Do your clients have unanswered callings?

The top two thirds of the photo are of a moss covered, rocky cliff. It is cut in half, in the middle by a waterfall that runs down the left center of the picture and continues onto the bottom left of the picture. The bottom third of the picture is of a rocky floor and water to the left.

For coaches, helping a client understand their calling at work can be cornerstone to the coaching engagement. But how do coaches engage with their clients who feel that they are missing something in their role? This question is addressed in Berg and Grant’s article, When Callings Are Calling: Crafting Work and Leisure in Pursuit of Unanswered Occupational Callings.  

Berg and Grant note that when many individuals are looking for a job or occupation, they are also looking for a calling, which they define by having the following three parts:

  1. The individual feels drawn to pursue
  2. An expectation that this pursuit will be intrinsically enjoyable and meaningful
  3. The calling is connected with a central part the individual’s identity

With unanswered callings, there are two separate kinds listed within this research. Missed callings are ones that an individual has not pursued and the individual is not currently in an occupation they view as a calling. Additional callings are ones that an individual believes they are called to along with what they are currently pursuing. 

From the qualitative study, Berg and Grant list the 5 techniques found that individuals use to craft their jobs or lives towards unanswered callings. These 5 techniques are defined by Berg and Grant as follows:

  1. Task Emphasizing – highlighting assigned tasks to pursue an unanswered calling
  2. Job Expanding – adding tasks to pursue an unanswered calling
  3. Role Reframing – altering one’s perception of a role to pursue an unanswered calling
  4. Vicarious Experiencing – seeking fulfillment through other’s participation in an unanswered calling
  5. Hobby Participating – pursuing leisure and volunteer activities related to an unanswered calling

When it comes to utilizing these 5 techniques in addressing unanswered callings, the researchers found some differences in the effects on individuals when it comes to missed callings and additional callings. When individuals encounter a missed calling, they are more likely to characterize their feelings as frustration, and face long-term regret. For additional callings, respondents cited feelings of overwhelm, with oftentimes shorter-term regret. 

The research by Berg and Grant emphasizes that individuals can have multiple callings, which may or may not include the occupation they are currently working. Another key highlight made by the researchers is that the research underpinnings and experiments themselves occurred in Western societies, and culture and society can have a large impact on what an individual views as a calling. For coaches, helping your clients recognize what a calling is for them, and how this calling can be implemented within their job or part of their career path can be beneficial in reducing the long term regret associated with missed callings.

In the center of the frame in bold red letters, the quote by Oprah Winfrey “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” This quote is accompanied by the Institute of Coaching’s Logo, a red shield. The shield is in the lower center of the image.

IOC's Tips of the Week are authored by Austin Matzelle