On finding your calling, and your career, and why they aren’t the same thing

That was the big question.  What is my calling? It tortured me for years and not a week goes by that someone’s not in my office asking themself the same thing.  They come from all walks of life at all different ages.  I’ve had everyone from 15 year olds to 60+ year olds sitting in front of me asking the “Big Question.”

I remember my senior year of college thinking that I picked the wrong major and that I was missing it.  I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, panicking that I was pursuing the wrong career.

I was going to switch majors and prolong my graduation when my brilliant father stepped in.  He encouraged me to finish the semester and get my degree and go back for another semester or two and get an additional degree if I wanted to later.  What a great piece of advice!

We get lured into chasing the idea of this elusive calling.  The truth is that everyone has a calling.  Every person has something only they can contribute to this earth.  The trouble is that we’ve mistaken our calling to be a job title.

Only for a very small percentage of us—I call them the “2 per centers”—is our job title and our calling the same thing.  Maybe for the kid who looked into the sky and pointed to an airplane for the first time felt called to be a pilot.  Or maybe for the person who grew up knowing that they wanted to be a teacher or a minister or a singer.  Maybe their calling happens to have a job title.

But for the rest of us—the 98 per centers—we have to figure it out.  Maybe your calling is to solve complex data problems or maybe you’re called to be a great manager of people.  Only you can say.

Our calling has more to do with our skills and abilities than it does a single profession.  Sometimes it takes years to identify our calling because it’s some subtle thread that might be hard to see across job titles and industries.

Our job is just one area where we might fulfill our calling.  We have lives outside of our jobs too.  Some people work so they can exercise their calling in some other portion of their lives.  Not all of us have to find personal fulfillment by working in a specific profession.

Don’t get stuck in life just because you don’t have a job title that “calls” to you.  Make it your goal to figure out what skills you enjoy using and then continue to strive to do more of what you like and less of what you don’t.  Over time, your calling will reveal itself to you.