The Church Welfare Services Department Answers … Frequently Asked Questions about Career Development

“Personal and family preparedness” is a concept that is basic to the welfare programs of the Church. Its major thrust is the promotion of self-reliance and wise and provident living. It is to help members avoid or overcome economic, physical, or emotional problems so that they can live happier, more productive lives.

An important element of personal and family preparedness is career development—choosing one’s life work and continually upgrading work-related skills.

The objective in career development is that each head of a household select a suitable vocation or profession that brings him personal satisfaction and aids him in providing for his family. Each young person should also receive counsel in preparing to select such a career.

The following questions and answers help us understand the role we each play in this important process.

How does career development relate to the other elements of personal and family preparedness?

The six elements of personal and family preparedness (see chart) represent a model wherein nearly every imaginable family function that goes into the development of healthy and happy individuals is brought together in proper balance with other functions.

The six elements of personal and family preparedness

Our ability to read, to write, and to comprehend complex situations; our ability to manage our money and material resources; our health; our ability to get along with others; and our emotional and spiritual strength are all important in career development. They affect not only the kinds of choices we make with regard to our life’s work, but also our ability to be happy and successful in that work.

The earlier we realize this and take the necessary steps to capitalize on our strengths and overcome our weaknesses, the more able we will be to make the best of our careers.

Why has the Church taken such an interest in career development? What does it have to do with the gospel?

To the extent that man can free himself from the worries and problems of this world, he can devote himself to growth and service for others. It is important that we be self-reliant. This includes having employment that provides the necessities of life and brings happiness and a certain amount of freedom, both in time and money. As we become more productive in these ways, the work of the kingdom can more rapidly grow and expand.

Who has responsibility for career development?

As with almost every other Church-related endeavor, the primary responsibility to teach career development lies with parents, with the father at the head.

All family members, however, should participate. Older children can help and influence their younger brothers and sisters. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other members of the “extended” family also play important roles. Furthermore, this is an area in which family organizations can help individuals, financially or otherwise.

The youth organizations of the Church, priesthood quorums, and the Relief Society should also take an active role in promoting career choices and in appropriately upgrading job skills.

What specifically can the family do?

A career is not like a head of lettuce—something you simply select from a vegetable stand. It is a choice or opportunity that arises out of the composite of all of one’s tastes, desires, values, abilities, potentialities, and aptitudes.

A child’s first knowledge of careers comes from seeing his father depart each morning and return each night from “work.” Parents should make positive statements to their children about work and should explain to them why we work and its effect upon the family.

If possible, a child should be exposed to the kind of work his parents do. A father may want to have his children visit him at work and explain to them exactly what he does. Also, it is very important that the mother’s work in the home be explained and emphasized.

As the family visits places in the community, such as stores, banks, libraries, etc., parents should point out people at work, explaining what they do and how their work affects the community.

In the home, through books, records, stories, and pictures, parents can also teach their children about work and careers. Family home evening and periodic parent interviews with their children would be excellent times to talk about what the children are going to do when they grow up and what they can do to prepare for vocations.

Children can also learn about work and responsibility through actual practice in the home—chores and other assignments in and around the house.

As with all important decisions, children should be taught to pray about their career decisions. A special father’s blessing at critical points in a child’s life can also provide important guidance.

What can be done for older children—those who are ready to make specific career decisions?

Of course, a person should not wait until the decision has to be made to start thinking about and planning for a career. Elder Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve has offered the following advice to young people:

“May I offer to the youth—these young people we want to help—for their consideration, four steps which are important in obtaining the right employment. They are: first, to invite the Lord’s help in this important search; second, to plan ahead carefully; third, to gather all possible necessary information; and fourth, proper vocation or education preparation.” (Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 123.)

In making career decisions, young people might consider such items as—

1. The type of work they enjoy doing. (Do they want to work indoors or out-of-doors? Do they prefer to work with their hands or their minds? Do they work best with other people or by themselves?)

2. The amount of time and money they have to devote to advanced education or training.

3. The skills and experience they already possess. (Experience from volunteer work, part-time jobs, hobbies, and previous formal training should all be considered.)

4. The demand—today and in the future—for the specific skills they’re interested in.

5. The effect of a particular career upon their lives, their families, and their activity in the Church.

Parents can help their children obtain objective evaluations of their potential in a specific career.

What resources besides the family are available to help individuals with their career planning?

There are many resources in the community that provide help to both youth and adults. Many of these are available without charge. They include:

1. School counselors and teachers.

2. Community or junior college guidance services.

3. Government employment services.

4. Local business organizations.

5. Trade and technical schools.

Aptitude testing is available in many areas and should be used as another excellent resource.

In addition, bishops, quorum leaders, and knowledgeable friends or relatives might be called upon to help.

What about the adult who is unhappy with his career, who lacks skills, or who is underemployed? Who can help here?

Each Melchizedek Priesthood quorum should be organized to help its members with employment problems.

Quorum and group leaders, with the help of resource persons, should be able to provide information on job openings, job counseling, trade schools, and community programs designed to improve individual job skills.

If the member needs help beyond what the quorum or group can give, the priesthood leader can request assistance from the ward employment specialist and, where necessary, through the stake employment system.

In addition to helping with individual problems as they arise, quorums may also counsel fathers on how they can promote career development in their families. This might be done through regular quorum instruction or perhaps through special seminars.

What about career development as it applies to women? Should women have to make a choice between career training and a life of homemaking?

