“Am I doing what I should be doing with my life?” is a question we all ask at different points in life. How about you? Are you wondering if you are making the best use of your God-given gifts? Do you imagine you could be experiencing more satisfaction and joy in your work? Do you long to know that you are fulfilling God’s purposes for you on this planet? If so, take a moment to assess your “vocational fit” to see where you are—and where you think God is calling you to be.
Assessing Vocational Fit
We use the term vocational fit to refer to the degree of match between your God-given design and your work. As you read about these five levels of vocational fit, ask yourself which level best describes where you are at this point in your life.
Level 1: Just a Job
The lowest level of vocational fit is you see your work as “just a job.” A level one job may provide a paycheck but little sense of enjoyment or satisfaction. Most of us, at one time or another, have had “just a job” such as when we are going to school or unexpectedly laid off. While there is nothing wrong with “just a job,” most people want to move on to something else as quickly as possible.
Level 2: OK Work
Level two is “OK work” that is of some interest. At this level, you may have the opportunity to use some skills you enjoy or do things you find to be somewhat appealing. You may enjoy the people with whom you work.
Many people get stuck at this level. While they may feel discontented, they are not in enough pain to motivate themselves to make a change. This is particularly true if they feel they are making a good salary. A person can even be making “six-figures” and still feel that his job is only an “OK job.” (Many of these people have been our clients. Money alone is not enough to make work satisfying.)
Level 3: Enjoyable Work
Work at this level of vocational fit may be satisfying for many years. You may use many skills you enjoy using, and if you leave one job, you may want to find similar work elsewhere. You may find that for the first several years of your working life you don’t think seriously about doing anything else.
Sometimes suddenly, however, the work that once was enjoyable now feels empty. Once people at this level have achieved competency in their work, they may experience a need for “something more.” Often in mid-life, people increasingly yearn to feel like they are contributing to a greater purpose with the hours they invest in their job each week. These individuals may begin a quest to find meaning within their current work (or organization) or to discover a different type of work that has more personal significance for them.
Level 4: Meaningful Work
At this level of vocational fit, you feel like you are contributing to a significant purpose and “giving something back.” Although the work at this level is usually a good fit for your design, this is not always the case. We have encountered individuals who are very motivated by the mission of the organization for which they are working, and are therefore content with the fact that their specific job does not use their strongest or most-enjoyed skills. While providing outplacement services for one large Christian organization, for example, one secretary told us, “It’s not that I love office work. But I feel that even when I’m filing, I’m contributing to the cause of world evangelism.”
Typically, people working at this level of vocational fit demonstrate a strong desire to be of service and make a difference in the world. There often is a felt need to integrate their spiritual beliefs with work and the other important dimensions of life. People may describe work at this level as a “calling.”
Level 5: Vocational Integration
At the highest level of vocational fit, your work is an expression of who you are. Your work identity and personal identity are merged. Some well-known people who exemplify vocational integration include Billy Graham (evangelist), Jim Dobson (Focus on the Family), Beth Moore (author/Bible teacher), Zig Ziglar (author/motivational speaker), Dave Thomas (founder of Wendy’s restaurants), David Robinson (athlete), and Fred Rogers (the “Mr. Rogers” TV personality). Their names are synonymous with their work.
People who have achieved vocational integration might remain in one job, but usually are involved in a series of different jobs or work projects. Vocational integration does not represent a job, but rather a special composite of skills, abilities, interests and knowledge that the individual uses in a variety of situations. Vocational integration, in other words, resides within the person and not within the job title or position. People at this level of vocational fit typically describe their work as a “calling,” feeling that this is the type of work they were meant to do.
Doing God’s Work
Any job, regardless of how well it fits, gives you an opportunity to live your primary calling by being God’s representative in the workplace. In any job, we are called daily to exhibit a gracious attitude of service toward our boss, coworkers, customers, and others. We are called to avoid gossiping, complaining, speaking unkindly about people, and cheating by not working diligently and to the best of our ability. There may even be times that God calls us to meet another’s spiritual needs. In our jobs, as in every aspect of our lives, we are called to be God’s people.
We are also called, however, to be good stewards of the gifts God has given to us. The levels of vocational fit provide a tool for assessing where you are and where you believe God is calling you to be. The higher you move up the levels, the more opportunity you typically will have to do God’s work within the context of your work. The more you use your giftedness, the more influence you will have in work situations and life as a whole. When people see your gifts in action, and you are recognized for excellence in your work, there is an increased respect and willingness to listen to what you have to say. Your sphere of influence will grow.
You Are Valuable Wherever You Are
Remember that your vocational calling is a journey, not a destination. When you progress in using your gifts to make a contribution in this world—even if thus far you have only moved from one “just a job” to a slightly better “just a job”—you are living your vocational calling. You and your life matter to God regardless of what you are doing with your life right now. God will be your faithful guide and partner as you seek to be a good steward of the gifts and resources you have been given. Your vocational calling is not about finding that “one thing” you were meant to do; rather, it is about faithfully doing many things for God, the Audience of One.
Adapted from Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck by permission of Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint.
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.