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I wrote this article to help you find your calling and channel it into a successful career.

I’ve seen thousands of clients build meaningful careers using the pathfinding method that we’ve developed at A Path That Fits. It worked for clients in the Great Recession of 2008 and in the Covid-19 pandemic. In times of economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever to know what you are here to do and employ the most effective strategies to succeed in your career.

If you’re ready to discover what you are meant to do, you’re in the right place. If you’re just looking to get a new job doing what you’ve always done, this article probably won’t speak to you.

What is a calling?

A calling is more than a job. It is a purposeful career that brings a deep sense of fulfillment. It’s work that uses your gifts and passions to have a meaningful impact. It’s the thing that you are built to do.

When people are following their calling they are in flow. They are happy. They are confident. They are successful. They inspire others. They make a positive impact on the world. Their personal life is uplifted. They are at their best.

I’ll go as far as to say that finding your calling is a part of making the world a better place. It doesn’t just benefit you. It benefits others through the positive impact of your work and the positive energy you bring to it. It’s a part of being the change you want to see in the world, and living your best life.

It’s also worth highlighting that finding your calling doesn’t mean quitting your job and becoming a yoga teacher. Many of our clients fulfill their calling by redesigning (aka pivoting) their existing career to incorporate their passions and purpose.

Before explaining how to find your calling, I’d like to introduce myself.

I’m Adrian Klaphaak. I founded A Path That Fits in 2006 after my own struggle to find my path. I know how frustrating it is to do work that doesn’t feel authentic.

I hated my first career as a management consultant. I felt stuck and lost about what else I could do—until I discovered my gifts, became fascinated with pathfinding and dedicated my life to it.

Since 2006, I’ve coached thousands of people to find their calling using the strategies I share with you in this article. In the process, A Path That Fits has received more 5 star Yelp reviews than any other career and life coaching company in the country. We pride ourselves on balancing the need to get practical results while also unearthing deep meaning and life purpose. I guess I’m similar. I’m a deep seeker with a fire burning to make things happen. So let’s get to it!

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Step 1: Are you in the right mindset to find your calling?

You are perfectly built for a certain type of work. But the way you think about your career might be holding you back from finding it.

It’s not your fault. The problem is that pathfinding isn’t taught. Our educational and economic systems expect you to already know what you want to do instead of supporting you in finding your path. The advice most people get from well meaning friends, family, co-workers, and teachers is often from the old paradigm.

The old paradigm often sounds something like this:

“It’s great that you love art but you’ll never be able to make a career out of it. You should find a ‘good’ secure job like law or engineering and pursue your passions as a hobby.”

Not only is that depressing, it’s also just not true. The thing they’re completely missing is that in order to be secure in your career, it needs to fit who you are. You can’t just do anything you want and be good at it and enjoy it. If it doesn’t use your innate gifts and passions, you’ll probably just be mediocre. You’ll never realize your full potential.

How To Find Your Calling

So what’s the new way of thinking?

Here’s the one perspective shift that will forever change your career.

  • Old paradigm: My work is what I do.
  • New paradigm: My work is who I am.

Your true vocation is not something you choose to do. It is an expression of who you are. Your greatest success and deepest fulfillment is going to come from using your innate gifts and doing what you love to do.

  • Not from trying to fit yourself into a ‘good’ job.
  • Not from doing what you think you should be doing.
  • Not from trying be someone else.

Look at all the wildly successful people that have remarkable careers: Oprah, Elon Musk, Beyonce, Gandhi, Richard Branson, etc. – they are who they are. They’re not trying to be anyone else.

The key to finding your calling is to DO WHAT YOU ARE.

You don’t do BIG BEAUTIFUL THINGS with your life and work by doing what you should do.

  • STOP looking for jobs.
  • STOP doing what you think you should be doing.
  • START discovering who you are.

You don’t have to try to be anyone or anything but yourself.

You are perfectly built just the way you are for a specific type of work. Your first task is to discover what you’re made of, then you’ll know what you’re made to do, and you can start building a remarkable career.

In the next section you’ll start discovering your gifts and passions — two core parts of who you are and what you’re made of.

Step 2: What are your gifts and passions?

Your gifts and passions point you in the direction of your calling. Think of them as your inner compass that you can follow to discover your calling.

If you haven’t had the success and fulfillment that you want up to this point in your career, it’s probably because your career path hasn’t fully utilized your gifts and passions.

Let’s take a deeper look at how to discover your gifts and passions, starting with your gifts.

Discovering your gift is what propels you from good to great.

Your gift is your superpower. It’s your innate brilliance – the thing that you already know how to do, that you can use to contribute real value and have a meaningful impact. It opens the door for you to be wildly successful and deeply fulfilled.

Martin Seligman, a psychologist and pioneer of the positive psychology movement said, “I do not believe that you should devote overly much effort to correcting your weaknesses. Rather, I believe that the highest success in living and the deepest emotional satisfaction comes from building and using your signature strengths.”

