One of the often unrecognized difficulties of graduate school is the lack of job certainty. The increased attention given to poorly paid adjunct and part-time instructors has brought some of the challenges to the forefront, but even these positions, where one at least has some opportunity to pass on a passion for one’s discipline, remain unattainable for some graduates.
So what does one do when one’s training and gifts and passions do not seem to be used for God’s glory? What happens when one is not allowed to fulfill one’s vocation, the place where one’s passions meet the world’s greatest needs, as Frederick Buechner understands it?
The dilemma is not one limited only to PhD candidates, even though such an investment in one’s education makes the lack of a fitting job feel extra painful. There are many who cannot find a job, let alone a fitting one. The church has the opportunity to speak hope and love in the midst of this, providing support for the financial and emotional stress caused by un/underemployment while also proclaiming that one’s worth is not found solely in one’s job and accomplishments. As Bronwyn Lea, the author of the Well article puts it, “Over the years, I am realizing that God has not called me to be Successful: an Optimizer of all my gifts and opportunities. He has called me to be Faithful: a Steward of all my gifts and opportunities.”