Career planning- the Zen Buddhist Way
When I was at College, I studied the key founders of Japanese Zen Buddhism- in particular Dogen and Rujing. I’d like to share some of what I studied in this short blog and hopefully get you to start asking some questions about your own job hunt and career planning.
Nearly one thousand years ago the early Zen Buddhists moved around a lot, working at various temples in both China and Japan. The majority of them, most notably Dogen, found it extremely difficult to find work (particularly work that they wanted to do) – this is an experience that echoes true for many students and professionals in the 21st Century.
We all know that Zen Buddhism teaches much on the topic of meditation and enlightenment however Zen Buddhism’s ideas around the concept of ‘attainment’ could be of interest to you. This unique concept of attainment illustrates one of the key differences between Western and Far Eastern philosophy – i.e. ‘the means versus the goal itself’.
Let’s assume that your goal is to secure a job or get onto a particular career path. For Zen Buddhists, focusing purely on the attainment of that goal on its own is simply not enough – attainment should be viewed in combination with what steps were taken to achieve the goal as well as the achievement of the goal itself.
So what’s the most important achievement when seeking a job or successful career planning? I’m sure that if I asked a group of job hunters here in the UK the majority would answer- ‘obviously finding a job is the most important outcome- I’d be disappointed with myself if I fail to secure a job’. However if I asked a group of Japanese job hunters the majority would answer ‘the effort and strategy that I put into the process of finding a job- even if I fail to find the job I want, I’ll keep trying to find the job I really want’ (known as ‘Gambaru’ in Japanese).
From a Western point of view, the ideas and concepts written by Dogen and the other Zen masters point to the rather alien perspective that securing a job and the steps taken to find a job are two sides of the same coin. As you embark on your own job hunt or new career, take some time to think about whether the steps you are taking will lead you to the career that you want. For further advice and guidance please come to see me on campus.