Cultivate Your Calling

A word of advice to recent graduates.
Appears in Summer 2017 Issue: Rethinking Civil Religion
June 1st, 2017

As a career advisor, I edit hundreds of résumés and cover letters for students pursuing their passion. At least that is the word they use most often. "Passion" is littered across applications and social media profiles. In fact, it is the most overused word on LinkedIn according to the networking company's analytics report in 2015.

New graduates, either brimming with the hope preached at convocation or consumed with the fear perpetuated by economists, are seeking careers they can feel passionate about. Layer on this "passion pursuit" the pressure for young Christians to connect their calling with the kingdom, and we can create a maelstrom of high hopes, anxiety, and insecurity.

"How do I turn what I loved to study into something that I can use to serve God?" or "How can I find a meaningful career, and not just a job?" they ask themselves. These questions have the potential to spur two harmful misconceptions.

The first is the false dichotomy that there is work for Christ and work that is not for Christ. If God is sovereign over all things and there is not one square inch that he does not call, "Mine!" we cannot separate our work from God's sovereignty. If you love debugging computer code, go! Do it with all your heart and serve the Lord by doing it well.

The other misconception is believing that to have a passion‐filled career, you must feel that drive and motivation immediately. Not everyone knows from age five what career they will pursue. What if you are like those of us who graduated with a liberal arts degree and thought, "What now?"

Our calling does not have to arrive suddenly; we can cultivate it. Amy Wrzesniewski, a psychology professor at Yale University, found those with the strongest sense of calling were those who had been working in their fields the longest. Passion can give us the resilience to get through the hard years in our career, but it can also be discovered, slowly but surely, as we advance into different roles.

And when in doubt, either about your LinkedIn profile or how your strengths, passions, and needs of the day intersect, talk to a career advisor. That's what I'm cultivating a passion for anyway.

 

Alicia Flatt is a career advisor for the students at the University of Waterloo, with a focus on those enrolled in aviation or engineering programs. She graduated with a master of arts in higher education from the University of Toronto and has published a research article titled “Six Factors Contributing to the Mental Health Crisis in Higher Education in North America” in College Quarterly. She has also contributed to the research for the third volume of How College Affects Students, with a number of other projects on the go. She loves coffee, Smartfood, her husband, and her daughter, though not necessarily in that order.

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