You’re already brilliant. You just have to know how to see it.

Think of yourself as a superhero. What would your superpower be? I’m not asking what you would design it to be—I’m asking what it already is. What’s the thing that feels most natural to you that you just seem to know how to do?

Is it your knack for creativity? Or your wicked sharp analytical skills? Or maybe it’s your ability to listen deeply and empathize?

Activity: Discover your gifts

If you want some help getting in touch with your gifts, answer the following questions. Then look for the strongest themes that stand out in your responses. Those are your gifts!

  1. What do people come to you for help with or ask you for advice about?
  2. What are some of the successes you’ve had in your life and what were the underlying strengths you leveraged to succeed? Tip: Don’t set the bar super high and think about traditional successes like graduating summa cum laude from Harvard. Define success as something you feel proud of. For example, a success could be as seemingly ordinary as supporting a friend through a crisis or organizing your best friend’s bachelorette party.
  3. What types of activities give you a feeling of being “in the flow?”
  4. What tends to be your role with friends and family?
  5. What are some things that you feel most confident in your ability to do well, and/or feel like they are second nature to you?

After answering those questions, review your responses and look for the strongest themes that stand out. Those are likely to be your gifts.

Discovering your passions is what makes your work enjoyable

Doing work that is aligned with our gifts is one way to help ensure your success—but it isn’t enough on its own. Passion is another key ingredient of finding your calling. The idea here is not that passion automatically makes you successful. Rather it’s that passion is what motivates you to put in the time required to develop your ability to become great. Success takes time and hard work and passion is a big part of what motivates you to stick with it.

Malcolm Gladwell (author of “The Tipping Point” and “Outliers” among other bestsellers) and other peak performance experts say that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. That’s a long time. How are you going to stay motivated? Answer: By being passionate about your work.

“Genius is an extraordinary love of something.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Disclaimer: Don’t get hung up on the word “passions.” You don’t have to be wildly in love with something in order to consider it a passion. When I say “passions” I mean the things that bring you alive, excite you, interest you, inspire you, energize you, or even just pique your curiosity.

I know you might be thinking, “I don’t have any passions!” Not to worry… All you need to find your path is an interest or curiosity and a willingness to explore because that interest can develop into a passion overtime.

You don’t have to already have a strong passion to find a deeply fulfilling career! Many of the people who are wildly passionate about their careers didn’t feel passionate about their work when they first started it.

For example…

Alex Atala, the iconic Brazilian chef, explained how his passionate career as one of the world’s best chefs started by accident. He decided to work in a kitchen because it was more interesting and lucrative than his job as a house painter. He chose to go to culinary school because it allowed him to extend his tourist visa so he could stay in France. Overtime, his interest in cooking developed into a wild passion and he went on to revolutionize Brazilian cuisine.

What’s the moral of Alex’s story? Passion develops and grows by engaging in the things that interest you. You don’t have to discover an intense passion right now to ultimately find a career that you can grow wildly passion about. It’s most likely that your future passions will appear as subtle interests and curiosities. Here’s why:

Pursuing your passions often gets pushed aside by the demands of work, caring for your family, financial pressures, and just having too much to do. All of those things take precedence, limiting the time you would otherwise dedicate to doing things that interest you that would eventually grow into passions.

You may have been actively discouraged from following your interests and passions by parents, partners, friends, teachers and advisors. (Paradoxically, following your passions is actually very practical because passion is what calls forth your full potential for success. Yes, you also need to be strategic about how to connect your passion to a successful career but doing work without passion is likely to be unsustainable.)

For all of the above reasons, it may take a bit of digging for you to reconnect to your interests and passions. Try the following “Passion Quest” activity to reconnect with your passions.

Activity: Discover your passions by doing a “Passion Quest”

Head to your bookshelf and browse the titles. What does your bookshelf reveal about your interests and passions?

Next, reflect on your most frequented blogs, websites, podcasts, articles you read, people you follow. What does the media you consume reveal about your interests and passions?

If you want to keep exploring, head to and browse through their library of talks. Expand their list of topics and then follow your curiosity. What subject areas are you drawn toward? What titles compel you to want to watch the talk? Spend some time browsing around and noticing what you are most passionate about.

Reflect on all of the passion quest activities. What themes emerged? What subject areas did you feel most excited about? Those are likely to be your passions.

If you didn’t discover anything that feels like a burning passion, that’s fine. Your passions may initially feel more like a subtle interest or a curiosity. You can grow it into a passion overtime by studying, taking classes, doing personal projects, and ultimately incorporating it into your work.

If these brief activities didn’t provide the clarity you’re looking for, there are many more in depth discovery activities and assessments to reveal your gifts and passions that we offer in the Career Pathfinder Coaching Program.

Worried you’re going to have to start over in your new career?

You won’t if it uses your gifts and passions. Why not?

