To the Class of 2017: Your Career is a Process, Not an End-Point was written by Allison Trowbridge
That elusive word: vocation. It holds so much promise, so much uncertainty, and way too much pressure.
Sometimes, we need to explore our skills in lots of different areas, trusting that someday they’ll weave together as they’re supposed to.
When I was graduating college, I thought I needed my career figured out with a thirty-year plan. At 22, I was coordinating weddings on weekends to pay the rent while I worked at a startup nonprofit fighting slavery. I felt like my jobs were so… random. I had no idea that the event planning skills I learned on weekends would, in later years, allow me to plan global forums and galas and create experiences that engaged more people to support the nonprofit work I cared about.
Vocation, Frederick Buechner said, is where your greatest passion meets the world’s greatest needs.
Sometimes, we need to explore our skills in lots of different areas, trusting that someday they’ll weave together as they’re supposed to. We need to realize that careers today are dynamic and multifaceted, not static and set. They are a process, not an end-point.
Vocation, Frederick Buechner said, is where your greatest passion meets the world’s greatest needs. So, where do you start? How do you begin that journey of finding your vocation?
Try new things
A recent study by LinkedIn found that today’s college grad will change jobs four times in their first decade out of school. So take the pressure off! Take jobs where you can develop skills and have new experiences that will serve you in years to come. More and more professionals today are building portfolio careers—where you do a number of different things to generate income. The world is changing so quickly that your dream job in ten years probably doesn’t even exist today. Let go and lean into that learning process!
Do what you love
What makes your eyes light up and your pulse quicken? What makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning? It’s incredibly easy to spend our days doing ordinary things, and miss what we enjoy most. Whatever it is you love doing, don’t wait for someone else—let alone an employer—to give you permission to do it. You don’t need to be a writer to write, or a creative to create, or an analyst to do analytics! Find ways, big or small, here or there, to just start doing. As William Wordsworth said: “To begin, begin.”
Find needs and meet them
Don’t try to meet every need! But try meeting some needs. Maybe your coworker needs someone to talk to, and you can be a listening ear. Maybe your local shelter needs an extra set of hands each week, and you can be a support. Maybe you’re great at numbers, or social media, or organizing a room, and can help someone who can’t! Vocation is ultimately about meeting the needs of others in ways that you’re uniquely equipped. And that has nothing to do with whether you get paid for something.
Remember: The world is not waiting for you to get somewhere.
Think about where you’re unique
This can be your skills, your wisdom, your abilities, your knowledge, your interests. Every one of us is unique, which means we all have something diverse to offer. Whatever hard things you’ve gone through, whatever quirky skills or passions you have—those are the things that make you most equipped to serve, and to love, and to bring joy to other people. Begin by thinking about what makes you different from everybody else, and how that can help meet some of the needs around you.
Side hustle, honey!
Vocation doesn’t need to be something you make money doing. It can be the small projects, the volunteer work, or the hobbies you’re passionate about. Sometimes vocation is more about the way you work than it is about what you explicitly do. You can have a traditional job, but do it with insights, or creativity, or a flair all your own. The heart you bring to that job, and how you do it, is where your vocation lies.
Remember: The world is not waiting for you to get somewhere. I always thought it was. I didn’t realize that the process of discovery—the questioning and the wandering and the uncertainty—is the journey of forming who I am. And that process of formation never stops, even when we find work we feel called to. Personally, I have no idea what my life and work will look like a year from now, and that’s not only okay—it’s exciting.
Your vocation today may be different than your vocation tomorrow, so take the pressure off yourself and enjoy this wild ride! Your life’s journey is your life’s destination. And that very journey is where your vocation is found.