I began my continuous employment in the communications industry in 1961. Until 1998 there was no other career interest in my life outside of the communications, broadcast and media production world. In 1998 I joined with a friend to form a non-profit organization dedicated to ministering to the world’s disabled poor. From that day until just recently that ministry was the dominant focus of my life. I consider that time seven of the best years of my life. Now I am back to the broadcast consulting and design world.
My first steps back led immediately to joining a project which needed someone familiar with the design and installation processes to develop the documentation and order required to keep a team on schedule. When I arrived I found a project which was somewhat stalled. This project consisted of four Avid rooms (three Adrenalines and one Nitris), three Pro-Tools rooms, and other support facilities, with 24 VTRs of many formats from consumer VHS and Hi-8 to Beta SP and DigiBeta, D2-HD and SDI-HD, using both NTSC and PAL standards, an audio machine room and a special projects recording studio to accommodate over 15 performers. Editing is in HD-SDI format, and there will be 6 HD projection screens in the Avid and Pro-Tools rooms. Presently we are well along, and I expect to be on this project for a few more months.
In other words, I landed on my feet. After seven years away, how could I safely re-enter my interrupted career without starting over?
In all of our lives, no matter how focused we are on our plans, God places detours in our way, and as believers, we want to accept that they are designed to develop our character rather than our careers. When our passion shifts from a long standing career interest (I use the word passion because I believe that if you don’t love what you do, you do not have a career, just a job), the first question which comes to mind is, “Is this shift permanent, or is this merely an interruption which God will use later in my life?”
As with most questions we encounter as believers, there are principles in play which give us clues. One principle is that the longer we are exposed to a vocation, the more useful we can be in it. In other words, the longer we do something, the better we get. That being true (usually), what does that say about the passion we have called a career? If it is something we have loved doing, and are good at, we can begin by accepting that we might be experiencing an interruption rather than a departure, and that the next months or years will be used by God to expand our horizons within that first career. That is best done by passionately pursuing the new direction, without turning our backs on our first career. Embrace what we have found, but do not lose what we have had.
In our careers we have many colleagues, some of whom we count as personal friends. For years we have enjoyed each others company and shared a common passion. Stay in touch. Even if we believe we are not going back, we share our new passion with our friends; they might even envy us for finding a new love. Besides, these moments will keep us in touch with the gossip and new developments which they consider meaningful, and keep alive what we loved most about our first career.
Keep up with the industry. Perhaps it is no longer necessary to attend the conventions and seminars we used to go to, but at least we can still find time to read the trade magazines occasionally. Again, as with all things we love, we cannot just fall completely out of love and walk away. Remember the young lady or man you once dated and just drifted away from? Don’t you still get a feeling of loss when you think of the good times you both had together?
Now that we are on to something else, we will still get an occasional opportunity to work in our old industry. Take it! It’s a chance to pick up a little extra money and get together with the friends we still stay in touch with. We don’t need to consider this “career advancement”. Remember, there is room for only one love in our professional life, and our new vocation is now that love. All of the above is just remaining available to what God might be doing in our lives by not cutting off the possibility that we will be returning.
Now on to the really scary news; now that God has moved us away from our career, and introduced us to a new passion, is He planning to move us permanently in a new direction, or just planning a little character development (read: pain) for us?
Remember back to those days long ago when we first felt that our job was becoming a career. We began to learn and stretch. We were novices then, thinking we had mastered the answers – and we hadn’t yet even formulated the tough questions. We worked longer than we were paid, and considered it a privilege to just go to work. We were the ones who always were available for the weekend shift, the overnight, the times when we could experiment without getting into trouble. Pretty soon we became arrogant, rubbed people the wrong way, and then goofed up and had our over confidence shaken. That is when we discovered that careers, like marriages, require that we invest ourselves. Suddenly we found that the fun wasn’t free, but came at a cost. We counted that cost, discovered that it was worth it, and were off on our first career.
When did that first love become a little unfulfilling? Was there a bad work situation? Perhaps it was a contract job that went sour and robbed our excitement… and our bank account. Perhaps the people around us were just sleep walking through the job, and we began to adopt their attitude. Somehow along the way, the idea of changing direction began to have its appeal. We might still have been enjoying life, but God was planting a seed of preparation which prepared us for the changes about to follow. Could it be that it was God who made the idea of changing paths seem attractive?
Now, we discover that our new calling is requiring the same kind of investment that our original careers demanded. Wow! What a disappointment. It seemed that this was going to be easier than the first career. This realization that all paths require work might take several months or even a few years, but it is part of a process. Now is when we examine whether God is leading us on in the new career, or calling us back to our first vocation. Hopefully, over the months or years we have been away, we have gained valuable insights and new perspectives; maturity, which will serve us in either case. In other words, maturity is a gift which will serve us in every aspect of our lives.
Now is the time for a little soul searching. Am I REALLY certain that this new career is my lifetime calling? Am I REALLY certain that I do not want to return to my previous career? We accuse ourselves of being double minded and lacking determination. Am I giving up? Am I going to forever keep looking in new places?
Of course, no one but you can answer those questions. Just as before, your present circumstances can speak loudly to the question, “does it make sense to go back?” If the answer is “no”, then your new career will be strengthened by your having employed personal discipline in walking out the transition with confidence and wisdom. If the answer is “yes”, then having followed the steps above will serve you well. You will return to your original love with a desire to identify what God has been teaching you, and a determination to bring those new character enhancements back with you. You will employ them to strengthen your talents. You will broaden your opportunities.
Your new direction will be a success, or your re-entry will be safe and your return celebrated by those who have remained your friends in the industry.