3 Tips for Helping Your Child Find Their Calling

Written by Nathan Paul, Portsmouth Christian Academy Marketing Manager

“I want be a football player.”

That’s what I told my mom as a rotund, little Kindergartener.

All three of my brothers played football for Exeter High School. My oldest brother was one of the top defensive linemen in the state. I didn’t know much about being a football player, but I knew it looked fun. In my little Kindergarten brain, what more research did I need? I was going to be a football player.

Flash forward to my senior year in high school. After one unsuccessful year as a football player in fourth grade, cut short by a broken finger and a disdain for “how hard football practice is,” my Kindergarten dream was sidelined for good.

The answer to the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” was much more complicated than it was when I answered it in Kindergarten. I went to a very small school, and I didn’t have the luxury of a College Planning Counselor who could walk me through my strengths and interests, then identify where I could set my sights post-graduation. I was pretty much left to figure it out on my own.

I knew I liked sports, and I knew I liked videography, photography, etc., so I did some Google searches, ran a few tuition calculators, and asked my dad his opinion on a few schools I was looking at. Ultimately, I ended up at Thomas College in Waterville, Maine, studying Marketing Communications, then transferring in my sophomore year to the University of Southern Maine (USM) to study Communications.

At both schools, I was a one-man content crew for their athletic departments. At Thomas, I filmed, photographed, and made social media content, much like what I do now at PCA. At USM, I found myself in charge of producing our sports broadcasts that were streamed to our conference network.

Then, after signing on at PCA, I found myself doing a blend of streaming, photographing, designing, and editing for the school’s marketing materials—most of which I still do.

Why’d I tell you all this?

Well, I asked myself what I wanted to be almost every day from my senior year of high school on. Some days I wanted to work in marketing. Some days I wanted to be a freelance videographer. Some days I wanted to work in sports media. And some days I would have no clue. I transferred schools in the middle of asking whether I wanted to be a marketer or work for ESPN in broadcasting.

The traditional flow of a student’s life, since college became the norm, has been to work hard in core classes through junior year of high school, then make a variety of life-altering decisions between September and April of your graduation year.

It’s not easy, and it really doesn’t make sense. Most students don’t have the life experience or industry knowledge to make those kinds of decisions at 18. That isn’t to say that an 18-year-old should be treated like a helpless baby, but there should be some real conversations had before signing off on that enrollment contract to XYZ University.

Below are a few tips, from somebody who’s been through it himself, for parents and students who are thinking about what God’s calling has in store for them.

1. Try New Things.

It’s hard to decide what you want to do with your life when you have no prior experience in anything. This first tip isn’t just for high school kids—Lower School kids and families should start on this one early. Whether you sign them up for violin classes, encourage them to read a new book, or take them on a little field trip to a museum, exposing your son or daughter to new things opens up doors, seen and unseen, for them to identify their God-given gifts and talents.

As a high schooler, my first job was working at Home Depot as a lot attendant. While I knew I wouldn’t be pushing carts my whole life, I was able to learn a few things about installing ceiling fans from our Electrical Sales rep. I also learned about the value of a 401k account through Home Depot’s benefits brochure I saw laying on the break room table.

Later down the road, I installed my own ceiling fan in our house, and I set myself up with a retirement account early in college because of the random experiences I had in my part-time summer job in high school.

All that to say, if you try new things, you never know the kind of impact those experiences will have further down the line.

2. Think in Terms of Skillsets. Don’t Think About Job Titles.

If you were to ask me what career I wanted 7 years ago, I’d have given you three positions that summarized what I could see myself doing. To me, I wanted to be a marketer, a videographer, or a sports media journalist.

All of that could’ve been boiled down to “storyteller,” which covers a lot of things, across a lot of industries.

For example:

Job Titles That Include Storytelling:

  • Freelance Writer
  • Copywriter
  • Creative Strategist
  • UX Designer
  • Digital Content Producer
  • Videographer
  • Photographer
  • Social Media Manager
  • Grant Writer for Non-Profits
  • Sales Specialist
  • Content Strategist
  • Media Relations Associate
  • etc., etc., etc.

Plus, what I really didn’t consider was how each of these roles listed could be applied to anything I wanted. Copywriting didn’t sound fun to me. I don’t want to write about Tide laundry detergent…

Maybe not, but how about writing copy for Under Armour, or Callaway Golf, or maybe even State Farm Insurance’s marketing campaign with the National Football League? If I’d settled on becoming a solid storyteller, I would’ve saved myself the unnecessary stress of limiting my entire life to jobs that fell under “sports media” on Indeed.

When we’re young, we have an imaginative view of the world–anything can be a career, from professional football to astronaut. But, when we get older, we get a little cynical. Despite our world getting bigger, we limit what we think we can do.

If I’d thought about my calling in terms of skillsets, instead of just job titles, I would’ve felt a little less anxiety about choosing a major and, ultimately, a way to make a living. It’s important here for parents, coaches, and teachers to help students identify the things they’re good at, especially when they can’t see it themselves. If your Upper School daughter communicates and interacts really positively with kids at soccer camp or is consistently asked to speak during school open houses, let her know she’s a really great communicator, and that she does a great job making others feel seen. If your Middle School son had fun building an underwater robot in the SeaPerch program, see if there are STEM exhibits you can take him to, or even hand him your drill next time you’ve got a home project to work on. (With your supervision, of course.)

These little seeds you plant will grow and grow over time, and they keep your student from pigeon-holing themselves into thinking they’re only as talented as their history and science grades tell them. Your daughter may not know that her personability will make her a great Director of Community Relations with the Nashville Predators someday, but she’ll be one step closer to figuring it out.

3. Pray About It.

My eventual-mother-in-law told me this in high school when I brought my anxieties about post-grad plans to her, and I kind of rolled my eyes and took it as something she HAD to say—but she was right. When I look back at how anxious I was over colleges, majors, and my future career, I laugh at how things gradually fell into place over time–eventually leading me only 2 towns over from where I started.

A hymn I’ve become especially fond of recently is “God Moves in Mysterious Ways”, written by William Cowper in the 1770’s.

I sang it a few Sundays ago, and the message it shares is so poignant and so applicable for anybody, but especially a student or family worrying about God’s plan for their life:

You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev’ry hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

What I love so much about this hymn are the two last lines in the third stanza. “The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow’r.” It so poetically captures what Paul writes to the Philippians, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phillipians 1:6)

The bud may have a bitter taste. The beginning may seem confusing, daunting, and a little yucky, but the plans God has for each of us will eventually blossom into a beautiful flower. Our goal at Portsmouth Christian Academy is to help students plant, cultivate, and watch that seed blossom in their spiritual, academic, and social lives.

Our mission to maximize each child’s God-given potential is one we share with every family. From preschool to graduation day, we look for opportunities to inspire your child to pursue the things God has in store for their lives. We hope this article has provided some small yet effective tools you can use to help your son or daughter realize their God-given potential, so that you can come alongside them and your school, whether it’s PCA or elsewhere, in preparing them for the plans God has in store for their lives.

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