If your work is calling you, answer the phone! Although the word is not often used in business settings, a "calling" is a deep inner assuredness that the work you do - or will do - is your right livelihood. A calling is the work you MUST do because you enjoy it, because it uses your strengths, because it serves a need in the world and because the timing is right. If your work is calling you, you are the most fortunate of human beings.
I have been thinking about work that calls people this week. I was catching up with a professional colleague (a help desk manager) who was describing her plans to go back to school to get a theological degree so she could work in hospice situations. I sensed her passion and told her that she was being called to do this work. My friend was delighted that I recognized the deep knowing and the magnetic pull she felt to do something completely new. I told her that she was doing the right thing, even though she would be giving up a handsome salary to do what she loved.
How do you know if you are being called to some line of work? I see four elements that must align to direct you to work that is a calling:
You must demonstrate an innate talent or strength for the work you are considering. How can you play to your strengths? You must consider the demands of the work that you are considering and ruthlessly evaluate your talent in that area. For example, if the job demands that you show strong organizational leadership and you observe that your talents lie in an individual contributor role - well, that’s an obvious mismatch. There is no calling in that work for you.
Serve a Need -
Is there a sufficient need or a demand for the level of talent that you have in your desired field? Unfortunately in a capitalistic market, demand for your talent is a necessity. My husband is a classical musician, and he knows that the current demand for orchestral musicians is low (there aren’t many openings in US orchestras that pay a living wage) and the supply is high. Just before he won the audition for a full-time orchestra position, he recognized that he might need to find another vocation. He was prepared to go back to school to study accounting if he didn’t win a seat in the orchestra.
What makes your heart sing? What activities allow you to sink into a blissful state of flow, in which you lose track of time because you are completely absorbed in what you are doing? What would you do even if you didn’t need the money? The answer to these questions direct you to your passion.
Many years ago, a colleague refused a job offer I made her, explaining that "Timing is everything, and the timing is just not right for me to take this job." Timing has to be right for you to find your calling. It’s not enough to have talent, serve a need and have passion, I’m sorry to say. For example, if you are 40 years old, you cannot decide to become a concert pianist - even if you have the innate musical talent, you will never be able to develop the technical facility that a concert pianist needs. Your brain discarded the possibility of creating the neural pathways needed for performing piano concertos when you were very young, and there is no way to make up for it. I started to play the viola at age 16, and it was already too late for me to develop the technique I needed on that instrument to become a successful professional musician. And believe me, I worked diligently for 9 years in trying. The same can be said for learning new languages or learning an athletic game (like golf) - as an adult learner, you will not be able to attain mastery of that skill because your brain was not trained when it was young and malleable.
I believe that the universe will reward you when you align these four elements - you will know that you are on the right path because opportunities will start to appear, helpful people will come into your life at just the right time and affirming events will happen. Patience helps when you are making a big change, but the lack of this affirmation could be a warning sign.
What work is calling you?