80,000 hours. That’s how many hours the average American works in their lifetime. That’s 40 years x 50 weeks x 40 hours (according to www.80000hours.org).
In the Egyptian community (and most other immigrant communities), those 80,000 hours were clearly defined. I’m sure you’ve heard the joke about the 4 professions you can pursue as an Egyptian:
Did our parents or grandparents come to this land of opportunity to only give us the opportunity to choose from a very narrow list of professions?
All joking aside, this standard can feel really daunting and impossible at times. You never want to spend 80,000 hours of your life working in a field chosen for you by someone else, a field that you are not convinced about. That’s a recipe for an adult nightmare.
Our families want the best for us, that is undeniable. However, the pressure they put on us to pursue a career that we are not passionate about is not something we should have to carry for the rest of our lives.
If you’re one of the lucky ones that obeyed your parents’ suggestion and ended up loving the career, then good for you! Keep on thriving! But if you’re not, that’s okay, there is always hope. Know that you are not alone and that there is always a way out. A way that can lead you to bigger and better things. Let me share with you a little bit about my journey.
I’ve changed my mind about my career more than I can count. I was blessed to have parents that just wanted me to succeed, and didn't put stress on a specific profession. I entered college as an architect major, but quickly saved myself and made the right move to civil engineering (architects and civil engineers have an ongoing joke about the other’s profession, I know they’ll appreciate the humor here). But on a serious note, as soon as I started working in the engineering world I was not happy. I loved what I studied in college, but I was not using it in the way I thought I would.
I know that is a heavy statement to make, but ask anyone that knew me. When people would ask how work was going, I’d answer along the lines of, “It’s good, I work for a great company, and I’m surrounded by a great team. The pay and benefits are good too. But I just don’t really feel fulfilled.” I know this may sound like a first world problem, and that I should be content with having a job in the first place. I was definitely thankful, but something felt off. I said to myself if I was going to spend half my day somewhere working on something, it better be worth it. My job had to have meaning for me, and be worthy of 80,000 hours of my life.
One day I discovered that there were people, professionals, whose job was to help you find the right career. Yes, I’m talking about career coaches. I randomly saw a Facebook post about a professional career coach. I signed up and the journey I took with Mariam was insanely eye-opening. I did a few sessions with her where I explored other careers that I was always curious about, but ended up realizing engineering was the right place for me. Luckily engineering is a huge umbrella and there are many different paths under it. I realized I had to use my skills to make a difference I could directly see. I decided on working in healthcare. I now work in a hospital where I manage construction projects that renovate or expand hospital spaces. I know my purpose there and I get to see how my work directly impacts the doctors, hospital staff, and patients. And it’s pretty darn cool!
Because of the coaching and all the self-reflection Mariam walked me through, I no longer doubt my decision or question my engineering career path. In fact, I am feeling really great about how I got to this place that it lit a little fire in me to help others who are struggling with similar things. I recently started the process to become a certified professional coach.
At the end of the day remember your real purpose, and His true will is your sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). So whatever profession you end up in, what truly matters is that you are being the light of the world and are always glorifying His name.
The world may need more doctors, lawyers, and engineers, but it also needs more teachers, social workers, construction workers, IT experts, and many more professions that are sometimes overlooked by our community. God has blessed us all with different talents (1 Corinthians 12), and its our duty to use those talents (Matthew 25: 14-30).
Here are my two cents: find someone you’re good at (a.k.a your talent), fully learn it, and then apply it. When you do something you’re good at, you’re more likely to succeed, and that success will make you a happier employee. If you want to take it a step further, do something that makes a difference in the world. When you do something that has meaning to you, it will bring you that feeling of fulfillment and purpose that ultimately leaves you feeling satisfied with the work you’re doing.
Are you reading this and feeling like it’s too late for you? Maybe you’re almost done with schooling, or are even mid-career and feel like it’s too late to pursue something that ignites your passion and gives you fulfillment. Fear not my friends, because there is an Almighty force behind you. Romans 8:28 has to be one of my favorite verses. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Pay attention to that last part, “called according to His purpose.” If you truly want to please God in everything you do and follow His will, no matter how things may start out, or how hard they might become, they will always work for the good.
I feel like I’m only in the beginning of seeing the wonderful things God has in store for me. It’s both exciting and nerve-racking. Where are you in your journey? Have you tasted the “good” St. Paul talks about? Or are you still wrestling for your blessings like Jacob? Wherever you are, stop and thank Him. Then ask Him for guidance and clarity.
I know how hard it is to live life with foggy vision, it’s not pleasant. Sometimes that clarity about your talents will become as clear as day all on its own by God’s grace. And sometimes you need someone to help you navigate through that fog to get to the sunshine that’s right around the corner. A career coach can definitely help with that (shameless self plug). If this is something that you might be interested in, check out the professional services page, where I list my coaching website and other coaches that can also help you.