If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

Lilla Watson, Indigenous Murri artist and activist from Australia

When my clients come to work with me, many have considered making a career change for a long time but haven’t shared their ideas with anyone. They assume they’re supposed to get clear on their own, and it feels vulnerable to put their raw ideas into the world. Compounding the problem is the fact that many career coaches propagate the notion that clarity is solely an inside job. They guide their clients through a slew of inward-looking exercises without ever prompting them to ask potential clients, employers, or collaborators what they need or want.

Granted, I spend a lot of time helping my clients learn to look inside themselves for answers, and you do need to understand yourself to get clear about what’s next. But the inside view won’t give you the full picture.

A calling is a two-way conversation.

A calling is about experiencing greater fulfillment in your life, and it is also about making a bigger impact in the world. A calling is about serving a need or a purpose that is greater than yourself. To get clear about your next level calling, once you’ve listened to your gut and heart, you need to listen to the people you feel called to serve. This is why I’ve found that it’s virtually impossible to get clear on your next level calling alone.

“Get out of the building!”

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time is from Steve Blank, author of The Startup Owner’s’ Manual, a textbook often found in entrepreneurial classes at business schools such as Columbia, Berkeley, and Stanford.

Blank writes that the number one reason startups fail is that they have great ideas they think will sell, but they don’t test out their ideas or get feedback from their potential clients before trying to sell them. To create something that future clients actually want or to position yourself in a way that inspires new employers to hire you, you need to understand what they want.

To be of service,  you must learn to listen.

Getting out of the building is not only about landing the job or making money. It’s about making sure that you’re being of service. As Carol Sanford writes— Purpose is not something people have; it is something that people serve… Purpose is the opposite of self-aggrandizement; it always comes from the benefits people deliver to something other than themselves.  

Serving a purpose is not about something that you do to or for other people. It’s something that you do with other people. To be of purpose, you need to understand who you want to serve and what they need and want, and you can only really be of service if you’re in conversation with the people you want to serve.

This touches on the difference between saviordom and solidarity. Whereas people with a savior mentality are driven by ego to save other people single-handedly, people who act from a place of solidarity are called to stand side-by-side with the people they support, helping them grow their capacity to meet their own needs and fulfill their own potential. We all have the potential to fall into the savior trap or to come from a place of true solidarity, and the key to discerning the difference is learning to listen to what is needed and wanted.

Who You’re Called to Serve

I invite you to take a moment now to reflect on who you’re called to serve in the next phase of your work.

First, I invite you to consider who you’re already serving— your current clients, colleagues, and the people in your life who are asking for your support. Sometimes, the purpose we’re called to serve is right underneath our noses. Write down your responses to the following questions—

  • Who is currently asking you to serve?
  • What type of support do they ask you for?
  • What are their biggest problems?
  • What are they longing for?

If you’re not serving your ideal clients yet, you’re not alone. The majority of my clients come to me uncertain about who they’re called to serve. I invite you to spend a few moments contemplating who you might feel called to serve, and write down what comes up in response to the following questions—

  • What do you want to take a stand for?
  • What do you want to be known for?
  • Who do you want to be a hero to?
  • Who do you have the most fun working with?
  • Who do you feel most deeply called to serve?
  • Why are they important to you?
  • How do you want to serve them?

When you’re complete, look over your responds, identify common threads, and write a list of people you might want to work with in the next phase of your work.

Finally, I invite you to think of who you know in these groups and reach out to them. Share your thoughts about the possible next steps you’re considering, and ask to hear their thoughts. They may have suggestions you’ve never considered. They may help you identify obstacles and prepare more effectively for action. Or they may be affirming and offer the encouragement you need to move forward. Whatever their response, you will be better informed and you’ll gain insights that will help pave a successful path forward.

Who are you called to work with? Who will you reach out to talk with?

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