The salience of a career calling among college students: exploring group differences and links to religiousness, life meaning, and life satisfaction.

Author:Duffy, Ryan D.
 
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The authors examined the degree to which 1st-year college students endorse a career calling and how levels of calling differ across demographic variables and religiousness, life meaning, and life satisfaction, Forty-four percent of students believed that having a career calling was mostly or totally true of them, and 28% responded to searching for a calling in the same fashion. Students seeking advanced professional degrees were more likely to feel a career calling, and the presence of a calling was found to weakly correlate with religiousness and life satisfaction and moderately correlate with life meaning. Practice implications are suggested. In its century-old form, the term calling meant a direct call by God to a religious vocation. Today, this term has grown to take on a variety of meanings and is often applied to both religious and nonreligious career paths (Dik & Duffy, 2009). Within the career literature, relatively little empirical research has been completed to understand the degree to which specific populations endorse this construct and in turn how having the presence of, or searching for, a career calling relates to demographic and psychological variables. The purpose of the present study was to explore the salience of this construct for student populations; determine which groups of students are most likely to endorse a career calling; and determine how having a career calling, or searching for one, relates to religiousness, life meaning, and life satisfaction.

The term calling is not represented in any of the major theories of career choice. Nevertheless, we believe that Super's (1990) developmental model of career development may provide the most useful framework for conceptualizing the potential role of a career calling in students' career decision making. First, perhaps more than any other major career development theory, Super's theory emphasizes that an extremely wide range of person and contextual variables may affect career choice. Second, Super's developmental approach provides a theoretical background for the career-related tasks encountered by students in the current study. Super suggested that from the ages of 18 to 21 years most individuals are in the specification stage, or engaged in a process of firming their vocational goals. In this stage, students are hypothesized to be actively exploring aspects of themselves, which can be used as information in making major and career choices. Super believed that the formation of goals is influenced by a host of these variables, including both personal variables (e.g., personality, interests, skills, values) and societal variables (e.g., economy, labor market; Super, 1990). Although having a career calling, or searching for one, was not a theme explored by Super, we hypothesize that this construct may represent another important personal variable that could have a significant impact on career decision making.

Career development researchers have paid particular attention to the person variables within Super's (1990) model in an effort to understand the factors that affect college students' career decision making. The most common variables studied are vocational interests, skills, personality, perceived abilities, and work values (Luzzo, 2000; Niles, Erford, Hunt, & Watts, 1997). Students are theorized to use some combination of these variables in making their ultimate career decisions, and research has shown that the development of these dimensions (e.g., interests, skills, values) is dependent on a host of additional predictor variables. These can include environmental experiences; family influence (Whiston & Keller, 2004); disability (Hitchings, Luzzo, Retish, Horvath, & Ristow, 1998); lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identity (Tomlinson & Fassinger, 2003); educational goals (Meinster & Rose, 2001); gender (Lippa, 1998); and race or culture (Worthington, Flores, & Navarro, 2005). In this exploratory study, one of our goals was to understand how some of these previously studied constructs might relate to students' experiences of a career calling. Thus, we explored the extent to which the presence of, or search for, a career calling was related to gender, race, and educational aspirations.

One additional set of variables that may be linked to the development of a calling is an individual's spirituality or religion (Brewer, 2001). Recently, researchers and theorists have begun to explore the mechanisms by which students' spirituality or religion generally relates to their career development (Duffy, 2006; Duffy & Dik, 2009). For example, students who are religious or spiritual tend to be more mature in their career decision-making process (Duffy & Blustein, 2005), may use these frameworks as coping mechanisms when facing academic and career difficulties (Constantine, Miville, Warren, Gainor, & Lewis-Coles, 2006), may be more likely to endorse work values related to meaning and service (Duffy, 2010), and tend to place a higher value on helping others and social justice (Leak, 1992). Religious students may also draw on their relationships with a Higher Power or their religious community for support during their career decision-making process (Duffy & Lent, 2008).

In their review of the literature on calling, Dik and Duffy (2009) found that a number of definitions of calling have tied it directly to religion or spirituality. Nevertheless, a calling is not always associated with religion or spirituality and has alternatively been described as work that defines one's life purpose (Hall & Chandler, 2005) and as a career used to serve the greater good (Wrzesniewski, McCauley, Rozin, & Schwartz, 1997). Most recently, Dik and Duffy attempted to develop an empirically testable definition of a calling. They defined calling as

a transcendent summons, experienced as originating beyond the self, to approach a particular life role in a manner oriented toward demonstrating or deriving a sense of purpose or meaningfulness and that holds other-oriented values and goals as primary sources of motivation. (Dik & Duffy, 2009, p. 427) According to the authors, a calling to a particular career is believed to come from a force outside the person and applies to areas of work that help others in some way and that also provide personal life meaning. This definition has received support from a recent qualitative study with college students (Hunter, Dik, & Banning, 2010). Given the different perspectives on whether a career calling is religiously based, we explored the extent to which the presence of, or search for, a career calling is related to students' levels of intrinsic religiousness. Here, intrinsic religiousness refers to an internal motivation to live according to one's religious beliefs (Gorsuch & McPherson, 1989).

The existent empirical research on calling, in both religious and non-religious contexts, has most often focused on working adults. These studies have generally shown that feeling called to a career has been related to social justice beliefs, increased job security, job satisfaction, life satisfaction, and a greater likelihood of making personal sacrifices for one's job (Bunderson & Thompson, 2009; Davidson & Caddell, 1994; Peterson, Park, Hall, & Seligman, 2009; Serow, 1994; Serow, Eaker, & Ciechalski, 1992; Wrzesniewski et al., 1997). Nevertheless, research on these constructs as applied specifically to college students has been increasing as well. For example, three qualitative studies that assessed the role of religion or spirituality in the career development of college students found that some students do report a career calling, often coinciding with a desire to serve others in some way (Constantine et ah, 2006; Lips-Wiersma, 2002; Royce-Davis & Stewart, 2000). Additionally, Duffy and Sedlacek (2007) found that college students who had felt the presence of a calling were more likely to be decided and comfortable in their career choices, to view their careers as important, and to have strong vocational self-clarity. Dik, Sargent, and Steger (2008) also surveyed a sample of college students and found the sense of a calling to relate to positive work outcomes expectations and career decision self-efficacy.

Given this prior research, we sought to extend the calling-well-being links with adult populations and determine the extent to which the calling variables relate to life meaning and life satisfaction with a college student sample. In particular, life meaning, or the degree to which individuals believe that their lives have a clear purpose (Steger, Frazier, Oishi, & Kaler, 2006), and career calling may overlap to the degree that they might be considered the same underlying construct, whereby calling might be viewed as finding meaning in one's career. Conversely, a similar argument could be made that the search for life meaning and the search for a career calling may also be touching the same underlying construct. Thus, in the present study, we sought to explore whether these variables were related as well as distinct from one another.

In summary, although the calling construct was not originally included in Super's (1990) theory, we hypothesized that it might represent a personal variable that may be relevant in the career decision making of college students. Super theorized that given their developmental level, this group may be particularly attuned to matching aspects of their personality, values, and interests with major or job choices. It may be that for some students, a career calling represents one additional variable...

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