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Extreme subjective career success: a new integrated view of having a calling

Dobrow, Shoshana R. ORCID: 0000-0002-3068-0129 (2004) Extreme subjective career success: a new integrated view of having a calling. In: Published in Best Paper Proceedings, 2004-01-01, New Orleans LA, United States, USA.

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This article develops a better understanding of an extreme form of subjective career success that transcends any particular job or organizational context: having a calling. I review the existing literature on having a calling and related constructs, put forth a new, integrated typology for having a calling, and suggest directions for future research. Beginning their work in the late 1930s to 1950s, the pioneers of career theory—known as the Chicago School—developed the notion that careers are comprised of both objective and subjective elements. In spite of this early, broad vision of careers, recent career research has been relatively limited in scope. Of the careers articles published in major interdisciplinary journals between 1980 and 1994, more than 75% focused on objective perspectives (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996: 8). Within the last several years, there has been a call for research that includes not only the subjective viewpoint of careers (e.g., Barley, 1989; Derr & Laurent, 1989; Hall,2002; Hall & Chandler, Working paper), but also the extension of career research beyond the boundaries of single organizations (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996). There are some notable streams of work, however, that attempt to address these limitations in careers research. Conceptualizations of subjective career outcomes and the relationship between subjective and objective career outcomes have begun to be examined (e.g., Hall & Chandler, Working paper; Heslin, Working paper; Nicholson & Andrews, Working paper), though with conflicting findings (e.g., whether subjective outcomes lead to objective outcomes, or vice versa). In terms of specific forms that subjective outcomes might take, Hall observed that careers have shifted away from being organizational to being protean, a form of career in which individuals are self-directed toward the goal of achieving psychological success—a subjectively defined measure (Hall, 1976; Hall & Mirvis, 1996; Hall, 2002). Hall’s notion of psychological success builds on Shepard’s view that human potential is realized only through following the “path with a heart,” and defining success as a “life fully worth living” (Shepard, 1984). Other researchers have examined what might be experienced by those enacting a protean career or following their path with a heart, such as work engagement (Kahn, 1990; May et al., 1999), flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), and intrinsic motivation (Amabile et al., 1994). To understand the complexities of psychological success—its characteristics or form, the nature of experiencing it, what its consequences are, etc.—I argue that it is important to focus on exemplars of this phenomenon. Given the implicit prescriptive assumption in this area of research and in the popular press that high subjective success is something to which we should all aspire, this paper will enter this discussion by examining the highly positive end of the spectrum. What is this extreme type of subjective career experience? It fits with the traditional 2 notion of what it means to pursue one’s vocation, or to pursue one’s calling. Weiss and colleagues, in their work on calling and leadership, comment on the rising importance of this area of research: “A new interest in the idea of vocation and calling—even though these terms may not be used—is emerging as people search for more humane and meaningful ways to understand their work lives” (Weiss et al., 2003: 6). Several other researchers have made forays into developing ideas about having a calling (e.g., Wrzesniewski et al., 1997; Gardner et al., 2000; Hall & Chandler, Working paper). Naturally, there is considerable overlap in how researchers have treated the sense of calling and related concepts. As yet, though, there is no synthesis of these views or an attempt to understand the range of implications of having a calling. In particular, these implications of having a calling are generally assumed to be positive. I suggest here, however, that there might also be a dark side to having a calling. Thus, this paper will explore various facets of having a calling, which can be viewed as an extreme form of subjective career success. First, I will offer a brief review of the existing literature on having a calling and related constructs.i Then, I will put forth a new, integrated typology for having a calling. Lastly, I will suggest directions for future research, including examining the consequences of having a calling—both positive and negative.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2004 The Author
Divisions: Management
Subjects: L Education > LA History of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2016 15:35
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 10:59

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