There are fundamental differences between a job and a calling. From the moment students are looking initially for a position to finally accepting an offer, there are creative ways to help them find a sense of purpose in what they will do. Considering the amount of time they will spend working, aiming for a calling may provide them with the best path to happiness.
- Help students spend time identifying their unique attributes. Look for employers and positions that allow students to work on activities that will make them feel “in the flow.”
- Collaborate with your study abroad office to help students broaden their horizons by gaining new experiences, such as traveling the world and spending time working with communities and people from different backgrounds.
- Direct students to look for positions with descriptions that sound more like creative invitations to join a company, and invite employers to your campus that clearly outline their mission, vision and values.
- Inspire students to become a part of something larger than themselves.
After spending five years interviewing and working with senior leaders, I found that many executives take several years understanding their personal mission and aligning that with their true calling. For some, that moment never arrives. Maintaining a job without purpose leads to poor decision-making and challenges related to relationships and health.
- Previous research on work orientation by Amy Wrzesniewski divided people’s perception of their work into three subgroups: jobs, careers, and callings.
- People who perceive their work as a job are motivated by the paycheck. They look forward to Fridays and vacations.
- People who perceive their work as a career are more motivated by salary gains and the prestige involved with career advancement. They look forward to the next promotion.
- People who perceive their work as a calling are motivated by the tasks and goals themselves. They mirror who they are, and are aligned with their personal values and interests. Their expectation is to make the world a better place and they look forward to more work.
I have personally been on the search for a calling for awhile, and now I am convinced that this is a life-long process. Realistically, some people may have to transition or take smaller steps to identify their true calling starting with a one-dimensional job followed by a career. Fortunately I feel Whole Foods Market has been the channel I needed to do what I love, with people I want around me, as part of something much bigger than myself, and where I can continue to help others find their true calling.
If your students are fortunate enough to land a calling right after graduation, or decide to open their own enterprise, congratulations! But for the majority, the least we can do is to encourage them to keep searching for meaningful work and not just settle for a job.
You can provide insightful advice to students using the following key points about searching for a calling:
- Spend time identifying your strengths. Scientifically validated assessments are the best way to understand your strengths by comparing yours to those of top performers. When I work with candidates seeking career advice, I suggest to them to start by asking themselves the following question: What activities are those which make you feel “in the flow”? This concept was introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It happens when your use your talents, skills, and abilities to push yourself to work through a challenge that you can handle well, so when you are in flow you feel in synch while learning and perhaps discovering new talents.
- Travel the world. There is no better learning tool than the world itself. By going out of your comfort zone, you may find environments, people, and places where you gain insight about yourself and truly determine your strengths and joys. Consider factors such as weather, population, lifestyle, activities, etc. By traveling you may find your dream place and you should start working toward moving there or to a city similar in qualities. For some careers, this may be more restrictive, however, the world is a big place and if you open your search criteria you may be pleasantly surprised.
- Be selective when seeking work. Look for position descriptions that sound more like creative invitations and have the potential to match your calling. Understanding a company’s mission, vision, and core values is essential to determine the right fit for you.
- And finally, look for opportunities to join organizations that allow you to become part of something bigger than yourself. Find informal moments to learn, teach, and help others, which will identify activities that match your calling. Getting involved in volunteer committees, social groups, and charitable causes are also some ways in which you could start transforming your job into a calling.
Thank you for reading. I have noticed that this blog has limited participation from the audience, and one of my goals is to help you get your thoughts out in front of relevant networks. Please feel free to share your response to one or all of the below questions. Your participation is what makes our discussions meaningful. Your comments will inspire others to learn from best practices.
- What are the moments within the career development function that allow you to experience “flow”?
- In what other ways you have helped students find a calling?
- As career services professionals, what can we do to do more of the things we love and enjoy?