Discovering your true calling is similar to finding a romantic partner: some people have no expectations, they will know love when they find it, and some people have a clear image in their mind, and seek it out specifically. Finding your calling is challenging, because very few people have but one calling. In fact, I have to tell you a secret of adulthood. There is no such thing as planning for forever. There is not one true calling as it is traditionally discussed.
Most people think of a calling as their one true passion – the thing that will keep you happy regardless of circumstances. Your passion and drive to succeed will enable you to overcome the odds. So, I want to propose another definition.
Your calling is a theme you will follow through your career. It may be art and design, coaching or numbers, but it is not specific to one job or path. Your calling is what motivated you to succeed and grow, and most of all, it changes over time as you grow and learn more about yourself.
There are several steps you can take as you try to understand your current calling, and they all point to having a better grasp of who you are.
Identify your core values
Your core values are what define you as a person. They are the underlying factors for every decision you make and the ideas that guide you through life. For example, if security is your core value – you probably will not feel called to start your own business, which can be very risky and unpredictable.
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Consider your strengths and weaknesses
What are you good at? Maybe more importantly, what do colleagues and past employers say you’re good at? What areas require some growth? It is important to be honest and put modesty aside. Likewise, it is important to be frank with yourself regarding areas that requirement development. If you are really great at interacting with people and working in groups, you likely won’t feel called to work solo in a lab.
Identify your likes and dislikes
What you are good at is important, but unfortunately we don’t love everything we are good at. You may be excellent at sales, but not enjoy chasing the clients. You may love dissection, but not have the hands for it. Think about this from a personal and professional standpoint. What have you enjoyed doing in the workplace or even in school? What have you done voluntarily for work? What have you gravitated towards? Do you like helping people? This could be an excellent place to start for deciding what your path will look like. There are still many job options, but you can eliminate some jobs, too.
Identify your where and when
Where and when may seem like they have obvious answers, but they may not. Your passion may take you in the direction of a certain industry and location. You may have always dreamed of trying out a certain city, which can help you choose what direction to take your calling. By this point some ideas should be starting to bud.
When starts to encourage you to consider when you will pursue this calling. For some, you may realize you are on a positive path. For others, your calling may require a major change. I always recommend preparing for this type of change, financially and emotionally. Pursuing your calling at the wrong moment can cause additional stress and may make you incorrectly reconsider your calling.
Develop your story
Tie it all together and create a simple story. Where did you start, where are you now and where are you going? This is what will help carry you. It will be the answer to the question, “So tell me about yourself.” It will be your introduction in networking situations. It will be you and will be the key to a job you love. If you honestly answer all of the questions laid out here, the conclusion of the story will show you your current calling.
Try things out
Now that you have some idea of what your calling is, give it a try. Find volunteer opportunities in the field. Find part-time paid jobs or internships. Read up on the internet or take a course. There are many free options or trials available. Find ways to truly explore your passion. One way to determine if you will be interested in a new topic or field is to take a look at course descriptions and syllabi from a college, and try thumb through some of the textbook. If you are genuinely interested in the material, you may be onto something.
Trust your gut
In the end, trust your gut. The advice of others is useful to a point, but in the end this is your future. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Do your best to isolate yourself from outside input and advice. If something doesn’t feel quite right, listen to that. Explore what part of it makes you uncomfortable and how you can improve the situation. Your heart and gut will lead you to your calling.
Never forget, your calling is a theme for your professional life. It reflects who you are today. As you grow and your life changes, you can expect your calling to change too. Get excited for the ride.