Landing a Job, Choosing a Career, Or Finding Your Calling?
By Michelle S. Weber, Ph.D.
As a professor of management, each semester, when it comes time to examine the subject of the disengaged US workforce with my students (*), I inevitably feel compelled to take the discussion down a different path. I can’t help but tell them, “I care about you, and I don’t want you to become one of those statistics”.
* 90% of the world’s workers are disconnected and do not feel fulfilled at work – Adams, 2013
So how do I protect my own students from becoming disengaged in their work and ending up sadly as one of those statistics? How do I ensure that they DO in fact, discover what they were meant to do in this world…? What can I offer up to help them “find their calling”? Sounds lofty and challenging. It most definitely is. That’s why most people don’t even like to bring up the subject. Without the the tools to deal with the challenge why would they?
Understanding this very challenge and how to tackle it successfully became my passion in the last few years. After coaching many of my own students and conversing with and helping a population that has significantly touched my heart – ISRAEL’S wounded (IDF) veterans – I developed my own framework with strategies for how to go about addressing this challenge.
Here’s my (very brief) take on the matter. Finding your calling and choosing the right career is a PROCESS that boils down to CHOICES & FIT. To achieve happiness in your career and “work life”, you have to be able to make the right choices, placing yourself in situations that fit you, where you’re able to “play to your strengths”.
But to do that you have to know who you are! You have to know what makes you tick, what you are really good at, what makes you stand out from others. You need to understand yourself on a very deep level. You need to be able to readily explain what you would consider to be your dream job and why. Your answer will tell you about your passions and aspirations.
Also, key to your happiness is what management guru Peter Drucker refers to as “playing to your strengths”. He talked about striving to achieve greatness, despite your imperfections. His advice was to invest your energy into taking your talents up a notch or two while simply minimizing your weaknesses. It doesn’t require much effort to get that extra notch or two because you’re already skilled or strong in those areas. Trying to make your weaknesses into strengths simply isn’t worth the effort. And yet, in our society, so much energy and money continues to be devoted to just that – weakness correction. A waste of energy and time. I say focus your energies on beefing up the assets you already have! By doing so, you’ll probably wind up doing the work you love doing plus you’ll be even better positioned to beat out any potential competitors.
My wish is that we change the conversation from finding a job, or choosing a career to discovering what you were meant to do. I don’t feel that it’s simply a lucky few who are blessed to have a calling in life. I believe everyone has a calling and the potential to discover the kind of work that one day they’ll describe as work they “can’t NOT do”. Self-reflection and discovery is key. You have to look for the clues – these “aha moments” as you journey through life. Goins, a brilliant writer, quotes Parker Palmer, who said that to begin charting your future, you must look back on your life. “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I need to listen to my life to tell me who I am”. If you look back at what you consider to be the highlights of your life, you are likely to uncover some pattern, some unifying thread in your experiences that’s also consistent with your passions and skills. If you are able to uncover and deeply understand these powerful moments and patterns in your life, you will be well on your way to charting your path for the future, the path that is right for you ..the path that you “cannot NOT take”…and that hopefully will lead to your happiness.