Statistics show that nine out of ten girls will work sometime in their lives. For example, the average U.S. woman today lives thirty years after the last child leaves the home. (Women Workers Today, U.S. Dept. of Labor, 1976, p. 2.) In addition, more than 25 percent of the current adult membership of the Church are women who have never married or who are widowed, divorced, or separated.

Thus Elder Howard W. Hunter has said, “There are impelling reasons for our sisters to plan toward employment also. We want them to obtain all the education and vocational training possible before marriage. If they become widowed or divorced and need to work, we want them to have dignified and rewarding employment. If a sister does not marry, she has every right to engage in a profession that allows her to magnify her talents and gifts.” (Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 124.)

Since the majority of our women will be employed in areas other than homemaking at some time in their lives, they should prepare for a career of their choice so that they will be qualified for work they enjoy.

But homemaking itself is much more than housekeeping, and career training can also make an important contribution to an enriched and happy homemaking career. It adds depth, knowledge, and experience to a woman’s life, making her a more interesting person and rewarding companion.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell commented on this point:

“I hope that our young sisters will not only acquire the vital skills of homemaking, but that they will not neglect their natural talents in literature or language and in science.

“Remember, we take our knowledge, skills, and attributes with us not only into marriage—but also into eternity.” (BYU twelve-stake fireside, Jan. 4, 1976.)

Therefore, it is important for parents to encourage their daughters as well as their sons to develop lifelong pursuits of learning and excellence and where possible to make available to children the opportunity to explore many kinds of vocations and pursuits. A daughter who observes her mother stretching her intellectual capabilities and expanding her homemaking role learns the same kind of behavior.

Some of the skills required for a homemaking career include:

1. Managing time, energy, and resources (including money).

2. Communicating effectively.

3. Housekeeping.

4. Cooking skills and nutrition.

5. Sewing, mending, and handicrafts.

6. Making wise decisions.

7. Keeping abreast of the times.

8. Applying first aid and sound health principles.

9. Making a home a place of beauty.

10. Providing an atmosphere of learning, cultural refinement, recreation, service, and spirituality.

11. Mothering, child care and guidance, and

12. Becoming a responsive, supportive, and loving companion and wife.

Obviously the more highly refined the skills and attributes a woman brings to the home, the more nourishing and enriching her home will be. Some of these skills can be learned in the home. Some can be learned by self-study, service to others, and/or in a formal academic institution.

In addition, the Relief Society offers in a warm, sisterly setting, the training, experiences, and service opportunities to help women become better homemakers.

How can women keep their vocational skills current?

Whether working in the home or outside the home, many women keep their occupational skills current by taking refresher courses or continuing education classes, by participating in occasional seminars, or more importantly, by implementing in their homes, in Church assignments, and in their community the skills and abilities they have acquired.

Women with professions sometimes can continue membership in their professional organizations, which entitles them to a professional journal and the opportunity to serve on committees. This helps them to keep informed in their particular fields.

Some women who are currently giving full attention to their families have the mistaken assumption that unless they are working in paid employment, there is no opportunity to apply their vocational skills. This need not be so. The home, church, and community provide opportunities where women can apply their abilities.

One such example is a mother, a trained educator, who practices her teaching in the home and serves the community on local school board committees. She has found several ways to keep her professional skills sharpened.

Does career development ever end?

Individuals should continually increase their knowledge and try to improve in the work they do. This is as important for the person who has been working for many years as it is for the new employee.

Many companies offer programs wherein employees can improve their skills. In addition, magazines and newspapers relating to an individual’s work contain a great deal of valuable information.

Even those who reach retirement should have a vigorous, ongoing development program. They should prepare to continue an active life once full-time employment ends.

How should my Church membership influence my employment decisions?

To us, as Latter-day Saints, the first thing in life is always our relationship with our Father in heaven. We must seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. As we choose careers, it is vital that we always have the Lord in mind.

Elder Howard W. Hunter has suggested that, as Latter-day Saints, we seek only honorable employment. He said:

“May I suggest a definition of ‘honorable employment.’ Honorable employment is honest employment. Fair value is given and there is no defrauding, cheating, or deceit. Its product or service is of high quality, and the employer, customer, client, or patient receives more than he or she expected. Honorable employment is moral. It involves nothing that would undermine public good or morality. For example, it does not involve traffic in liquor, illicit narcotics, or gambling. Honorable employment is useful. It provides goods or services which make the world a better place in which to live. Honorable employment is also remunerative. It provides enough income so that we may be self-sufficient and able to support our families, while leaving us enough time free to be good fathers and church workers.” (Ensign, Nov. 1975, pp. 122–23.)

The following is also important counsel for Church members seeking employment:

“When we select employment that requires Sunday work, let us remember that Sunday employment is one of the main causes of inactivity in the Church.

“When we choose employment which requires us to move from city to city every two or three years, let us remember that in such cases we seldom sink our roots down, seldom become established in wards or branches, and hence may tend to become inactive.

“When we choose employment that requires us to travel over wide areas in sales programs, being away from home four, five or six days a week, and sometimes for longer periods, let us remember that such tends toward alienation from the Church, and there is no salvation outside of the Church.

“Constant absence from home likewise creates breaches which can often disturb, even upset, our marriages and bring divorce and broken hearts to all concerned.

“Let us choose employment even at less money in which we will be free to serve the Lord and honor the Sabbath Day and keep it holy; employment which will not destroy the close harmony so needed by every family to succeed.” (Church News, 31 May 1975, p. 16.)

[illustrations] Illustrated by Kurt Knudsen