Movement 163: What Is Vocation?

Our long read article comes from Gill Frigerio, researcher in career development at the University of Warwick. She gives us lots of helpful ways to think about career, calling, and the difficulties of fitting together our work and our faith. Here is a small section of her insightful article – for the full piece head to Movement issue 163!

No article on vocation is complete without the well-used quote from American writer and minister Frederick Buechner, the bloke who told us that “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need.”

So how we do we find that place? Well that’s where careers work comes in. Helping people to work out their priorities and their options and then take action to move things forward is what we do. And the tools we use have a lot in common with the ideas we might hear about at Church to help us on our spiritual journey. Here are just a few parallels.

Noticing that ‘deep gladness’: A career coach might ask you to reflect on situations you have particularly enjoyed, the sort of occasion when you might have experienced what psychologists call ‘flow’, when you are in the moment and have no sense of how much time is passing. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139: 14), and how God made you plays a major role in what you have to offer. Sometimes we might use diagnostic questionnaires to help you identify those gifts, but really only as an aid to your learning. 

Noticing that ‘deep need’: It’s not hard to find things the world needs; there are so many.  But framing your discernment in how that intersects with who and where you are recognises the importance of your context. Career coaches can help you work out what the jobs look like that meet those needs, and how you can get from here to there.

So we sit and wait, right? Well, no. Noticing can be cultivated by our prayer life, but praying and waiting is not advised. Career coaches often help people to find small actions they can take to explore what might be opening up before them. Talking to people, getting their feedback on your gifts and talents, trying new things, developing experiences; they all need you to make it happen. Act from where you are by crafting the tasks, the relationships around you and your view of them to align with your values and purpose. In the careers world lots of people say, ‘Oh I’ll come and talk to a career coach when I have decided what I want to do.’  It is easy to think about the right process to be 1) perceive and 2) act; that in prayer we might get an answer we can implement. In fact, it is messier than that, it’s ongoing, it is formational. You perceive through acting. And acting takes many forms. It might be that you change directions or might be what is sometimes called ‘job crafting’, where you make small changes to orient yourself towards your calling. The activities you are doing might be redefined, or you might change the way that you do it or the way that you think about it.

|Read the full article and more in Movement issue 163, coming soon!|