THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Career builder: Why job issues are religious issues

Wondering if you should relocate is really "What's most important to you in life?" And wondering if you should change careers is really "What is my telos?" And where do you learn to find answers to these extremely difficult questions? From religion.

All career questions are really: "What is my purpose in life?" So the most effective preparation for a good career may be religion. 

All of adult life is about facing terrible choices

Why do people tell you you can do anything? You can't. I mean, you can. But it's harder to decide what you're not doing. We make enormous sacrifices everytime we want to get anything: You get no alone time when you have a newborn. You get no more sex partners if you get married. You don't get to live in a small city for some careers. You don't get to live in a big city for some marriages. Adult life is often about making horrible choices.

Where else do you hear about this except in religion? Adam and Eve faced this problem and that's what the history of humankind is built on. That's the narrative of religion. And it's more helpful than the narrative that you can have everything.

Office politics is really good deeds

So many people tell me that Gen Y is difficult to manage. Gen Y wants constant feedback, top-tier mentoring, and they want someone to help them build the right skills for where they want to go.

So what Gen Y really wants is people to care about other people at work.

What are you doing at work that is more important than helping people? Sure, you need to earn a paycheck, but, people don't get promoted for doing their job. People get promoted for doing good deeds, which cynics call office politics. But the truth is that if you are well-liked at work, it is because you care about people, and connect with them and look for ways to help. 

Sounds a lot like religion, doesn't it?

Good work is about good rhythms

We need rhythm in life to reach our goals. We need to have some things we do that are simply not a decision: Make school lunches for the kids. Say no to fried food. Going to the gym.

And then sometimes, you stop everything, and you shake things up, and then you see the world differently. Like, this is why you need to take an extra long lunch, or a short vacation.

You know what is great training for establishing these rhythms in life? Religion. As a Jew, I can tell you that morning prayers, and evening prayers, and Shabbat, give order to my days and weeks. And interruptions to that order, Rosh Hashannah, or Yom Kippur, for example, shake things up for me. I am used to this sort of rhythm. I've been doing it for a long time.

Personal responsibility is the trait of success

In order to succeed, you do not need more luck. We each have the same amount of luck. It's how you use your luck that differentiates you. Because everyone faces adversity, and the people who are the most resilient to adversity are the one's who succeed. Makes sense, right? Everyone succeeds when things are going great.

So if the differentiator is resilience, the people who are the most resilient are the optimists. The optimists can face adversity and turn luck into a ladder to get past adversity. The big difference between pessimists and optimists is explanatory styles: pessimists blame external factors for circumstances, optimists think circumstances are within their control.

Religion teaches us to take responsibility for being good, and honest, and rectifying things we have done wrong. Religion teaches personal responsibility which could explain why religious people are more optimistic than less religious people.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.