Callings Helps Students Find Career Passion

by Howard Hewitt

February 7, 2013

For many, real career satisfaction is more than just getting a job and bringing home a paycheck. Wabash College is participating in a new nation-wide program, NetVue, to help students uncover their passions and find a sense of calling in their career.

“We want to help students think about their future endeavors beyond just a job,” said Jon Baer, Professor of Religion and co-director of the Wabash NetVUE program. He explained the goal is to assist students in developing a vision based on their interests, and those things about which they are deeply passionate and committed. “We want to help them find that sweet spot where all those things can come together and they can have a vocation that has real purpose and meaning in their lives.”

Religion Professor Jon BaerThe national NetVUE program is funded by Lilly Endowment. Wabash received $46,000 for its program aptly named, “Callings: Exploring Vocational Identity and Purpose.”  Assistant Director of Career Services James Jefferies is working with Baer to develop the idea. The program will build around campus speakers, possible course guidance, mentoring, a non-profit internship program, and externships.  

“Occasionally there are guys who come with a full tool kit who know exactly what they want to do and have put some careful reflective thinking into it already,” Jeffries said. “Then there are guys that come to Wabash not knowing what they want to do, guys not doing much at all, or those with a set career in mind which distracts them from building themselves.”

Jeffries and Baer feel too many young men think that career satisfaction is gauged by only financial success.

“Economic pressures right now are pretty significant so a lot of guys come with some sort of goal that really is motivated just by the economic piece,” Baer said. “No one can fault them for that. But this program is built to energize that goal with a deeper vision of how it can be more meaningful for them or help them see their passion can lead them to something that not only makes a living but gives them a feeling of substance and meaning.”

Both program leaders agreed that Wabash holds a unique challenge and opportunity to work specifically with young men.

“I think we may be in a time period where perhaps a little more deconstruction is involved (in the career decision process),” Baer said. “I think part of the reason why NetVUE funded us is because of the special opportunity that we have to absolutely focus on the challenges that face young men.”

Both advocate more intentional discussion about careers as they relate to an individual student’s passion and interests. “For example, some students come here thinking they want to be a lawyer. We may need to take that image apart or work to help them identify what they ultimately value, what their skills really are, and whether they can develop a calling out of those traits,” Jefferies said.

And that is where the program like internships and externships play a role. Getting students to that point involves discussions and assessments of a student’s strengths and weaknesses.

Jeffires“It means looking hard at talents and strengths that students come with and how they can further develop those talents. We can do more work on that. And it means doing some occasional dismantling or building an image for the students of the way they want to see themselves in their future.”

Still, a specific calling or passion cannot always be identified just because of a program (like NetVUE). “Part of what we want to say to the young man (who doesn’t feel a calling) is that’s okay,” Baer explained. “That might not come until you are 28. We all have been around the block enough to know that sometimes the path is a winding one. That can be a great learning experience too — to get out of college and find a job where you discover that it’s not the kind of work you want to do.

“We don’t pretend to think that between 18 and 22 these kids are going to have it all worked out. We want to introduce them to a larger vision that might take years to unfold. But for the guy (who is unsure of his calling) I would say don’t settle long term for something that is deadening your soul and doesn’t speak to who you are. Don’t stay in a career if it doesn’t give you a sense that you are making a positive difference in some kind of way. Seek that kind of career even it if takes you ten to 15 years.”


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