by Diana To, M.A., M.B.A.
For many people, work is a major part of life. It often occupies over one-third of a person’s waking life for 40 years or more. When there are problems with work, a person may feel stressed, anxious, depressed, empty or directionless about life. Career issues can take many different forms, including dissatisfaction with job, work-related stress, uncertainty about career choices, unemployment, and burnout. Even for people who don’t work outside of the home, taking care of family members is still work, and being a homemaker or a stay-at-home parent is still a career choice.
At times career issues stem from the work environment, e.g., overly demanding workload or expectations, or work settings that may be hostile, unethical, overly-competitive, or otherwise unhealthy or even toxic. At other times, career issues may originate from a mismatch between a person’s job and his or her personality, interests, skills, or values. A person may have chosen a career based on the expectations of self, parents, peers, or societal values, rather than what is truly fitting given the person’s own unique attributes. Negative childhood experiences may have hindered a person’s development of self-knowledge, sense of identity, or academic and occupational skills, leading to suboptimal career choices and outcomes. Relational issues may also exist between an employee and his or her manager, peers or subordinates. Sometimes problems at work can also be manifestations of a person’s broader emotional or mental issues, e.g. problems with relational styles, communication skills, belief patterns, depression, anxiety, or personality disorders.
Contrary to the belief of some, work is not a punishment from God meted out to mankind after The Fall. Rather, work is intrinsically good, first and foremost because God Himself is a worker, and so is Jesus Christ. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing.” (Gen 2:2) “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17) Work was one of the first things that God gave to Adam after He created him. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15) Work for mankind originated as a beautiful gift from God that let humans participate in partnership with God to do something purposeful with their God-given time and lives, and to serve the Lord. Thus, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Col 3:23)
God also made each person with a unique design, with differing gifts, resources and opportunities. “Each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” (1 Cor 7:7) And God has a work plan for each of us: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) We see in Jesus’ Parable of the Bags of Gold (Mt 25:14-30) that the Lord wants us to put to good use the resources that He has entrusted to us, each according to what we have been given. The servant given the 5 bags of gold and the one given the 2 bags of gold both received the same praise for their work, when they produced results in proportion to what they had been given: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Mt 25:21, 23) For some people, God gives them very specific callings to serve in certain capacities; for others, God’s plan for their work may not be as readily apparent, in which case more exploratory efforts would be required. Either way, the key to working for the Lord lies in putting to proper use the unique gifts and opportunities that God has given to each of us and doing it in service to Him; our faithfulness as servants of the Lord is not measured by the results that we produce in human terms. It is also important to note that no matter what we do for work and how well we do it, our work does not define who we are; rather, our identity comes from our relationship with Christ. “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Php 3:8)
Recommended Treatment Approaches
The treatment of career issues will always begin with a thorough assessment of a client’s work-related history and current situation. Then, depending on the nature of the issues and the contributing factors, treatment approaches will vary. For example, treatment may include exploring beliefs about oneself and work, challenging dysfunctional ones where present, and replacing them with more functional alternatives in both day-to-day work situations and big-picture outlook. It may also include the coaching of interpersonal, communication, emotional and other self-management skills that help resolve issues and enhance effectiveness in the workplace. For some clients, a deep exploration of career direction may be in order. Some client may participate in a battery of career assessments, detailed analysis of the results, generation and careful examination of new ideas, and step-by-step coaching through the job search and career development process. Formal or informal support groups with others in career transition can also be a helpful adjunct to one-on-one treatment.
Your Work Matters to God by Doug Sherman and William Hendricks.
- Discusses Biblical perspective on work and how Christians can apply it in their day-to-day work life.
Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron and Kelly Tieger.
- A bestselling guide to finding career success and satisfaction through Myers-Briggs Personality Type
Suggested CCC Therapists
Diana To is one of CCC’s therapists who specializes in the treatment of career issues. Diana is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor at the San Mateo and San Francisco offices. She has an MBA from Stanford and she worked in business consulting, finance and high tech before identifying her calling to become a therapist. She loves helping others in their journeys to find and create fulfilling, purposeful work lives.
Other Support Services
- Career Actions Ministry, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
- Career Transition Ministry, Central Peninsula Church