Many young people recognize education as that factor. Among American teens, 63 percent of high-school graduates enroll in college in the years they graduate, with the proportion of young female students (64.4 percent) slightly outpacing the number of young male students (61.4 percent).
How does education translate into earnings? After the 1990 U.S. census (2000 data are not yet available), the Census Bureau summarized the average lifetime earnings of people who had attained various levels of education. See the findings in the accompanying "Average Lifetime Earnings" chart.
College no panacea
Some might look at these statistics and decide a college degree is their ticket to a quick personal fortune. They reason that it doesn't matter what area of study they choose; any degree is sufficient to ensure they become rich.
But a college degree does not guarantee success. Routes that promise quick and easy riches seldom pay off in the long run. As Proverbs 12:24 Proverbs 12:24The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.
American King James Version×tells us: "Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labour" (New International Version).
The problem with the get-rich-quick approach is that many people blunder through college, changing degree plans several times. When the going gets tough, many simply drop out of school and grab whatever job they can find-often at much lower pay than they had planned on.
Some continue in college and find they must study additional years because they change their majors several times and need more classes to complete their altered degree plans. Others graduate, but realize a few years into their careers they don't like their chosen field. They feel trapped because they think it's too late to go back to college to retrain.
Why do these things happen? Often it's because these people have not given sufficient thought to the future. They have not planned their path of life. Proverbs 14:8 Proverbs 14:8The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.
American King James Version×talks about this lack of foresight: "The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception" (NIV).
In other words, prudent people will pay particular attention to their future. They will work to gain knowledge to help chart their course and put forth the effort to gain understanding about themselves and their future. The Proverbs talk about the difference between hard work and taking unnecessary chances: "The hand of the diligent will rule ..." (Proverbs 12:24 Proverbs 12:24The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.
American King James Version×). Proverbs 21:5 Proverbs 21:5The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenty; but of every one that is hasty only to want.
American King James Version×adds: "Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty" (Living Bible). Notice the Bible ties the successful person to both diligence and persistence.
Regrettably, Western society overemphasizes speed. Everything, from coffee to full meals, must be available in a short time, preferably instantly. It's no wonder young people have little encouragement to take the time to diligently search for a career that fits their skills, aptitudes and personality.
For some, because of specific interests and skills, college is not the best route. One of the world's wealthiest men, Bill Gates (the founder of Microsoft), dropped out of college to start his company instead of completing his degree. Though he didn't get his degree, he managed to become the richest man in the United States.
How do you know whether you should go to college? What criteria should you use to make that decision? Should you leave it to chance? Should you assume college is your best option? If so, will you work toward an interesting and exciting future, or will you end up bored and frustrated?
To find answers to these questions, you should first understand yourself-your aptitudes, likes and dislikes. Analyze your personality and determine the fields of work that most suit you.
Some turn their hobbies-such as computer skills, writing or photography-into successful careers. This is where career planning and an aptitude assessment can be helpful. These will give you information to make decisions based on facts rather than guesses.
You can discover your skills and aptitudes. Trial and error is one method. Although trial and error is usually accurate in the long run, it takes valuable time and can result in many failures along the way.
A better way is to make use of several instruments specifically designed to help you discover your skills and aptitudes. Once you have gained the resulting information, you'll be better prepared to make decisions that will more likely to lead to success. Popular tools are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory.
Spiritual principles first
Factors that can lead to financial success do not complete the picture. A high wage, salary or profit margin is not the ultimate measure of accomplishment. Jesus Christ knew the value of setting priorities: "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" (Mark 8:36 Mark 8:36For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
American King James Version×).
God does not measure success in dollars earned or a positive cash flow. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:19-21 Matthew 6:19-21  Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
American King James Version×) Jesus pointed out that focusing on material wealth can be futile. Material wealth is subject to loss and theft. More important is building spiritual assets that cannot be depleted or stolen.
As Jesus emphasized in His sermon, as important as earning a living may be, it must never become more important than the spiritual principles God reveals in the Bible.
Keep in mind that a balanced perspective on wealth is key to a successful career.
Next time we'll take a closer look at how the choices we make now can mesh with the spiritual values we should consider that can affect our future security. GN
How to Find a Job That Suits You
When two adults meet, one will almost invariably ask the other, "What do you do?" Many people become what they do; their jobs are their identity. But many people don't choose their occupations; they take whatever comes along and plod along in that job for decades. As a result, many don't particularly like what they are doing. They feel trapped but don't know how to get out of their rut.
Is there a better way to approach the business of earning a living? Yes, there is. Instead of defining yourself by your job, you can find a job that suits who you are.
Besides working with the career resources available in most schools and communities, many books and Web sites are available that can help you in your journey to a happy and successful career.
Here are some places to start:
- Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type, Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger, 1995.
- The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success, Nicholas Lore, 1998.
- www.keirsey.com—Keirsey Temperament & Character Sorter.
- www.allhealth.com/onlinepsych/—Jungian Personality Type Test.
- www.typelogic.com—Type profiles and related information based on the four-letter type designations used in the previously mentioned sources.
If you need personal career counseling, be sure to seek out a competent adviser.