Career Advice: Read About Dharma

“How did you find your life’s work?” Career counseling clients are often interested in my story.  I don’t volunteer much about myself unless it is relevant.  Those who ask make it relevant, usually because they are seeking out a lesson to inspire them.  So I tell them the truth: “I had a calling to help others and specifically to do so through educating and counseling.”

I used to give less authentic answers, particularly at cocktail parties where I would interact with business types who were interested in the “entrepreneur” part of my decision to leave the high powered legal world to become an education-entrepreneur. They would barely conceal their disdain when I mentioned anything smacking of idealism.  Now, I don’t care because I realize that I have to be authentic to live out that calling.

I still don’t like my answer because the single sentence: “I had a calling…” shows the tip of an iceberg, revealing only the “a-ha moment!”, as if a lightning bolt created an epiphany.  The long foundation of figuring out my calling stemmed from a lot of reading, reflecting and soul-searching.

Certain concepts shifted me.  “Find your calling” was one of those, originally emanating from the notion that Catholic priests had a calling for their vocation. “Right livelihood” – the Buddhist principle for doing the work that causes no harm and presumably helps people, was another.  Dharma, the Hindu principle which has dozens of meanings but one which suggests that we all have work that is suited for us and we should that work, had the biggest impact.

There are dozens of career paths for those who want to help others. Indeed, when acquaintances are kind enough to compliment me on work that helps others, I usually note that “it’s not like I am a hospice worker.”

I am meant to be an educator-counselor. That’s my dharma.  What’s yours?