God gifted them? How have they been used in the ministries of the church? Be sure they understand why they need to start with the Lord when they develop a career plan.
The value of Christian character
From discussions with career counselors I created a list of characteristics employers are looking for in the people they hire. They are looking for people who:
- Have a positive, constructive attitude
- Won’t steal or cheat on their time sheets
- Work hard and have a strong work ethic
- Tell the truth
- Are moral
These are qualities Christ-followers should already be displaying in their lives and work. You can help young Christians see that a commitment to a godly lifestyle can set them apart in their job search. Not everyone will agree with why they might be good employees, but my research indicates they will see them as valuable nonetheless.
While most millennial Christians have little or no sense of what kind of job they would like to pursue, you are in an important position to help guide them toward a career. By helping students assess their aptitudes and interests, looking to community resources for support, helping them see that God comes first, and showing them the value of character, you can set them up, with your input, for a strong start to their working lives.
For millennials as well as other adults, the discussion of jobs is also tied in with a discussion of finances. For wise advice on helping people with money problems, see Chris Brown’s What to Say to Church Members with Financial Problems.
- Liz Freedman, “The Developmental Disconnect in Choosing a Major: Why Institutions Should Prohibit Choice Until Second Year,” The Mentor, June 28, 2013, https://dus.psu.edu/mentor/2013/06/disconnect-choosing-major/.