“We are limited, not by our abilities, but by our vision.”
Anonymous

“I just kind of fell into my job,” Jane explained. “I’ve never really tried to figure out what I’d love to do. I wouldn’t even know where to start.” Jane is not alone. Many of our career coaching clients describe how they “fell into” their job, letting circumstances or other people decide their career path for them.  A few months or even years later, they realize that their work isn’t getting them where they want to be. They are overworked, underutilized, or without a sense of meaning and purpose in what they do each day. They often feel trapped, not knowing what to do to get out of the rut in which they find themselves.

Widening Tunnel Vision

Many people have a very limited perspective of what they might do with their lives. They may suffer from “tunnel vision,” having a restricted view of available choices. When making career choices, they have been unaware of the thousands of career possibilities that exist. Their vision of the world of work is often confined to jobs held by family members and friends, those they have personally observed, and careers to which they have been exposed in the media. Yet they may think they have sufficient information about career possibilities. It is possible, therefore, that they may be completely unaware of the type of work God created them to do.

Norman Vincent Peale said, “To achieve anything significant, everyone needs a little imagination and a big dream.” Most of us have “dreaming muscles” that are underdeveloped and could use a little exercise. Too often, we either don’t dare to dream at all or let ourselves dream only “safe” dreams we know are achievable within our own power. It is no wonder our lives often lack power and excitement—and that we feel we are missing out on what God designed us to do!

God calls you to a life of purpose, joy, adventure, and great rewards. The Lord calls you to fulfill a “God-sized calling”—a mission that you can accomplish only with His power and resources. Discovering your calling requires you to stretch your vision and risk seeing yourself, your gifts, and the world from God’s perspective.

Vision-Stretching Strategies

Most of us could benefit from stretching our vision and exercising our “dreaming muscles.” Here are three ways you can get started in the process of envisioning your God-sized calling:

1) Brainstorm a list of new ways that your skills, gifts, talents, interests, etc. could be possibly used within work or volunteer/ministry activities. (We recommend completing some assessments prior to brainstorming so that you have a list of your most-enjoyed skills, compelling interests, spiritual gifts, etc.) Brainstorming by yourself and with others helps you connect the “puzzle pieces” of your design in creative ways.

Brainstorming is powerful! A client, Duane, brainstormed several options. One of these ideas was for him to help inner-city youth develop entrepreneurial skills. After praying and researching this idea further, he felt this was the type of work God was calling him to pursue. It not only would use his business background and skills, but also would enable him to make a significant difference in people's lives.

Duane persevered until he discovered a non-profit organization whose mission was to help inner-city youth develop and run their own businesses. The organization "just happened" to be looking for a director. (We find that when people are faithful to take the steps they need to take, a lot of things "just happen." We believe this demonstrates God's willingness to be our partners when we seek to use our gifts to serve others.)

Duane applied for the position and, even though he was one of the youngest candidates, he was chosen from more than 200 other applicants. His work with the non-profit organization led to his writing, Creating True Wealth: Christian Youth Entrepreneurship. It is likely that none of this would have happened had Duane not taken the time to do some creative brainstorming about how he might use his gifts and experience for the Lord!

2) Use specialized career resources such as the Occupational Information Network (O-Net) and the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) to widen your vision about work options that fit your design. They can also be helpful in stimulating your thinking about ministry/volunteer activities.
 
Like many of our clients, you may find that these resources help you identify well-fitting careers that you had never before considered. Jack had worked in the hotel industry for a number of years, but wanted to do something that allowed him to “help people in a more direct way.” While reading through the OOH, he came across the description for occupational therapists, and was surprised at how well it fit his skills and interests. Today, as an occupational therapist, he is helping stroke victims regain skills and confidence in their daily lives.

3) Conduct Informational interviews to gather “live” information about career options. Informational interviewing is simply talking to people who are doing the type of work and/or volunteer activities of interest to you. It is an invaluable method of gathering information beyond what you can find in written resources. Sample questions for an informational interview include:

 What are a typical day's (week's) activities in your job?
 What do you enjoy most about your work?
 What do you enjoy least about your work?
 What is a typical salary range in this profession?
 What steps do you suggest I take if I decide to pursue this career?
 Could you suggest two or three other people with whom I could talk about this type of
      work?

Informational interviewing also results in developing a contact network. Bill was interested in moving from banking to the field of development in nonprofit organizations. His informational interviewing efforts landed him an internship through which he made valuable contacts, learned about the field first-hand, and gained experience he could list on his resume.

The Power of Proactive Vision-Stretching

Vision-stretching and reality testing strategies can enable you to identify career options you may never have previously considered, and develop an accurate understanding of how well each option fits your God-given design. Testing your vision of a particular career pursuit can help you discern whether it is something God is calling you to do. The book of Proverbs exhorts us to get wisdom and understanding; these strategies can help you to do just that as you seek to discover your God-sized calling and invest your gifts wisely in this world.


Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck are the authors of Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life. They are National Certified Career Counselors and recognized experts in helping people identify their giftedness and find their purpose in life. Their websites, www.ChristianCareerCenter.com and www.ChurchJobsOnline.com, feature hundreds of  job listings from churches, ministries, and Christian employers; a resume bank; career articles; and a free consultation session for individuals interested in career counseling/coaching and testing to discover work that fits their God-given design.