Find your calling, not just your career
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs
Indeed, a vocation (from the Latin “to call” or, literally, “calling”) should tap into your innate gifts, passions and strengths. But it takes courage to follow one’s calling – you might have to change your course of study or make sacrifices in your salary expectations. Whether you’re starting out or considering a possible change in direction, asking yourself the right questions is critical. The following five can help you figure out where your heart lies and what you really ought to be doing:
What clues are right in front of me?
Uncovering your calling begins with looking at your current strengths and hobbies. What you excel in is likely also what you’re drawn to after hours. Ask yourself, “What kind of work would I do for free?” Dabble in a variety of volunteer or freelance gigs with low commitment if you’re unsure where to start. If you’re having difficulty identifying your particular strengths, consider instead your weaknesses. The flipside of your weaknesses may reveal strengths you might not immediately recognise. If, for example, you’re chronically disorganised, a work environment that embraces chaotic creativity may be a better fit than a traditional office culture.
What are the most important things in my life?
Values are qualities considered to be the most important guiding principles that help set priorities in your career and life. Typically, they are most influenced by your upbringing – your family’s values and your religious beliefs. They are highly personal and define what is purposeful and meaningful to you. Though values may change in response to life circumstances, they are generally thought to be enduring and provide a compass for setting goals and making decisions. Ask yourself: “What are the core principles with which I live my life?” This question is critical because you will never be happy or satisfied in a career that does not offer the same values that you possess.
What did I love doing as a child?
It’s amazing how disconnected we become to the things that once brought us the most joy in favour of what’s practical. Make a list of all the things you remember enjoying as a child. Would you enjoy that activity now? For example, famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright played with wooden blocks all through childhood and perhaps well past it. Research shows that there is much to be discovered in play, even as adults. Revisit some of the positive activities and events of childhood. Then ask yourself: “What can be translated and added into your life now? How can those past experiences shape your career choices now?”
How important is money to me?
Oprah Winfrey once said, “What I know is that if you do work that you love, and the work fulfills you, the rest will come.” If you’re looking to spend your life doing something you love, the best way to start is to treat financial concerns as secondary. If the practicality of what you do and how much money you earn are your primary criteria you will instantly limit your options to what’s predictable and getting to do what you love will be tough. On the other hand, if you allow yourself to pursue your curiosity, you will find yourself in the position of power and, eventually, in the position to earn money on your terms.
How can I make a difference?
COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg said, “It’s the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a very clear path to happiness.” The importance of a sense of contribution is supported by thorough research on the predictors of job satisfaction, which finds that people who feel their work contributes to something larger than themselves are much more likely to find their jobs fulfilling. There is also a wide body of psychology research suggesting that helping others makes us happy. Martin Seligman, the founder of the field of positive psychology, argues that the happiness we get from helping others lasts longer than the happiness we get from doing something for ourselves.
If you are interested in entering the helping professions and think counselling may be your true calling, why not switch to SACAP? The South African College of Applied Psychology offers a range of qualifications in the field of counselling and psychology. Study full time or part time, on campus in Johannesburg or Cape Town, or Online. To make the switch, get in touch with us today.