Academic journal article Communication Studies

Our Callings, Our Selves: Repositioning Religious and Entrepreneurial Discourses in Career Theory and Practice

Academic journal article Communication Studies

Our Callings, Our Selves: Repositioning Religious and Entrepreneurial Discourses in Career Theory and Practice

Article excerpt

Why and how we should view work have been matters of philosophical and theological debate for centuries. Western cultural traditions have been polarized over the meaning of work, with labor typically positioned as either a form of self-denial or self-revelation (Freud, 1961; Weber, 1958). Within these parameters, identity and work rest in tension with each other in such a way that the experience of one anticipates the other. The various and variable meanings of work suggest that it is an essentially contested concept, and the task of critique is to map the terrain of this contestation (Dawson, 2005; Gini, 2000). In particular, the increasing need for meaningful work in the wake of 9/11 has provoked renewed interest in understanding work not as a "job" or a "career" but as a "calling" (Weiss, Skelley, Haughey, & Hall, 2003; Wrzesniewski, 2002). In order to understand the impact of this shift in organizational discourse, I focus on the ways college students understand, construct, and respond to the concept of "the call" or "calling" in their lives.

The quest for a calling is a lifelong pursuit, but it emerges full bloom during the transition from youth to adulthood (Parks, 2000). For most students, the college years are a time of questioning and spiritual searching in which there is particular emphasis on two foundations of calling: the choice of a career and the acceptance of a guiding faith. It is a time of great potentiality and vulnerability in career development, when emerging intellectual and moral convictions about personal identity and the meaning of life collide with deep-seated familial and societal expectations about work. This project seeks to extend career development theory by locating, describing, and interpreting these tensions that arise as students engage in the process of reenvisioning work as calling.

Moreover, this study energizes recent inquiry across the borders of nation-states regarding the transformative nature of organizational spirituality. Over the past 10 years, communication scholars have created a robust research with efforts toward servant leadership and organizational transformation (Burack, 1999; Delbecq, Liebert, Mostyn, & Walter, 2001; Foltz, 2000; Kirkwood, 1994; Mitroff & Denton, 1999; Sass, 2000). Yet, despite the recent emergence of research in organizational spirituality, the tensions between career and calling, as well as religion and spirituality, have been largely ignored in communication scholarship. In response to this critical lacuna, my work seeks to analyze these tensions by examining two sites: the career services office and the Christian liberal arts college. I draw upon my former experiences as a career counselor at a Christian liberal arts college to analyze students' calling discourses and how they converge and diverge with entrepreneurial discourses.

Religion has been undertheorized by communication scholars, yet I contend that it is as important as gender or race in terms of influencing our individual and collective identities. Given the difficulty of navigating the interpretive tensions between control and resistance, less dualistic frameworks are needed that afford more dynamic exploration of the discourses that shape religious identities and their impact on organizational life. The significance of the present research lies in its commitment to speak to this web of narratives by using the integrative concept of discursive positioning (Davies & Harre, 1999, 1990; Jorgenson, 2002). For Davies and Harre (1990), discursive positioning is a way of being-in-the-world, an ongoing reciprocity between the personal and the social. Like other religions, Christianity offers robust resources for understanding personal and organizational identities, and I believe that communication scholars have much to gain by paying sustained attention to how Christians (re-)position themselves within the web of entrepreneurial and religious narratives (Forward, 1999). …

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