I am finishing up my degree and am looking for job and internship opportunities in different cities. What should I consider when choosing a place to live? Best job opportunity? Closest to family? A place with solid churches? Good friends?
What a privilege to have so many choices as you begin your career! The possibilities for new adventures in new places can excite as well as overwhelm. How do we decide among several good options?
A few years ago, I asked 70 Christian college students to tell me about their career decision-making process. I learned that each student had developed some sort of formula or recipe for deciding which career would honor God, make a difference in the world, and fulfill some of their personal needs.
Many of those personal needs were quite noble and reflected wise stewardship. Some sought to stay close to family and take a job that would provide financially. Many were looking for jobs that made use of their gifts and training, and matched their personality to some degree. Your considerations in choosing a city align well with what I heard from those students.
Examine Your Options
Practically, the internet can help immensely when transitioning from college to the workforce. If you’re not sure what type of job would be the best fit, research-based tools like PathwayU can help you discern the types of careers that might suit you.
If you’ve already settled on a career path and want to evaluate the cities in which your job opportunities lie, sites like Niche.com can give you a sense of the diversity, nightlife, schools, coffeeshop scene, transportation options, recreation, median income, and average educational attainment of various neighborhoods around the country.
Real-estate websites can give you a sense of the rental and housing market. And a standard-of-living calculator can help you estimate how your expenses in one city would compare with your expenses in another.
Most importantly, make it a priority to find a healthy, gospel-preaching church. It doesn’t sound like your job search will take you among unreached people groups; therefore, you will likely find several churches in your area that proclaim the gospel and serve their communities through acts of mercy and justice. A good place to start might be TGC’s church directory or the 9Marks church finder.
You may have to let go of some of your preferences about worship styles and service times in order to discover the richness of a church committed to equipping believers to participate in God’s mission in the world. But you’ll be able to partner with that local community of faith, and they with you, as together you continue to discern how to honor God in your choices big and small.
Visit if Possible
You may be able to take a more embodied approach to your search. When I had narrowed my seminary choices, I visited each to get a sense of the community on and off campus. To me, L.A. felt too big and too far away from home. Jackson was closer to home, but seemed a bit too small.
Last year, when I was in the final round of interviews for a job in Memphis, my family and I drove down to explore the area. We visited a church and were invited out to lunch with two families. We drove around a neighborhood similar to our own, dined at a famous barbecue restaurant in one of the suburbs, and researched local school options.
Most importantly, make it a priority to find a healthy, gospel-preaching church.
Be careful with those first impressions, though. Even a weekend visit or two may not be enough to get to know a place, just like the first and second date may not give you enough information to decide whether or not you want to commit to a serious relationship.
It can be helpful to take all of the information you’ve gathered and make a pros-and-cons list, weighing the options available in each job and in each city. Or, if you’re more intuitive, you may be inclined to follow that gut feeling about where to go. But don’t stop there. As Christians, we have tremendous resources to help us discern what the next step could be.
Practice Good Discernment
In After College: Navigating Transitions, Relationships and Faith, Erica Young Reitz distills wisdom gained from years of helping students at Penn State decide what to do and where to go after graduation. She offers a step-by-step process for decision-making and explains how Christians need to listen to God, his Word, our faith community, and our lives in order to make God-honoring choices.
Kristan Dooley, a coach at Gravity Leadership, offers four ways to discern God’s leading when making a decision. She concludes her post with a reminder from Proverbs: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Prov. 3:5–6).
Commit Your Heart to God
Proverbs reminds me that perhaps more important than the actual decision-making is being prepared for it. In Proverbs 16:1–9, we see a beautiful interplay between God’s sovereignty and our plans. He allows us to make plans, to desire, to dream—and then, in his goodness, decides what will come to pass. He invites us to work, to partner with him in caring for and cultivating the earth—and then, in his goodness, decides what will bear fruit beyond what we can see.
God allows us to make plans, to desire, to dream—and then, in his goodness, decides what will come to pass.
Yet, tucked betwixt and between the verses about what God might do with our plans and purposes, we discover he cares immensely about our hearts. Are we pursuing him and the life he would have us live? A life marked by fear of the Lord, righteousness, justice, humility, and contentment? Yes, God wants us to commit our plans to him. But he also wants us to commit our hearts.
Commit your heart to the Lord. Commit your job search to him. Spend time carefully examining the opportunities before you. And trust that God will lead you as you yield your life wholly to him.