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StrengthsFinder - StrengthsFinder - Helping Students Discover Their Calling

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  1. Regardless of how or where this discussion takes place, the primary role for the professors/staff is to play is a guide or facilitator. Students need to understand several things about a “calling” which we can help them see:
    • There is no one thing to which we are called for a lifetime, except to serve God.
    • “Calling” is a God-given purpose to use one’s time, energy, and abilities to serve God in the world.
    • Understanding calling is a process – it takes time, patience, reflection, introspection, and often the help of others.
    • Calling is NOT the same thing as a career or a major. Calling transcends both of these.
    • A person may fulfill his/her calling in a career, but may not. One’s calling may be outside of his/her career.
    • A calling involves work that can send us in directions where traditional careers do not go.
    • Most of us have multiple callings. Calling is plural, most of the time.
  2. The primary task is not to help students discover their calling, but to help them understand that they have a calling, what that means, and how to discover it within themselves. Some points to keep in mind:
    • A calling contributes to God’s work in the world. People with a calling have a sense of higher purpose and see the bigger picture.
    • A calling inspires people to consider human needs, moral standards, and a larger perspective than income, power, or position.
    • God defines the person and gives that person a calling. To use an analogy, a calling is like a seed that God has planted within a person at birth—a unique combination of strengths and talents that is nurtured and grows to become a flower that serves and glorifies God. The whole point of a calling is simply understanding who you are and how you can best serve God with your talents.
    • A calling is a way of seeing the world with the eyes of the heart. How we see the world around us points the way to our calling.
    • Buechner says that our calling discovers us. This often involves embarking on a journey. The experiences we have along the road of life have a cumulative effect, preparing us for future service. “Our calling is inseparable from the journey. In one sense, it is the journey” (Sittser, 2000).
    • “We discover our calling, not by trying to plan our life out ten years in advance, but by being attentive to what God is doing through immediate circumstances and in the present moment. Over time our sense of calling unfolds simply and naturally, as scenery unfolds to backpackers hiking their way through the mountains. Rarely will we be able to see the whole pathway stretched out before us at any one time. Sometimes we will only be able to see far enough ahead to keep going.” (Sittser, 2000)
  3. The advising relationship is one of the primary mechanisms for this discussion with students. Some tips:
    • Emphasize to students that most of the time it does not matter what they major in (exception: Education). They will change careers multiple times in life, and many careers they may have later have not been invented yet! A broad preparation in the liberal arts is their best option.
    • Talk to students about their strengths. Strengths often provide clues to how God is using this student already. Help them understand that knowing who they are is the biggest step toward fulfilling their calling.
    • Questions to ask:
      • Tell me about a highlight of your life – something you did very well and felt good about. [As students tell you this story, listen for strengths, themes, patterns.]
      • How do you see God acting in your life right now?
      • What have you always dreamed of doing?
      • What is most satisfying to you about your life right now?
      • What do you really enjoy doing?
      • What subjects did you like most and do best in while you were in high school?
      • Tell me about classes you’ve had at Eastern that have really sparked your curiosity—you looked forward to going to class, you learned a lot, you found yourself doing extra reading because the subject was so interesting, etc.
      • What are you passionate about?
  4. Gerald Sittser, author of The Will of God as a Way of Life, emphasizes that discovering calling is an intuitive process that defies simple steps and easy formulas. But he also points out that “we need to be attentive to the signs, which provide hints and impressions and give us a sense of direction.” He outlines six signs to look for in the process of discovering calling.
    • Motivation. Look within yourself to see what motivates you. Know yourself—what captures your interest, what gives you energy.
    • Talent. Look for your talents. Good intentions are not enough—you must have the gifts to get the job done.
    • Life Experiences. Sometimes what happens to us in life pushes us toward a calling. Sometimes the propelling event can be an insignificant experience that happens at just the right time. Sometimes it can be a trauma that changes your life.
    • Open and closed doors. Opportunities and circumstances can lead us to our calling, but so can closed doors. Parker Palmer argues that a calling also implies limits. In choosing to pursue one calling, we eliminate other possible callings. We must therefore discern what we are not supposed to do, as well as what we are to do.
    • The Voice of People. Participation in community life can help us discover calling. Rarely does a person discover a calling in isolation from a community. “Only our friends know us well enough to size up our gifts, to listen to our dreams, to challenge our thinking, and to encourage or discourage our plans” (Sittser, 2000). Mentors can help this process as well.
    • Joyful Service. “We will know our calling not only if we feel driven to it but also if we find joy in it.” We may not always be happy doing our work, but we should not be miserable. God does not call us to that which makes us miserable and is least fulfilling for us!

Source: Sittser, Gerald. (2000). God’s will as a way of life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.