By Anna Beth Carter ’16
Catawba students and faculty experienced a thoughtful and dynamic conversation that attempted to shift their perspectives about making just a job into a calling when they attended a September 8th lecture given by Colorado State University Associate Professor of Sociology, Dr. Bryan Dik. Many on campus could be found seated in Keppel Auditorium for Dik’s presentation entitled “Web Slinging and World Changing: Career Guidance from Spider-Man, Martin Luther, and a Hospital Janitor.”
Dr. Dik is a Calvin College honors graduate with a degree in Psychology and is employed by jobZology, an online career analytics system. He emphasized that he had not always known what he wanted to do with his life, instead saying that he actually just fell into his profession, rather ironically, and now helps people figure out what kinds of careers would be best suited for them based on numerous personal factors.
Dr. Dik took an outside of the box approach in speaking about vocation and callings, using both classic and contemporary examples of individuals who have had to make similar decisions as well as how they did so. To begin his lecture, he brought up the two major goals of a first date: 1) making a good first impression and, 2) gauging if the person you are on a date with is worth a second date. He explained that as long as a person applied an ambiguous stimulus to the situation, these objectives should be satisfied, though he pointed out that the answers to these ambiguous stimuli in the form of questions and answers may not give one the hoped for outcome.
He proposed the very open ended question: “If you could have any superpower…what would it be?” He broke down the psychology behind some possible answers, insinuating that the types of personality traits and characteristics a person would like to have implies that they do not already possess such talents.
He turned the conversation to the beloved comic book character Peter Parker, better known by many as Spider-Man, and made the argument that Peter Parker could very well have chosen as life of supervillain evil, instead of superhero. However, Peter Parker recognized that he knew he had at his disposal many incredible gifts and talents. He chose to harness these talents, play into his strengths, and found that he was doing good for the world and was very satisfied with that work.
To further discuss what a person’s calling or purpose might be and how to fulfill these things, Dr. Dik turned to what may seem like an unlikely historical figure in relation to vocation, Martin Luther of the Protestant Reformation. After all, as Dr. Dik pointed out, Martin Luther was already a Roman Catholic priest when he wrote his Ninety-Five Theses and caused protest in Europe. However, Dr. Dik challenged his audience to consider how Martin Luther had not been satisfied with the work he was doing and thus called for and actively worked towards a change. Luther did not set out to create a new church or religion, rather he wanted to change the approach of the already existing church. Dr. Dik emphasized how any job can have sacred significance if approached in the right way.
The last person Dr. Dik presented to his Catawba College audience was undeniably an exemplary figure in being passionate about one’s career. According to Dr. Dik, he actually met this woman and had a personal, firsthand look at just how influential someone can be when they really care about the work they are doing as well as being well equipped for the job. Maggie Garza is a hospital janitor, but as Dr. Dik described it, there is so much more in her job description than cleaning and maintaining the facilities. Dr. Dik spoke of how empathetic and easy to talk to Mrs. Garza was. A hospital can be a place of pain and uncomfortable feelings, but she incorporated compassion into everything she did in order to make it a better place for people. Dr. Dik spoke of how Mrs. Garza would actually be called in to calm young patients, because she had a gift for breaking the ice with people. This is just one example of someone working in and around their job description in order to spread their gifts.
The lecture, if not a pivotal moment for people in considering their calling, at least provided a new point of view on what one could be spending the rest of one’s life doing. Dr. Dik concluded his lecture noting that, statistically, those who felt they were acting out their true calling actually were more effective in their jobs than those who were just going through the motions. He concluded by suggesting that those in the audience might go about finding their own calling by talking to career counselors or talking to people in vocations that were of interest to them.