Because you’ve already been using your gifts and engaging your passions in your life, even if they haven’t been showing up in your career… yet! There are all kinds of ways to leverage those past experiences as a springboard into your new career.

How To Find Your Calling

Step 3. Use your gifts and passions to find clues about your calling

Your calling weaves together your gifts and passions enabling you to do what you’re good at, and what you love, in your own authentic way. In this section, I’ll explain how to follow your gifts and passions to find your calling.

Discovering your calling involves a combination of inward reflection and out-in-the-world exploration. It’s important to start with inward reflection so you tap into your vision of what feels authentic and exciting to you. But you also have to get out there and explore in order to know what career path options exist and what they are really like. It’s the feeling of deep resonance with one of the careers that you are exploring that tells you what is your true calling.

Activity: Using your gifts and passions to envision your calling

Do a 5 minute free write of all the things you can imagine yourself doing that use your gifts and passions. Don’t try to force yourself into thinking only about job titles. Anything you can conceive of is fair game – jobs, roles, careers, business ideas, lifestyles, identities, projects, activities, tasks, work environments, colleagues you work with, etc. Let yourself dream and think freely without worrying about what you already have the experience to do, whether or not you could get that job, how much money you’d be able to make, etc. This is just a brainstorm and you aren’t committing to anything you write down. If you limit your ideas by what you think is feasible, you might not find your true calling. In the next steps, you’ll massage these ideas into careers and then research those careers to determine their fit and feasibility. For now, it’s important to let your creativity and imagination run wild so you don’t limit yourself prematurely. Use the following questions as prompts for a free write:

  • What are all the things you can imagine yourself doing that use your gifts and passions?
  • What would you do if you knew you would be successful?
  • What would you do if money was no object?

After giving yourself full creative freedom to imagine any and all possible activities, tasks, projects, jobs, careers that are born out of your gifts and passions, look back through your free write and extract the most exciting career ideas. Write a list of the most exciting career ideas and possibilities that you’ve thought of up to this point.

I know it can be hard to know all of the careers that are out there. This is part of the reason that people hire me as a career coach:) Still, the list you created will serve as a starting point for further exploration and research. You’ll naturally discover adjacent careers and niche careers that were previously unknown by doing your research under those initial broad career categories.

For example…

One of my client’s gifts were communication, inspiring others, and relating to people. Her passions were health and wellness. Upon reflection, she started to sense her calling was to help people heal. She came up with some initial career ideas and started exploring careers related to health, wellness, and medicine. Ultimately she became a health coach, author, and entrepreneur with a specialized niche of helping people heal from autoimmune disorders.

Explore your career ideas to find the one that is your calling

It’s impossible to know whether a career is your calling until you get out there and start talking to people who are doing the work. It’s also impossible to know about all the niche careers that exist inside of the initial career ideas you developed until you do your research. While online research is a useful starting point, doing informational interviews is invaluable.

If you find the right people to talk to and you know what questions to ask, you can turn anyone into your very own career advisor. They’ll give you all the inside secrets on the hottest niche careers, how to break into the field without starting over, and what it takes to succeed.

Find your niche and position yourself to build a successful career

At A Path That Fits, our goal is for you to do the work that you are meant to do (find your calling) and build a successful career that supports your lifestyle.

The most successful people in any field are experts in a specific niche. They don’t just blindly follow their passions, they figure out where their gifts and passions meet a genuine need in the world.

Do you know what happens to companies that focus only on what they want to do without ever talking to customers and exploring the needs in the market? They go out of business.

Even if you love what you do and you’re good at it, if your career doesn’t meet a genuine need in the world, it’s probably not going to pay you what you need to survive. It might sound ironic but to find your calling (and build a financially sustainable career) you also need to think about what other people want.

Finding your niche, your specialty, is where the meaningful meets the practical.

Not only does the right niche bring financial success but it also allows you to do work that has a meaningful impact. When you find the specialty that is uniquely tailored to your gifts and passions, you can become a sought-after expert doing truly innovative work that makes a difference in the world.

So before you settle on a generic career like marketing, do your research to understand what niche careers in your larger field are trending, highest in demand, lucrative, and exciting to you. There’s a lot you can do online but be sure to also set up coffee chats and informational interviews with people who are doing the work that you want to be doing. Ask the people doing work in your desired field where the biggest needs and opportunities are to be found. That will point you in the direction of the most profitable, most “in demand” niche.

Client example: Instead of being your average marketer, John found his niche in user experience research and has built a meaningful career that supports his family.

The final step in discovering your calling is to start doing it. Get your hands dirty. Take a class or an online course. Volunteer. Do a personal project. The only way to truly know for sure if something is your calling is to start doing it.

If you are ready to find your calling and use it to pivot into a more meaningful career, you’ll probably want more in depth guidance than this blog post can provide. And if you’ve made it this far, we’d love to have you join our Career Pathfinder Coaching Program. It’s helped 1000+ people find their calling and pivot into more meaningful and successful careers.

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