The Lost Vocation
Some people reserve the word "vocation" for religious
calling. Modern career planning encourages people to think
of a "life purpose" that guides and gives meaning
to a life, regardless of career.
Many people speak of being "called" to a career.
There is a sense of "inevitability," that, "I
was meant to do this." Some say, "This feels right."
Self-help books, career coaches and counselors are available
to help people who want to discover their sense of purpose.
In reality, all any of us can do is stir the pot: create an
environment where vocation can be discovered and grown.
Whatever the cause...
It can be more difficult to deal with losing a much-loved
career that gave meaning to a life. Sometimes the vocation
can be taken away when a job is lost or a market disappears.
Often, however, people feel no external push out the door.
They just realize, sadly, that they no longer love what they
are dong. Or they no longer believe their work has value.
And, they ask, what next?
It's not burn-out...
Losing a vocation is not the same as "burning out."
Burnout, a well-defined psychological condition, results when
people feel they are giving more to their work than they are
getting back. They begin to see clients as ungrateful and
Burnout requires healing: deeper personal relationships,
creativity, and time off. A lost vocation cannot be healed.
It may return in a different form but people must recognize
that it is a real loss that will be grieved.
Finding the way home
There is no simple formula for dealing with the lost vocation,
but I suggest these four steps.
First, not everyone experiences severe grief symptoms --
sleeplessness, self-destructive actions, loss of appetite
-- but if you do, see a licensed therapist or grief counselor.
Second, when you are ready, introduce new actions and activities
into your life. In the early stages, do not worry about finding
a new vocation. Just begin to act.
You may want to keep a journal or embark on a creativity program,
such as The Artist's Way. You may enter a temporary setting,
such as the Peace Corps or a university degree program.
Third, honor what you lost. A part of you will always reside
there. A dancer-turned-business-student uses the discipline
or dance to excel in her studies. A teacher-turned-flight
attendant can handle restless passengers.
Fourth, realize you have a wonderful gift: the capacity to
find meaning in life and work. Begin working towards a new
future, realizing that one day you will be caught up in a
Your new vocation will come as a surprise, perhaps when you
give up looking. It won't be the same but you will feel rewarded,
happy, fulfilled and stronger.
|Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and
speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast
move to career freedom. Visit her site http://www.movinglady.com
or call 505-534-4294.