In part one of this topic we looked at the need for patience in the natural progression toward one’s desired career. For most people this means several positions that may not be the most perfect fit for what one wants to ultimately be doing. Instead these help one “learn the ropes” and the basic skill they will need someday. Rather than be discouraged that the fullest application of one’s vocational dream is not being played out this moment one should focus on how the present opportunity can get them closer toward it. Actions to help this can be talking to one’s supervisor about taking on some more challenging assignments or, if the current job is not moving one toward where they ultimately want to be, might mean a change of job is in order.

When the fullest annunciation of what one ultimately wants to do is still a few steps away then the best orientation is to look at these seasons as individual “missions” that, when strung together, create a resume that makes one the obvious choice for more responsibility. These seasons of mission include focusing on the particular skills needed for the next level of responsibility while helping the processes one is involved with to be more smooth and efficient.

While the mission is tightly focused on what one needs to do today the purpose is the overarching and sustaining drive toward tomorrow.

If these seasons of one’s vocation are a string of various missions to build the most desirable set of skills to move ahead then what is the common denominator that holds these missions are building to support? This is where purpose comes in. While the mission is tightly focused on what one needs to do today the purpose is the overarching and sustaining drive toward tomorrow. Doctors put up with horrible demands and schedules in their residency assignments so that they can one day practice more of what they want to practice in medicine. Most everyone spends times doing things they don’t want to necessarily be doing to get to the place where they can be doing more of what they want. This is where purpose keeps one going. Purpose is the end destination where one feels all their life experience and personal skills are being utilized toward a vocation or calling they feel is valuable.

Knowing what that is sounds like a pretty important piece of the life puzzle. So, just how does one even begin to figure that out? Here are a few tips:

  1. What types of things “absorb” you? We all have types of interest and activities that we love to go deep with and don’t mind how much time it takes. In fact, often we totally lose track of time while doing them. Some of these types of interests are nice hobbies that likely you can’t make a living doing but go deeper into it and try to see what the driving interest is behind it. Are there career applications buried in there? One key to purpose is something that will drive you for years to come. For example, maybe one loves to read history and biographies but doesn’t feel they want to be a history teacher. What they may find is they like reading history and biographies because they like research. From there one could look into what types of careers are built around that skill and not the interest in history. Looking into what fuels your interest may provide some clues to a larger piece of the puzzle even if the interest in and of itself doesn’t provide a career. Interest then begins to inform purpose.
  2. What is something you would do even in the face of adversity? The root here is not that one is looking for a career of adversity but instead what are things so meaningful to someone that they are willing to work through hard times to get it. These hard times may be long hours, having to move wherever a job might demand, or being comfortable that the pay isn’t great in that particular career. In short, what would one be willing to trade to do it. Every vocation has its trade-offs and sacrifices. Those who feel their purpose ultimately involves being a great attorney must be willing to sacrifice a lot of hours and personal time on the front end of their careers deep in law books and case studies. Rarely does one ever get to name the terms of their vocations. Therefore, one determines the worth of what they are willing to trade which they can’t get back and see how that sacrifice stacks up to the purpose they desire.
  3. Where do you want to make a difference? This is one of the more prominent concepts that informs purpose. One has to be careful here, however, not to simply “follow your heart.” It’s a much more informed decision than that. The better question is where one wants ultimately to make a difference. That’s what becomes gratifying and helps make it through the tough days. I doubt few people lie on their deathbed and think “I’m glad I was a great (fill in a vocation).” What brings satisfaction sits beyond the vocation itself and involves the overall calling to something bigger to which one has attached themselves. Where would you make a difference if you could? There could be a purpose for you within that.

Where would you make a difference if you could? There could be a purpose for you within that.

Sometimes people know their purpose from childhood. Others discover it as they go along. Mine was much the latter. I knew I want to make a difference in ministry to students. At first that was in more overall student minister positions but as I got deeper into it I found I loved the equipping aspects and moved into positions which facilitated that aspect. Later I found I really liked the administrative parts that most did not and moved toward those. My original purpose of working with student ministry is still in place but the day-to-day looks much different than when I begin. A series of missions of work that I found I liked (or didn’t like) informed it along the way.

Purpose in the end is what you feel you were created to do. It’s the pieces of work that might not get done if you were not involved. It may not mean curing cancer but it can be a thousand little things that each give you a measure of satisfaction of a life well-lived. Don’t settle for a career of loosely associated tasks. Find that purpose and begin today on a series of missions that will undergird and inform your journey.