Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » The Young Man and His Vocation (1925-26): Lesson 19: Preparation for a Vocation

The Young Man and His Vocation (1925-26): Lesson 19: Preparation for a Vocation

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 13, 2011

For background and links to chapters in this series, see here



“Too many men drift lazily into any job suited or unsuited to them, and, when they don’t’ get along well, blame everybody and everything except themselves.” – Thomas A. Edison

General Requirements

Each occupation requires its own special kind of training. There are a few general things a person must know and be able to do in order to succeed in any business; for example, reading, writing, and handling of figures. Most people spend the greater part of their period of preparation in acquiring general knowledge that will be of equal value in any vocation. This is a day of specialization, however, and the industries are becoming more and more complex. They are demanding more than ever men who can do some particular thing exceptionally well. This calls for special training for each vocation.

The older schools and colleges worked on the theory that if a man had a fair knowledge of Greek and Latin, and imbibed some of the culture of past ages, and if he was acquainted with the important theories of philosophy, he was prepared to meet the problems of the world and do its work. It is believed by many educators at present, however, that the necessary culture may be obtained just as well in the study of something that is in itself useful. For example, learning the important facts about the soil will develop the mind as much as learning how to read Greek. The knowledge of the soil has the additional value of helping the prospective farmer to learn something important regarding his vocation.

Truth, be it ever so far removed from the practical, is well worth learning for its own sake; but where a young man has only a limited time in which to train for his life’s work, he should not neglect the things that will be most helpful to him in his particular calling.

The surgeon must have a thorough knowledge of anatomy as well as skill in handling the knife. The lawyer must know the laws as well as be familiar with court procedure. The farmer should know the laws governing the growth of crops as well as possessing the ability to till the soil. The engineer must know the strength of materials as well as to be able to draw intelligible plans. Thus, each profession has knowledge and training peculiar to itself. Many persons are trying to follow the various occupations without any particular training for them, but as a rule such persons are no credit to the profession and are unjust to themselves.

Thoroughness in Preparation Necessary

There is a constant temptation for the young man with limited means to rush into the practice of his profession with the minimum of training. He sees an opportunity to begin and believes he can do the work, although he realizes that he is not thoroughly ready and that he should have more preparation. Such a person may succeed for a while, but there will probably come a time when he will strike bottom. He is brought forcibly to realize that promotion is impossible since he has not an adequate foundation. A tower which is to be built but ten feet high requires a base very much less broad than one a hundred feet high. In like manner if a person expects to rise high in his profession he must have a foundation in training much greater than if he is going to be satisfied to remain near the bottom.

The discovery of a person’s inadequacy usually comes after it is too late to repair the loss. He either has a family to support or he feels too old to go back to the beginning. As a result, he must always be satisfied with a comparatively low place in his profession.

one great writer made the statement that it did not matter how late a person came into the world of work so long as he came well equipped. By this he meant that a little delay in beginning active work did not matter if only the person were prepared to do the work properly when he began. Young men are usually restless to start solving real problems. A year to them seems like an age and they hesitate to spend an extra year in preparation. As they grow older, however, they see that less haste would have been better.


One of the most common ways of training boys in the trades has been through the apprenticeship system, especially in some of the countries of Europe. A young man was bound out to a master tradesman for a number of years during which time he received very little money for his services, but was taught the trade or profession so that at then\ end of the apprenticeship he was prepared to do thorough work. This method was used particularly with such grades as carpentry, blacksmithing and shoemaking. The same principle was also used in training doctors, lawyers and other professional men.

This method has some advantages as well as many distinct disadvantages. It usually produced thoroughness, but it was certainly very slow and a great deal of the young man’s time was consumed in doing over for years some of the things which could be mastered in a few weeks. In such training there is also danger of the experience being limited. Any particular tradesman is likely to cover only a part of the general field, to cover only a part of the general field, and the young man who is trained under him gets but a limited experience, whereas in schools an attempt is made to cover the entire field.

Special School Training

This is an age of schools. Never before in the history of the world has so much money been spent on schools, nor have the faculties been so competent nor the equipment so complete as at present. Everything is done to give the student the maximum of training in the least time. If a person would be a doctor or a lawyer, he can find a school in almost any large city where he can learn these professions. If he wants to become a farmer or mechanic he can in any state get good schools where these subjects are taught. The courses in these special schools are so arranged that a person may learn his business much sooner than under the old apprenticeship system. The schools usually emphasize principles and leave the person to get the applications from practice afterwards. The schools are able to keep up to the latest discoveries and thought on a subject much better than the individual who takes boys to train. In almost every vocation it would be a good thing if the practitioners could have some special training in the subject and not depend entirely on a general school education. There are perhaps 150 different trades and occupations which may be learned at trade schools, so there is little reason why a great many more young men are not thoroughly trained before they enter their profession. Students wishing to know where these trade schools are located should write to the Federal Board of Vocational Education at Washington, D.C.

Services in large Industries

Most of the large industries, such as the railroads and many manufacturing establishments, have a regular system of training for those who enter their service, particularly for those who do the routine work. Many of them take the boy directly from the high school and start him off as a helper, and he gradually advances through set channels until he reaches a regular position, such for example as a conductor or an engineer on the railroad, or the operator of some machine in a factory. Henry Ford, who uses sixty or seventy thousand men in one establishment, maintains a private technical school where his operators learn more rapidly and with less expense to him than they could learn in the plant itself. Of course, all of these large concerns use lawyers, doctors, engineers, business executives, etc., who receive their regular professional training in the standard colleges and universities.

Preparation the Key to Opportunity

Someone has said that preparation is the key that unlocks the door to opportunity. Experience certainly bears out the truth of this statement. The pessimist is likely to say that there are no opportunities these days, and that it is useless to take the time and go to the expense of getting special training. It can usually be depended on that the person who makes a statement of this kind has himself spent but little time in preparation for anything.

All of us are acquainted with many examples of persons who have prepared themselves for a particular work, even though there seemed no immediate opening for them. Their preparation has been the magic key that has unlocked the opportunity. Instead of having to wait, it usually happens that the person having the higher training can scarcely finish his work so insistent is the demand for his service. The shiftless idler who spends his time waiting for the door of success to open hoping that, perchance, he might slip in, is the one who complains that all the locks are rusty and the keys lost. The ;person who has taken the time to rustle a key hardly extends his hand toward the lock before the door swings wide open for him to enter. The other fellow is taking a nap at such a time, so he rarely gets a chance even to look through the door toward success.

This is an age which offers wonderful advantages for a young man to acquire training in every walk of life. Let him choose almost any calling he will and he can, by his own efforts and with help from no one, prepare himself for that calling. This requires work and sacrifice, but any man who is industrious, who has the health, and who has the mentality, need not hesitate about entering into a course of preparation for any really useful thing he may desire to do in life.


1. Why is a general education necessary for success in any vocation?
2. What do you know about the apprentice system?
3. Give some of the special requirements in the preparation of a physician, a lawyer, an engineer, an auto mechanic, a college professor, an account.
4. Name a number of the best known technical schools of the country.
5. How is a railway engineer prepared for his work?
6. Why is the well-trained specialist less likely to lose his job than the man who is doing the rough work and who has no special training?


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