Sunday, July 8, 2012

Four Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Finding Your Calling

Does this quote describe you?  If so, then I'm guessing you've yet to discover your calling.

 I seem to spend a lot of time talking with people about what they hope to do career-wise.  I'm not sure if  this is because there are more and more people who are lost in the changing world of careers, jobs and finding their calling or if I'm so interested in this topic that I seek it out on my own.  Probably a bit of both.  In any case I was talking with a family recently that included a twenty-four year old daughter and her mother.  I asked the daughter if she was working and if so where.  It turned out that she was looking for work and was quite discouraged.  She said that she wanted to work in retail sales but everywhere that she applied she couldn't seem to get past putting in an application.  She blamed it on the small community that she lives in--there weren't many opportunities there, but she had hopes that if she continued returning to the same businesses and checking on job availability that eventually she would find something.  Her mother, a retired teacher with twenty-nine years of experience,  had a similar story.  She had recently retired from teaching in frustration over the current state of the educational system. She thought she would go into some type of consulting but she seemed to have lost many of her connections and besides she wasn't sure where to begin.  What should they do?  Here was their plan;  the daughter would try again to apply at the same stores she had already tried.  Maybe they would have an opening later.  The mom was waiting for the daughter to find something before she tried to figure out what to do herself. Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

Most of us have grown up thinking of jobs as a linear process.  In other words, you get a degree in the field you are interested in.  Then, degree in hand you put in lots of applications and you eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later) get a job and you work your way up the career ladder, taking on more and more responsibility, making more and more money until eventually you retire and do all the things that you've really wanted to do in previous years.  I'm simplifying this quite a bit but you get the idea.  Sound familiar?  This is how I thought about work for most all of my life.

Here's what I wish I had known as a twenty something year old (it's actually good advice for the rest of us as well):

  • Take time to discover and explore who you are, what your talents and gifts are first.  This is not a passive, contemplative dreamy-find-yourself process.  This is doing active research and participating in any way you can in the areas that you feel are your calling.  If you are interested in retail sales, could you develop something that you could sale on the internet?  Could you volunteer in a store to get experience and develop skills, perhaps a hospital or museum gift store or a thrift store run by a non-profit agency?  Think outside the immediately obvious avenues to develop your interest. What about consulting in the education field?  Again, volunteering in the beginning is often a great way to start.  Can you volunteer a day in a school?  Can you develop a contact list and start having lunch with your contacts to survey the needs?  Can you contact a local community college or be an adjunct professor online?  Don't let a day go by without developing, testing and discovering related skills.  
  • In addition to racking up some experience, spend time developing those skills that are needed in your area of interest.  Read books on sales techniques, learn more about the fashion world if this is your preferred area.  Learn about business practices or consulting.  Finding the perfect job involves so much more than showing up and putting in an application.  Practice how to handle an interview, how to dress for success, what the trends and buzz words are in the field. Don't expect to learn what you need to know on the job.  Employers are looking for people who take the initiative to learn, practice and volunteer on their own.  Employers want to know what unique abilities you bring to them not what they will need to teach you once you are hired.
  • Once you determine the field you are interested in research all the available businesses that could provide that type of employment.  Learn everything you can about them.  What are their goals, what problem areas are they confronted with and how could you help?  Set up interviews just to learn about the company--not to interview for a job.  Change your perspective.  Consider that you are interviewing them to see if they would be a good fit for you, rather than the other way around. 
  • Learn to make connections.  It is true that most people find jobs through someone they know.  Be sure to let everyone know what you are looking for, even people that you think couldn't possibly help.  Identify the top 100 people you know that you can discuss your plan with.  Contact them and keep them informed of your progress.   
  • Finally be intentional in all you do.  Set goals and identify steps to reach them.  Do something everyday to work toward achieving your goal.  
What about you?  What do you wish someone had told you about finding your calling?  What are misconceptions that you have had?

Some great books to read on this are:  

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  1. Great post, Lynne! I wish I'd known about personality profiles when I was younger. That would have given me a huge head start. I went years believing I needed to modify my behavior, style, preferences, and dreams to better match what was socially (and familially!) acceptable. It was enlightening for me to learn that God intentionally created some of us to be thinkers, non-competitive, and more methodical than driven.

  2. Diane--great point! I could write a whole blog on that one...thanks for the comment!

  3. One of the misconceptions I had about doing a bachelor degree in international business was that I would instantly find a job. However I underestimated the value of work experience, and could I have done my degree again, I would have done internships every summer relating to my studies.

  4. Lynne - this was a very informative and practical post. Employment regardless of age or position seems to be more challenging right now. Everything you shared is very practical and doable for anyone.

  5. Again, Lynne, such fantastic advice! You so aptly remind us that it's not just about "getting that job" but having a true vision for our future.

  6. @Frank--this is such a common misconception! I felt the same way when I graduated from college a hundred (well almost) years ago. Unfortunately, graduating is just the beginning and you are absolutely right about gaining experience any way you can even while working hard on that degree. Great advice!

  7. @Ann and Matha--thanks for stopping by. Finding your calling REALLY is the bottom line and everything flows from that !