Career Planning or Discernment: Is there a Difference?

The Newman Guide

The Newman Guide

My son is a high school junior. He sits with his friends at dinner and the topic is, “Where are you going to college?” I happen to be nearby so I listen in…

“I’m going into engineering. Look here—the starting pay for a civil engineer is $85,000.”

Another says, “Sports medicine is where it’s at. Hey, we all like sports. And the starting pay is over 100 grand.”

It becomes clear that the overall goal of the group is, “What career path pays the best?” But should  that really be the deciding factor for the future of our young people? Is that the goal of higher education—to come out with a big bucks job?

Most adults can look back on those times when key decisions about the future were being made; and many feel a sense of regret.  Because the goal of life is not making big bucks. Nor is it having freedom to pursue “pleasure.” Our Catholic faith warns us that these things are temporary and can be sources of great sin. The pursuit of money above all else leads to “creating a false god.” A violation of the first commandment. The pursuit of pleasure (in sexuality, consumer goods and avoidance of “hard work”) lead s to all kinds of mortal and venial sins.

But there are goals worth pursuing. Happiness, fulfillment, peace of mind, love, service. Those are worthy goals, albeit a bit elusive.

It is for this reason that I’m praying that more of our young people will look for good, Catholic liberal arts schools in order to explore what it means to live on this earth. They need to slow down long enough to hear God calling!

“What is my purpose in life? Why did God create me? What is God calling me to do?” These are questions that will lead to self-fulfillment and happiness. But these questions aren’t easily answered in the midst of consumerism, busy-ness and a self-imposed career path.

A liberal arts education means lots of time for self-reflection. Philosophy is important. History is necessary. Literature leads to self reflection.  Deeper religious formation is crucial.

Sadly, there are many Catholic universities that are no longer truly Catholic. So planning for this next step is not easy for either our young people or for parents. There are plenty of Catholic colleges out there that produce a majority of graduates who no longer believe in God or they relegate faith to something you do on Sunday.

If faith is to inform the lives of young people, if our young people are going to discern the true calling for which they were created, they need a supportive, deeply spiritual environment. That’s why I am keeping an eye on the schools recommended by the Cardinal Newman Society.  From what I can tell, their list is trustworthy and those colleges they recommend are truly places where our children can learn the answer to life’s biggest questions!  Check it out at

Discernment is far more important than choosing a career path. Discernment has to do with becoming who you are truly meant to be!

Copyright 2012 Judith Costello 


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