Discerning your Calling (Conrad Saldanha)

Conrad Saldanha
30 September 2020

Each of us is unique. There has been nobody like us in the past nor will there be anybody like us in the future. Each of us has a unique purpose to fulfil. To sing our song and dance our dance while we journey through this life. But how does one find one’s purpose or calling. Our unique song. Our unique dance. It is a search. And it begins with knowing oneself as one is and not as one feels one should be or ought to be. With this attitude we need to start our search based on reality and not on mere fantasy.

Understanding Oneself

To understand oneself one needs to reflect on what one loves doing. What is it that requires hardly any effort on one’s part and yet one achieves commendable results. For instance one may find oneself being very good at organising events, or listening to and understanding people, or good at music, or good in sports or very proficient in coding or in painting, or teaching others and so on. Once you have a pretty good idea of what you are good at, you could reinforce this knowledge by taking online tests to confirm what your personality and strengths are viz. tests like Howard Gardener’s Multiple Intelligence tests, or Myers Brigg personality tests, or the Big Five Personality traits and so on. Use these results only as a reinforcement to what you have already discovered like doing.

Understanding the Job Scene

The next stage is to understand the world outside viz. the business and institutional world. To do this we first need to understand what work is all about. Why do we work? We work basically to provide necessary and useful goods and services which are not harmful to people but enabling, and in the process use and perfect our gifts and competencies in collaboration with others and with nature. For this we could take up a job in an organisation or become an entrepreneur.

We now need to create a match between our innate competencies which we have discovered by seeing what we are good at and the competencies needed by the businesses and institutions just now. For example I may be very good at listening to and understanding people and this competency is needed in Counselling and Counselling as a career is gaining traction just now. So I may take a decision to choose Counselling as a career. However sometimes the competency I have may not be sufficient enough to be perceived as being professional. I may therefore have to formally take a professional course to meet the industry’s expectations. Also sometimes the competency I have may not be lucrative enough in my obtaining a decent salary. For instance I may be very good at singing or playing the guitar. But being in a band does not help me with paying my bills. In this case I may need to choose a career which is creative where one is paid reasonably well but I do not give up doing what I like viz. singing or playing the guitar. There may come a time in the future where one could give up formally working in an organisation because one has earned enough and immerse oneself in one’s hobby. And very often the hobby may turn out to be one’s success because that is the unique ‘you’.

Being Aware of Attitudes and Blocks

Given the current situation of the pandemic, jobs are not easy to come by. One may not get exactly the type of job one wants. Every job, metaphorically involves some “cleaning of the toilets.” No job is going to be non-stop value addition and totally satisfying. You get to do the “grunt work,” too. If you’re not willing to start pretty close to the bottom of the career ladder, expect to be unemployed for a long period of time.

Also we need to keep in mind that there are certain blocks which keep us from accepting ourselves as we are and realising our potential. For instance we may believe we can’t have what we want. For this we need to suspend our doubts, worries, fears, or concerns. Get out of our comfort zone. Or we may want what others want. The herd mentality. Here we need to choose a career only because we want it for ourselves. Or we may feel it doesn’t matter what we want. We do not need to belittle ourselves. Remember you have a unique contribution to make to life. Sometimes we could even be afraid of what we want. Because it could change our lives. And involve a lot of effort. We nevertheless need to pursue it and not give up on it.

Acquiring the Relevant Competencies

To analyse the different fields of opportunities, one could have recourse to people who know which industries or employment spaces are growing. For instance the world is going digital just now. Consequently one can assume that there would be jobs on offer in this segment. If one doesn’t already have any digital skills one would be required to acquire them. The government too is laying emphasis on acquiring skills. Companies are placing more emphasis on the skills required for particular jobs than on the degrees one has.

In this context we need to keep in mind that there are different kinds of skills required while one is working in an organisation viz. Hard skills which are necessary to perform the job. For instance coding is a hard skill inasmuch as marketing is a hard skill. But one also needs soft skills like thinking skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills and so on. As one begins to lead a team one would need managerial and leadership skills. One must also not forget resume writing skills and presentation skills. As the world experiences rapid change, newer skills would be required and therefore one needs to be a lifelong learner.

Lastly one needs to always keep the following in mind while negotiating one’s career path viz. What I can do (My ability), What I want to do (My desire) and What I am able to do (My decision within my constraints). What is the sweet spot where all 3 converge.

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