“I HAVE a calling….”
It is not very often that you hear people say these words. In fact, even when they do, many people tend to not take them very seriously.
But, what if you could have a career that is a calling? What would change in your life?
Some would argue these questions are more appropriate for pursuers of religious and spiritual endeavours than for the man in the street.
However, recent career research has redefined the idea of a calling, from the early notion of it being a divine inspiration to engage in morally responsible work to a broader secular view.
In this secular view, the calling originates from within the individual and involves choosing work that is meaningful, stimulating and inspiring. Now, that’s something worth talking about.
I suppose we all aspire to have a career that not only provides wealth and status, but is also personally fulfilling and satisfying.
But is a calling a luxury that only those born in privilege can experience?
Well, it would be naive to argue that everything comes down to personal agency and that external factors play no role whatsoever in how we make career and life decisions.
In a challenging economy battered by constant change, manoeuvring through personal finances, family responsibilities and socio-economic conditions in pursuit of a calling poses a challenge.
This is particularly true for young people entering the job market for the first time.
Luckily, these barriers can also work to our advantage. When resources are scarce and our life is dominated by uncertainty, we cope by becoming more adaptable and resourceful.
These skills are paramount in finding a calling, a point further supported by recent studies.
Interviews with unemployed people from diverse backgrounds showed how forced career exploration and trial work helped them shape their self-identity and discover work for which they had great passion.
Why finding a calling is important
If you are still sceptical about how identifying a calling can be life-changing, you might be interested to hear what a growing body of literature is suggesting.
Recent career studies have shown that individuals whose career is driven by a sense of calling are better at navigating the complex career “terrain”.
They also experience greater work satisfaction and display the following attributes:
• Adaptability: A capacity to understand when you need to update your career skills, along with the motivation to take action.
• Self-awareness: An ability to reflect on past experiences and become a self-directed learner capable of making independent career decisions.
• Strong personal identity: A sense of clarity in respect to your values, life purpose and aptitudes that enable you to act authentically.
It seems that having a calling not only contributes to your psychological health and well-being, but it also produces objective career outcomes like wealth and status.
The fact is that when you experience a career as a calling, you see purpose and meaning in your actions.
This conviction increases your confidence and motivation to perform well and you get rewarded for it — as simple as that.
How can you find your calling?
So assuming that everyone has a calling, how do you find yours?
Although there is no simple answer, here are some good places for you to start looking:
• Engage in reflection
A calling originates within the individual, so finding one is really an act of introspection.
Ask yourself: Do you believe you are called to do something specific through work or other life roles?
Are you genuinely drawn to a career? What do you feel passionate about?
• Look for meaning around you
What if you are already doing meaningful work, but you haven’t noticed?
Making connections between different aspects of your life — like work-study-family and the meaning you experience in these — offers powerful insights.
You can use these insights to ask yourself how this meaning influences your quest for a calling.
• Know your values
Ask yourself, what do you really hold important in life?
Most of us will have two sets of values.
There are those we express with ease and are typically influenced by external sources, such as our parents, peers and the community; and those that are not readily accessible to us.
Knowing what these deeper values are is the key to making career decisions that bring meaning and purpose to your life.
Explore, dream, discover
Finding a calling is a unique experience for each and every one of us.
Taking responsibility for who you are and choosing a career path that is meaningful is not easy, but it can be immensely fulfilling.
As Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
“So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Article by Maria Tzortzaki, a career coach with The Career Collective. She specialises in developing coaching interventions for new and recent graduates, and professionals operating in a global job market. For details on workshops, visit www.thecareercollective.sg