Finding Your Place | Wycliffe Bible Translators

Finding Your Place

Four principles for changing careers.

  • August 10, 2020
  • By: Catherine Graul
Kevin and Lynette VanWagner
Kevin and Lynette VanWagner have found their place through several careers in Wycliffe.

“Rate your job satisfaction on a scale of 1-10.”

That statement is on nearly every work review and every performance report. But how many people do you know who would say they love their job?

Perhaps you never have loved your job before. Or maybe you did once, but with layoffs, remote working schedules and industry shifts, the job that you had may no longer be the job you want. If Monday mornings fill you with an abnormal amount of stress every week, perhaps it’s time to dig into that dissatisfaction.

Kevin VanWagner has served with Wycliffe for over 36 years in a wide variety of roles, but now acts as the director of People Development. He and his team of eight career advisors help over 200 people each year thrive in their jobs or teams.

“Our goal,” Kevin said, “is to help people understand how God has made them so they can be energized in their work and, by God’s grace, make the best contribution to the Bible translation task so lives around the world will be transformed by God through his Word.”

Here are four principles to keep in mind when considering a career change:

  • Dissatisfied? Ask why.

    Complaining about your job is often standard, but it doesn’t have to be! “All jobs have some aspects that we don’t like,” Kevin observed. “We aim for an 80/20 ratio: 80% of the job energizes you and 20% is hard.”

    It is also important to find the root of your dissatisfaction. Are you having a personality clash with your boss? Is it the job itself that is causing you stress? Are you running up against a core value in the job that you disagree with?

    Sometimes all it takes is adjusting the root of the dissatisfaction — whether changing teams, communicating better, adjusting your tasks or setting a different schedule — and you don’t have to switch jobs. But if that’s not possible, a career change might be in order.

    Even if you are heading toward a change, don’t neglect the present. “Think of your current job as an experience worthy of being included in your next resume instead of drudgery that you have to go through,” Kevin commented. “Be committed to do the best in whatever situation you are in.”

  • “Change” is not a dirty word.

    Changing jobs can be intimidating and overwhelming, but remember that all is not lost! God has a plan.

    Although historically people used to pick one career and stay with it their entire lives, that’s not common anymore especially among younger generations. “Your interests and motivations may change over your lifetime and that’s okay. Do what is satisfying!” Kevin said.

    He continued: “Sometimes we think God has just one thing for us to do in our lives. But God has many things for us to do in our lives! When I first went to [overseas], I thought we were going to translate the whole New Testament for [a] people group … but when we returned after our [home assignment], God called me into administration.” Kevin concluded: “[I realized] God called me into the work of Bible translation, but what my job will be in that area will change.”

    Wycliffe considers internal mobility — the ability to move from one role to another within the organization — to be an advantage! Through opportunities to change their roles as their interests and life stages change, Wycliffe staff and missionaries stay energized and connected to the work of Bible translation. People can share expertise across departments and across the world.

  • Know yourself.

    Wycliffe career counselors focus on helping clients determine their interests, skills, values, motivation and personalities. These five characteristics work together to help guide people down a path toward satisfaction and fulfilling career choices.

    For example, what’s a past accomplishment that you’re proud of? What kinds of skills helped you get to that point? Kevin explained: “We have our clients think of situations where they were the main actor, were satisfied with the results and enjoyed what they did.” He continued: “Then we have them write a story about that event. Together we go through the story and look at their motivations and help them understand their values and skills.”

    But what if you have no idea what your interests are? “At that point, we just say, ‘Go pick something!’” Kevin laughed. “It doesn’t have to be your career! Just see how it goes and take one step at a time.”

    Maybe the simplest change is the most important. Kevin remembered: “Earlier this year one man came up to one of my career advisors and said he took career guidance 20 years earlier. He learned [during that process] that he needed to live somewhere green. That’s why he and his wife moved to Orlando instead of Dallas. He said that made all the difference in the world.”

  • Utilize tools.

    In Wycliffe, career guidance is a holistic process that helps people learn how God made them so that they can make a wise choice about where he wants them to serve next. “We are all working toward getting God’s Word into the [remaining] languages, so knowing that we have the same goals in mind helps,” Kevin said.

    Currently, the career guidance team uses a combination of 8-12 assessments, including Myers-Briggs Type Indicator™ and CliftonStrengths, as well as prayer, Scripture, conversations and reflections. They usually meet with their clients 6-8 times to verify and clarify the results of those assessments.

    To start the reflection process, Kevin recommends exploring to learn more about personality types and O*NET to learn about job opportunities as well as job assessments. “The book ‘What Color is Your Parachute?’ is also helpful if people take the time to go through it and use the assessments,” Kevin shared.

    Kevin has found the tools used in career guidance to be helpful personally: “I’ve gone through them several times. When I was overseas … I saw we needed certain personalities to work well in that area. So I thought if I did career guidance, I [could] help put the right people in those positions.” Kevin concluded: “Then when I took my assessments, it said I should be doing career guidance!”

A Process of Healing

Sharon Jacobs had been serving as a missionary for some time but had burned out. “I wasn’t sure who I was or what I was and what I should be doing on the mission field, if anything at all,” she said.

When someone suggested she try career guidance, she was skeptical. “I really didn’t think that was going to work for me,” she admitted. But she wasn’t sure what to do next, so she gave it a try.

“I was so impressed by the empathy and professionalism that I received,” Sharon shared. “I was amazed to see how [the assessments] all lined up [and] they all confirmed each other. … It was immensely gratifying and encouraging to me. I felt like I could return to the field knowing that what [I was doing was] exactly what God made me to do, without a shadow of a doubt.”

For Kevin, that lightbulb is his favorite part of career counseling. “Someone realizes, ‘Oh, that is exactly what is going on! Now I know I can do this!’ Or, ‘I shouldn’t be doing this!’ That’s the best. Seeing people leave with a positive attitude that something is possible … and receiving healing … in the process.”

God created every person with a unique set of gifts, passions and abilities to be used for his kingdom, and he has a place for you too!

Did you know that nearly every job can be utilized in the global Bible translation movement? Check out this list of opportunities within Wycliffe!