Do You Know Your Calling?
Pick up the phone! Listen to your inner voice. Chances are it's trying to tell you where your true work lies.
Unless, of course, your inner voice is just cracking jokes. In that case, have a good laugh if they're at all funny and steal the best ones. Who knows, maybe your true calling is as a comedian. Or social media star.
For most of us, though, that inner voice clues us in as to what really drives us in life. What makes us tick and gives us joy. What truly gives our lives meaning.
I'm not talking career paths, like knowing that you're a born artist or accountant. That would be rather nice, and quite possibly save you time, money, and the angst of trying to figure what to do with yourself. I'm not talking vague grandiosities, either, like wanting to save the world, whatever that means to you. "Saving the world" is a lovely ideal, but a bit too undefined to be useful.
No, I'm referring to a deeper, underlying sense of purpose. A knowing that you belong. It's a skill set that you love to use, a type of work that makes your heart sing, a niche that just feels right.
Operators are standing by. Are you listening?
Operator: "Is this the party to whom I am speaking?"
You discover your core essence, your calling, as you go through life, experiencing this, experimenting with that. Sometimes people realize it early, seeming to be born to a certain type of work. I applaud those who know from the start what they want to do. They're the doctors and nurses, teachers, engineers, etc. who seem to be on a mission to help people and make the world a better place.
I never thought anything quite so altruistic when I was very young. Originally, I wanted to be an actress and a writer, because, well ... it was fun. But I went into business. That's where I knew I had some strong, literally bankable skills. And quite frankly, where my parents steered me, well AWAY from a less likely viable career on stage somewhere. Not a bad thing at all. I loved business and working for some leading edge tech companies, Fortune 50 and startups alike. Every day was interesting, as I was calling upon many different industries and learning a great deal in the process.
And in the business world, I began to discover my key strengths and inner purpose.
Let the call come through and pick up the line
When you're just starting your training or your career, you haven't had much time and experience to really test yourself out in the field. You may think you know what you're good at and the value you bring to an organization, but often it takes a few years under the belt for hidden strengths to emerge and be recognized. And sometimes you'll shift focus and change careers or industries. Like me, who studied finance, computer science, and decision theory in college, only to find that I was more of a people person and more sales and marketing-oriented than I had ever imagined. And then again MUCH later in life into creative work in the entertainment field.
Looking back from an older vantage point, you can also better see themes of core abilities that run throughout your life, both at home and in your work. You may change the kind of work you do, but the core skills remain and are just used in slightly different ways. In my case, I've discovered that I'm essentially a bridge builder. My main tools are my communications and organizational skills, which I've used in different ways at different times of my life: writing, speaking, performing, teaching, informing, persuading, motivating, and of course in sales, marketing, negotiations, and mediation.
In my corporate career, artistic endeavors, and personal life, I seem to build bridges between disparate groups of people and/or industries: by listening to them, breaking down the complex to simpler steps, and then sharing those ideas and perspectives with others to build on common ground.
Those core skills are used consistently ,
When you see these core skills running consistently through your life like a theme song, then you know that they're a key to an important part of who you are and how others see you.
You discover your core essence, your calling, as you go through life.
Guess what? It's a party line!
We all play various sorts of roles in life. You may be an engineer, a father, a son, a tennis buddy, a crime fiction fan, and the friendly fellow others love hanging out with around the water cooler (do they still do that anymore?), even if you tell somewhat lame jokes at times. You're all that and more, but perhaps your theme is that of a pretty smart guy who's the "answer man," because you never let a problem go without figuring it out. That's probably what makes you a great handyman and fixer-upper at home, a highly reliable engineer, and a thinker on the tennis court.
Me, I'm a voice actor, an on-camera actress, a writer, and a public speaker. Also a former sales gal, a devoted mom to my kids, a wife and daughter, and much more. I'm a well-organized communicator who builds bridges for myself and others. I bring people together, facilitate communications and understanding, share stories, and occasionally have been known to proverbially bang a few heads together to get consensus when needed. Maybe that's why I like being a generalist. I'm interested in all sorts of different things and gathering unique perspectives, seeing the big picture that brings it all together.
It's a bit of a party full of interesting guests, some of whom need an introduction - or explanation! - to others.
We have a connection (and deposit one dime, please)
Here's out it all worked out for me:
When I was in IT sales, I bridged the technical world and the end-users, explaining complex, tech-heavy terminology in everyday language to lay people, our customers and those we hoped to turn into customers. In turn, they kept our feet to the fire ton make sure that the corporation selling (or hoping to sell them) multi-million dollar equipment "solutions" (a favorite industry buzzword at the time) understood what they wanted and needed. It was part of my job to make sure that their specific requirements to our executive teams were clearly and realistically communicated, so that we could better serve those customers. Sometimes those requirements were a little too vague and unrealistic, which also served to separate out the serious, "qualified" buyer from the tire-kicker and constant (and non-buying) complainer.
I'm in a totally different career today. Artistic and creative, but oddly still similar. In a large sense, I'm still bridging buyers and sellers, except now as a voice actor, it's a bigger picture in which I'm bridging the worlds of business and entertainment.
Connecting with stories and corporate messages and expressing them in ways that resonate with viewers and listeners.
Bringing to life training materials to engage learners and help them retain the information.
"Edu-taining" my audience with humor and good, valuable content.
Instead of one-to-one communications or small group interactions, today's bridging is to a much larger audience. Or to put into old-fashioned, early telecommunications language: a party line, in which anyone with a physical connection to the telephone line can listen in.
Laura's Quick Tips
Find some quiet time to really listen to your inner voice - it's trying to guide you.
Some things take time to unfold, like discovering your true inner strengths and sense of purpose.
Step back and look at the big picture of your life. Or listen to others who may have a more objective view.
Enjoy all your roles in life - they contribute to making you an interesting, well-rounded person.
If and when you discover your purpose, focus, calling - whatever you may call it - you'll see how you've followed it in many, if not all, aspects of your life.
History is fascinating. So are old sitcoms and variety shows. Really reflective of the time!
There, you knew there had to be a reason I was throwing in Ernestine from "Laugh-In," tethered land line phones, references to pay phones and collect calls, and party lines. Unless you're of a certain generation, you may not be familiar with any of these. Trivia: AT&T used to be a monopoly, until the government broke it up into "Baby Bells." And Lily Tomlin's Ernestine as a power-mad AT&T switchboard operator was hilarious. Oh, and look up switchboard, too. It used to be a thing.