Each January provides a chance for a "do-over"; the fresh, new year presents the opportunity to wipe the slate clean, set some new (or newly embraced) goals, and do things differently in the months to come. If your goals for this year include finding a new career -- one that is your vocational calling -- you may not be sure where to begin. Here are some suggested steps to get you started:

1. Take stock of your work life thus far. Taking an honest look at your past career choices and experiences can help you make better career choices in the future.

  • Which work activities have you liked best? Why?
  • Which have you liked least?
  • When have you most felt like you were "being yourself" in your work? What were you doing?
  • What gave the activity meaning for you?
  • What has influenced your decisions about which career paths to pursue (or not pursue)?
  • What do you wish you had done differently?

2. Take a fresh look at yourself and your God-given design. Your design (which includes your most-enjoyed skills, personality traits, compelling interests, spiritual gifts and more) provides some of the most important clues to what God is calling you to do with your life. Elizabeth O'Connor said, "We ask to know the will of God without guessing that His will is written into our very beings. We perceive that will when we discern our gifts."

  •  Make a list of the skills you most enjoy using, and the specific ways you like to use them.
  • Identify the interests you have that energize you, and brainstorm how they might be used within a career.
  • Describe what kind of outcomes would give you a sense of meaning in your work. That is, what would you be doing and accomplishing that would make work feel purposeful?
  • Complete some self-assessments to help you better understand your design.
  • Many people find it difficult to be objective about their design, since we can only see ourselves from the "inside out." Participating in professional career testing, and working with a career counselor/coach can help ensure that you gain an accurate picture of your strengths and potential.

3. Schedule a mini-retreat to spend some "alone time" with God. Take out your calendar or planner and schedule an hour, a half-day or a week-end to get reacquainted with the One who is the Caller. If you really want to find the work God created you to do, you need to spend time in His Word and His presence. Put away your cell phone, Blackberry, laptop and other distractions for a time. You cannot discover your true calling on your own, apart from the Lord.

  • Meditate on a portion of Scripture such as John 15. Ask God to speak to you through His Word, which He promises is "living and active."
  • Communicate with God in a way that fits with your design. For example, if you are creative, make a prayer collage or color-filled journal. If you enjoy being active, take a walk in a natural setting that speaks to you. Ask God to reveal more of Himself to you through His creation.
  • Ask God directly for guidance in discovering your vocational calling. Seek to understand what He wants you to do to discern your career path. (God seldom chooses to reveal our calling supernaturally. Instead, He calls us on a journey of seeking to discern His will and taking steps of faith despite our fears. He knows that this process helps refine us and make us more mature disciples; it helps transform us into the people we need to be to live our calling.)

4. Take responsibility for making a plan for discovering and living your vocational calling. The fifth century theologian, St. Augustine said that we should pray as though everything depends on God and work as though everything depends on us. Discovering and living your calling requires prayerful action. Here are some possible action steps for you:

  • Write out the action steps you are going to take this month, and schedule them in your calendar. It has been said that "without change, there is no change." If you just live your life as you always have, it's unlikely you will experience the change you desire.
  • Have a plan for learning. At ChristianCareerCenter.com, you can read career and calling articles on our site; participate in free teleseminars (sign up for our newsletter so you'll know when they are happening), schedule a free consultation session if you are interested in professional career testing and coaching.
  • Find a partner. Discovering your calling is not a do-it-yourself project. God has designed it so that we need others in the Body of Christ along the way. Author Tim Hansel said,

Although the [journey to live our calling] is a personal pilgrimage, it does not require that we be "rugged individualists." The image of the all-American who pulls himself up by his own bootstraps is a totally foreign one to the Christian faith....We're just not built that way, no matter what our world is shouting. We need each other, and when we work with each other, great things happen.

Seek a companion-a friend, family member, or perhaps a professional career coach who has guided and walked along side many others on the journey. You will find that the support, accountability and encouragement will make all the difference in the outcome.

Your Purpose in Life

When you query the purpose and direction of your life, you are asking questions about your calling. Your calling is an invitation to live the life you are meant to live. You are called to become the person you were created to be, and to do the things you were designed to do. As you live your calling, you will find the purpose for which you were born. We would love to be a part of your journey; our calling is to help you find yours. May this be the year you commit to moving forward, risking to discover and fully live your calling!   

Originally posted December 31, 2009.

Excerpts from Live Your Calling (2005) by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck. Used by permission of Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint.   

Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors, are the authors of Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life. Their websites, www.ChristianCareerCenter.com, www.ChurchJobsOnline.com, and www.ChristianJobFair.com, feature hundreds of job listings from churches, ministries, and Christian employers; a resume bank; and many other career/job search resources and articles. They also offer career coaching and testing to help you discover work that fits your God-given design, as well as assistance with writing a powerful resume, interviewing effectively, finding job openings, and other aspects of a successful job search. You can schedule a free consultation session today!