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The development of calling: a longitudinal study of musicians

Dobrow, Shoshana R. (2007) The development of calling: a longitudinal study of musicians. In: Academy of Management Conference, 2007-01-01.

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This study investigates the dynamics of the sense of calling over time. Results of a fourwave, 3 ½-year longitudinal survey study of 567 young musicians suggest that participants' calling was shaped by their ongoing behavioral involvement and social encouragement in the calling domain. Counter to expectations, level of ability was not a significant predictor of calling; neither were demographic characteristics. The sense of calling can be a powerful psychological force. Researchers have begun to examine this phenomenon, both in terms of theorizing about the construct itself (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler, & Tipton, 1985; 2005; Weiss, Skelley, Hall, & Haughey, 2003; Wrzesniewski, McCauley, Rozin, & Schwartz, 1997), as well as exploring calling as a predictor of outcomes, such as life and job satisfaction, better health, and fewer reported days of missed work (Wrzesniewski et al., 1997). As yet, researchers have not investigated the conceptual or empirical origins of this potentially powerful force, nor have they explored what factors influence the development of calling over time. The goal of this study is to begin this exploration of the dynamics of calling. The existing work on calling, along with the popular literature on this topic (e.g., Finney & Dasch, 1998; Levoy, 1997), is based on many assumptions that have not been tested empirically. Regardless of whether the calling is presumed to be located internally (e.g., hidden deep inside of people) or externally (e.g., it is out there in society, the labor market, with God), the calling is generally assumed to be a coherent, stable entity that is awaiting discovery. Further, it is often assumed that people either “have” a calling, which is generally viewed as a very positive condition, or they have not yet found their calling, which is viewed as a less desirable situation. (An exception to this binary perspective on calling is Wrzesniewski et al.’s (1997) research, which measures work orientations, including the calling orientation, continuously.) From a temporal perspective, the few existing empirical studies on calling have not yet questioned whether calling is, in fact, a stable construct. If calling is viewed as a dynamic construct, questions can be raised about what factors influence its change over time. Additionally, some existing conceptualizations of calling (e.g., Hall & Chandler, 2005) are based upon individuals’ conscious recognition or acknowledgement that their current work is their calling. The risk of this approach is that the strong connotations associated with the word “calling”—whether they are positive or negative—along with the multitude of definitions of calling in both the academic and popular literatures, make it unclear what the “calling” is that participants claim to “have.” Moreover, a cross-sectional approach to understanding calling cannot untangle whether people enter into their careers to fulfill the sense of calling they experience toward these domains or whether people rationalize being in their specific career situation by believing that they are experiencing a calling (Vroom, 1966). Thus, to develop our understanding of calling, it is imperative to separate the experience of a calling in a domain from the career choice of working in that domain, rather than conflating them. The present study aims to contribute to the nascent study of calling by exploring the following questions: 1) Does calling change over time? 2) What predicts differences in these changes in calling over time? These questions are examined in a 3 ½-year longitudinal survey study of musicians. Level of ability, behavioral involvement, and social encouragement factors are tested as predictors of calling. The present study views calling as a subjective orientation toward a particular domain, and is comprised of seven core elements, passion, identity, urgency, engulfs consciousness, longevity, sense of meaning, and domain-specific self-esteem. To be answered, the research questions required a population in which the calling phenomenon was likely to be found, whose members were at a phase of their career path that would be the most critical for examining the early development and evolution of calling, and whose members have been significantly involved in the focal calling domain, but who have not yet committed to pursuing a career in that domain. Based on these criteria, this study focused on high school musicians (N=567).

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2007 The Author
Divisions: Management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HA Statistics
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2016 15:38
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2021 02:19

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