by Matt Thomas

A while back I interviewed a promising candidate. A young woman, obviously intelligent, with a strong resume who came to us via a trusted referral. About halfway through the interview I asked her about her long term plans. What did she really hope to do with her life? She responded with a question, “you mean, what is my calling?” A little thrown, I mumbled something to the effect of, “sure, yeah, your calling.” She responded, “Well, I think I’m called to lead traveling yoga classes. You know, remodel an RV, travel the country, maybe the world, and teach pop up yoga.”

Quick sidenote. Even if this is what you want to do, don’t say it in an interview. Vocations that look like some hybrid version of a reality show on the Travel channel and HGTV are no longer unique. They are a quick way to not be taken seriously. And no, this young lady was not invited back for a second interview.

Back to calling. I could take up quite a bit of space dissecting what this word actually means, why we should or shouldn’t roll our eyes when we hear it, and if it has any value these days. For the purposes of this article we’ll use it in reference to anyone trying to figure out what they should do with their lives, specifically what line of work they should pursue.

In the recruiting world we wade into this decision making process with thousands of candidates every year. In our coaching efforts, it’s much of the same. It doesn’t matter if you are fresh out of college or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company thinking about the back half of your career, most will ask themselves a simple question at some point: What do I really want to do? Here is a simple framework for figuring out what to do with your life, which opportunities to be on the lookout for, when to say no, and when to say yes.

Simply, your calling sits at the intersection of three things: skill, passion, and opportunity.


Last week I went to an outdoor concert in our neighborhood with my family. It was a great turnout with hundreds of people packed into the courtyard of a local shopping area. We set up our lawn chairs and settled in for a nice evening. About fifteen minutes into the concert a woman came and stood two feet in front of me and began talking to some friends. I couldn’t see anything! She was less than an arm’s length away from me and oblivious to her impact on my sightline, even though she was one of the only ones standing.

Her lack of self-awareness wasn’t a big deal. It was annoying, but I could just ask her to move or deal with not being able to see. But when leaders have a similar lack of self-awareness it harms their organization and their reputation. 

Self-awareness is a non-negotiable for good leadership and a healthy organization.