Catawba community learns how a job becomes a calling

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 17, 2015

By Anna Beth Carter

Catawba College

Catawba students and faculty experienced a thoughtful and dynamic conversation that tried to shift their perspectives about making a job into a calling when they attended a Sept. 8 lecture given by Colorado State University Associate Professor of Sociology Dr. Bryan Dik.

Dik’s presentation was “Web Slinging and World Changing: Career Guidance from Spider-Man, Martin Luther, and a Hospital Janitor.”

Dik is a Calvin College honors graduate with a degree in psychology. He is employed by jobZology, an online career analytics system. He emphasized that he had not always known what he wanted to do with his life, instead saying he just fell into his profession and now helps people figure out what kinds of careers would be best for them based on numerous personal factors.

Dik took an outside-the-box approach in speaking about vocation and callings, using both classic and contemporary examples of people who have had to make similar decisions, as well as how they did so.

To begin, he brought up the two major goals of a first date: making a good first impression and gauging if the person is worth a second date. He explained that as long as a person applied an ambiguous stimulus to the situation, these objectives should be satisfied, though he pointed out that the answers to these ambiguous stimuli in the form of questions and answers may not produce the hoped-for outcome.

He asked: “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” He broke down the psychology behind some possible answers, insinuating that the types of personality traits and characteristics a person would like to have implies that they do not already have such talents.

He turned the conversation to the beloved comic book character Peter Parker, better known as Spider-Man, and made the argument that Peter Parker could very well have chosen a life of supervillain, instead of superhero. However, Parker recognized that he had incredible gifts and talents. He chose to harness these talents, play into his strengths, and found that he was doing good for the world and was very satisfied with that work.

To further discuss what a person’s calling or purpose might be and how to fulfill these things, Dik turned to what may seem like an unlikely historical figure in relation to vocation, Martin Luther of the Protestant Reformation.

After all, as Dik pointed out, Luther was already a Roman Catholic priest when he wrote his Ninety-Five Theses and caused protest in Europe. Dik challenged his audience to consider how Luther had not been satisfied with the work he was doing and thus called for and worked towards a change.

Luther did not set out to create a new church or religion, rather he wanted to change the approach of the already existing church. Dik emphasized how any job can have sacred significance if approached in the right way.

The last person Dik presented was an example of being passionate about one’s career. According to Dik, he met this woman and had a personal look at how influential someone can be when they really care about their work and is well equipped for the job.

Maggie Garza is a hospital janitor, but as Dik described it, there is much more in her job description than cleaning and maintaining the facilities. Dik spoke of how empathetic and easy to talk to Garza was. A hospital can be a place of pain and uncomfortable feelings, but she incorporated compassion into everything she did in order to make it a better place for people.

Dik spoke of how Garza would be called in to calm young patients, because she had a gift for breaking the ice with people. This is just one example of someone working in and around their job description in order to spread their gifts.

Dik concluded his lecture noting that, statistically, those who felt they were acting out their true calling were more effective in their jobs than those who were just going through the motions. He suggested that those in the audience might find their own calling by talking to career counselors or to people in vocations that interested them.