What is Vocation?

At St. Olaf, vocation is who you are called to be and what you are called to do across all the parts of your life – not only in professional work, but also in your family and friendships, community engagements, relationship with the earth, search for meaning, and pursuit of justice.  It’s living your life on purpose, directed toward both your personal flourishing and the common good.    Learn more –>

Vocation is…

More than a career choice. Vocation, in its broadest sense, encompasses every role that a person has in his or her life.  Your vocation is created by the roles you play and the actions you take, which can range from a job to family life, or from being active in a community to taking time for yourself.

Something that arises from within.  Look at the decisions you’ve made and the paths you’ve gravitated toward.  Why have you done so, and what kinds of truths and values arise from these choices?  Author Parker J. Palmer says “the deepest vocational question is not ‘What ought I to do with my life?’ It is the more elemental and demanding ‘Who am I? What is my nature?’”

Often discussed in terms of religion or spirituality.  Many people – Lutherans included – see vocation as God’s call to engage in service and community, though this definition can vary widely even within one faith tradition.  Others see vocation as a spiritual grounding.  Whether spiritual or completely secular, vocation often involves the nurturing of the contemplative self.

Discernment that involves attentiveness and listening.  People writing about vocation almost always speak of a “call,” but this call can be wide in scope.  A call could be a set of circumstances that arise, a gut feeling, or recognition of your limits and abilities.  A sense of open-mindedness to what constitutes a call is necessary to discern it.

All created equal and rooted in community.  Every role, every job, every person, is created equal in terms of his or her vocation, and each role has equal spiritual and/or vocational value.  It takes a variety of people, rooted in their callings and open to sharing them with others, to create a vibrant community.

Where “your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”  This famous definition, coined by Frederick Buechner, can shape the way we think about vocation.  As author and minister Howard Thurman said, “ask what makes you come alive and go do that…what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Self-Assessment resources can guide you in your vocational discovery process.

At St. Olaf, we embrace an understanding of vocation that is …