by Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck
National Certified Career Counselors & Life Calling CoachesSM
"We are limited, not by our abilities, but by our vision." Anonymous
Are you living the life God created you to experience? 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 stretching your vision and risking to see yourself, your gifts, and the world from God's perspective.
Many people wait passively for God to send them His vision for their lives via fax, e-mail, or a supernatural revelation. The problem with this expectation is that God doesn't usually choose to work this way. Rather, we have seen in the lives of great people of faith, in the journeys of our clients, and in our own lives, as well, that God reveals His will as we take prayerful, proactive steps and open ourselves to letting God reveal what He has created us to do with our lives.
Widening "Tunnel Vision"
Many people have a very limited perspective of what we might do with our lives. They may suffer from "tunnel vision," having a restricted view of available choices. When making career choices, they are 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!
The following is an overview of strategies to "stretch" your vision and help exercise your "dreaming muscles." We encourage you to make each of these strategies a spiritual exercise, entrusting your gifts to the Lord and asking him to help you envision your God-sized calling. As you relinquish your gifts to God, you can expect him to be at work in your life, helping youto discern how He wants you to invest your gifts!
Envisioning Possibilities through Brainstorming
Brainstorming involves generating a list of ways your skills, interests, etc. could be 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 new 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.
Although he found no advertised job openings for this type of work, he persevered, and found 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 our clients 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!
Expanding Your Vision with Career Resources
The O*NET (Occupational Information Network) and the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) are two online career resources that are helpful tools for widening your vision about work options that fit your design. They can be helpful in stimulating your thinking about ministry/volunteer activities. We suggest beginning with the O*NET, which describes more than 1,000 jobs, and then using the OOH, which has more extensive information about the 250 jobs that are held by approximately 85% of the American workforce.
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.
Your goal in using the O*NET is to identify several jobs that you want to explore further. You can use the O*NET both to gain a wider perspective on the world of work, and to find out specific information about particular career options. (If you want detailed, step-by-step information about how to use the O*NET, see Appendix B of Live Your Calling.)
Exploring Options through Informational Interviewing and Shadowing
Reading books and information on web sites is an efficient way of learning more about specific career options and narrowing down your list of options. Once you have learned what you can through written information, it is time to gather some "live" information by talking to people who are doing the work and/or volunteer activities of interest to you. This is called "informational interviewing."
Informational interviewing is an invaluable method of gathering information beyond what you can find in written resources. It also is a means of learning about options that you have not been able to find described in written resources. We recommend that you do a minimum of three informational interviews in different settings (that is, not all in the same organization) for any job you are considering seriously.
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.
Sample questions for an informational interview include: (1) What are a typical day's (week's) activities in your job? (2) What do you enjoy most about your work? (3) What do you enjoy least about your work? (4) What is a typical salary range in this profession? (5) What steps do you suggest I take if I decide to pursue this career? (6) Could you suggest two or three other people with whom I could talk about this type of work?
"Shadowing" goes a step beyond information interviewing. Shadowing refers to spending time in a particular work environment, watching one or more people do their jobs. Not only can you learn more about the specifics of a job, but also observe the physical work environment.
The Power of Proactive Vision-Stretching
Vision-stretching and reality testing strategies will 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.
Excerpts from Live Your Calling (2005) by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck. Used by permission of Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint.
© Article copyright by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck, www.ChristianCareerCenter.com. All rights reserved. The above information is intended for personal use only. No commercial use of this information is authorized without written permission.
Would you like professional assistance in discovering work that fits your God-given design? Find out about our career coaching services and how you can benefit from working with Kevin or Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors and Career & Life Calling Coaches.