Monday, October 30, 2017

On Not Being Called To A Career

So last week on Facebook this wandered across my feed:

Initially I posted it because I liked the thought - dig far enough back in my own feed and you will find that "calling" is something that I have struggled with.  But the more I thought about it, the deeper and broader my thoughts became. 

I came to question if there is such a thing as "calling" at all.

I have not totally abandoned the idea - after all, calling in the ministry is something I continue to recognize (with the caveat that fewer people are called than think they are) - but I am considering the concept that for most, calling is a mire created by modern social thinking.

You may, if you are of a certain age, remember a book called What Color Is My Parachute?  This book - updated every year and as far as I know at least in existence for 25 years - uses an assessment of your skills and interests to suggest career fields that you really are made for.   This book matches the zeitgeist of our age, that we are all truly unique individuals and therefore need unique life paths suited to our wants and desires (thus, in a passing mention, the explosion of college graduates with degrees that interest them but no work in their fields.  I am one of those).

There may some value in considering what sort of work we might better be suited for - if I do not enjoy math, perhaps accounting is not a choice for me or if I lack attention to detail, engineering may not be the way to go.  But I submit that the reality is that while these may be indications of certain fields we may do better in, they by no means constitute some sort of "calling" to enter that field.

Work is a great many things, but - as the original post points out - the real point of work is to make a living.  To pay our bills.  To be a responsible adult human being.   Sometimes this may result in a taking and keeping a job that is not our "path" but pays the bills and gives us the most reward for our effort.

A personal example:  Over the past 32 years I have (at one time or another) thought I was "called" to be a teacher, a performer, a writer, a real estate agent, a pastor.  All of these - if I am truly honest with myself - were not completely disinterested choices:  in some way or fashion, they were something I enjoyed doing and figured I was "called" to do.

The reality?  My career during the last 20 years, Manufacturing and Quality in the Biopharmaceutical/Medical Device Industry, has paid all the bills.  The time I invest in improving myself in it has direct and practical financial rewards, a far higher return on investment than any other single activity I have performed for income (by contrast, all 8 of the books I have written have returned me less than $50.00 all told).  If I want to feel like I am "following my path", I write a book or dream big of market gardening or practice the harp harder.  If I actually want to make more money, I learn about regulations and better ways to do Quality.

I have to be the first to admit that finally admitting this fact was one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life.  Admitting the fact that this is what I probably do until I retire is even harder.  There is no "calling" in this, no suiting of my personal skills or interests in this.  At best, I adapt those skills and interests to the job, trying to find ways to use them.  But that is a far different cry from feeling like they are manifesting themselves in my work every day.

I do not know that everyone is this way, but it seems to me that most of the people I have met and know are in the same position.  Ask them the question  - What did you major in during college?  How did you end up in your current position?  - and the answers you will quite often hear are a long winding road of searching for a job but taking the one that was offered. 

Perhaps it makes the world a little dimmer - and I would never say that God does not call people (I think He does).  But I think we have done a great disservice to all job seekers by telling them that only the job that matches their skills and interests is the fulfilling one, that all other jobs  which do not meet that requirement are little better than forced labor. 

It is time - and it would be a helpful thing - if those that make their living on finding people the "work they love" would change their thinking to admit that what we really need to start with is "work that pays".  The love - perhaps like the arranged marriages of old time - is something that might come later but if it does not, we shall at least have made a living in the meantime.


  1. I hated all the jobs I ever did. I never had this "calling" at all. It bothered me so much because everyone else I knew, knew what careers they wanted to make their living. In the end, my "calling" if you can call it that, is homemaking I guess, because it's something I love doing, though I'm not officially paid for it, I'm thankful for my disability income.

  2. TB - please do not be offended by my response. YOUR work, your GREAT work to the Lord and the world has already been done! you married, raised a family, grow a garden, love your "tossing" stuff long distances and your interest in Ia...all of that is your great work! your writing here is published the minute you hit the publish button. people learn from you...they learn things they would never have learned by coming here. your love of God is inspirational! please do not take offense when i say that sometimes you get caught up in words like teacher or preacher. you are exactly who the Lord wants you to be - a husband, a father, a diligent worker at your job, a friend, a kind man with a kind heart, someone who writes a blog so that others can learn, a farmer who does his best with the plot of land that he has - and who knows what you are going to be doing 10 yrs from now.

    you are a wonderful and brilliant creation of the Lord - and to try and diminish that is a disservice to the Lord! you are everything HE wants you to be...and whether you like it or not - you are helping people!

    so figure out what makes you happy and do that! like taking care of the bunnies. and writing well-thought-out posts. and doing a good job at work. and being a good husband and father. if i was the Lord i would look down on you and smile for all of the good that you are doing...if i was the Lord, i would, in fact, be proud of my creation. which is you.

    revel in your glory. revel in your strength. revel in your beauty.

    the Lord put that glory, strength and beauty in you. revel my friend.

    sending love to you and yours always! your friend,

  3. The part God plays in this is simple; He wants you to be who you are, how you are, when you are, where you are. You influence those around you more than you think, and are causing changes in history that may or not be visible, but are important, nonetheless.

    When it comes down to it, "work," in its original rendition was this; you hunted and planted. You made a kill. You harvested a crop. You and your family survived. In the end, that's what it's all about...

  4. Hi Rain! I do not know that I hated all the jobs I had - some of them, like my current gig, is not all that bad. What was, and probably is, still the issue is that I felt like my calling was supposed to be something more grand. Let us be honest, paperwork is not the sort of thing that makes one reflect on the "grandness" of one's efforts, even if for a good cause. Like you, I have plenty of friends that seem to have known what they wanted to do (many of my teacher friends seem to "know"). I am glad that you officially found yours.

    Much love, TB

  5. Kymber, you are now the front contender for "Posts I try and skip over because it is so complimentary" award (in fact, I may print this sucker out and put it in the front of every yearly planner I have going forward). All I can say is thank you for the very kind words. I am somewhat comforted by the fact that God has me where He wants me right now simply from the course of events that brought me to this place. If I am doing some good to boot, so much the better.

    Thank you very much.

    Much love, TB

  6. Thanks Pete. I think I have kind of landed exactly where you wrote. I suppose part of the "problem" is that those influences and changes are invisible to us in the here and now.

    And yes you are right, originally a job was (literally) survival. And arguably up to World War II this was true (that is somewhat arbitrary, but WW II seems to have been a watershed in industrial society - perhaps not the initial push of the Industrial Revolution but the true swing over to an industrial society). It is only in the last 20-30 years (again, arbitrary) that we have come to the conclusion that a job is as much about self fulfillment as it is about survival.


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