With the job market in chaos and uncertainty still thick in the air, Paul Sohn, director of strategic career initiatives and adjunct professor of calling at Crowell School of Business, has created a space — the Online Calling Retreat — to help those stuck and conflicted about what to do with their working lives.
Sohn and his team gathered 25 world-renowned leaders such as Os Guinness, Missy Wallace, Andy Crouch, Dionna Scales, and Gabe Lyons, along with two Biola professors, Jake Aguas, professor of management, and Dr. Arianna Molloy, professor of communication studies, to talk about the theology, discerning and spiritual practices of calling, along with how to navigate a career in the “new normal.”
“It's more than a conference,” said Sohn. “We're calling it the Online Calling Retreat. Conferences are great adrenaline boosters, but at best they are information-transfer-plus-networking. But when you're talking about something like calling, it's not like you can just read a book and understand what you're supposed to do. It's a process of transformation, and that's why the retreat format is most appropriate. It requires time for reflection, with exercises and activities and interaction with like-minded people. It’s not just information.”
The difference goes beyond just the name and the purpose. Sohn also designed this retreat as a digital collection of talks and resources from experts and thought leaders, so that attendees could spend up to a year viewing the videos, downloading the materials, and interacting online with other virtual attendees.
“There are virtual summits, there are virtual conferences, and there's value to them,” said Sohn. “But I know that people are busy, their schedules are scrambled and often unstructured and, to be honest, people are Zoomed out. To force people to be online at a certain time to go through this seemed unnecessarily challenging. So how could we create flexibility where people can just go through this content at their own pace on their own schedule? We're thinking of it as ‘the Netflix of calling and career content.’ There is also a retreat guide, a PDF to take notes but which also includes a number of activities and exercises that really help the whole process.”
For Sohn, the timing of this retreat is certainly no coincidence. For someone whose calling is helping people find their calling, Sohn watched millions of people lose their jobs due to the pandemic, watched the job market for new graduates go flat, and was driven by the question, “What can I do to help these people?”
“What I think COVID has revealed is a lot of uncertainty,” Sohn said. “A lot of fear, a lot of ‘what-ifs’ that people carry around, and I think it's really one big question: ‘Do we ultimately trust God or not?’ So this crisis has revealed a lot about our relationship with God. I believe that every single person has a desire in their heart to worship and to live for something that's right and true and gives identity and contentment. The real 'something' is God, of course, but for a lot of people, instead of God it's been something else; it's been money or prestige or power. But now in this climate, for many people those things are now gone, and so you're in a crisis because those things were your identity. In many ways this season has created more questions than ever, and that's why I think creating this resource right now really helps.”
Now, almost everyone asks, What should I do with my life? But there are challenges about career and calling that seem specific to Christians, questions about God's will and the fear of choosing wrong, of making a decision and ending up on a wrong path and missing God's will for your life. The retreat will address those anxieties head-on.
“There's a lot of misinformed ideas when trying to think biblically about God's will,” said Sohn. “Oftentimes it's a bulls-eye approach, like finding that one perfect person to marry, that one perfect job, as if God was like Siri, or a magic eight ball, and you're asking, ‘Oh, tell me what I'm supposed to do!’ We need wisdom in thinking better about this.”
Sohn reached out to thought leaders from across the Christian spectrum to see if they were like-minded about calling and equipping people with career discernment. He was surprised by the willingness of the leaders he approached.
“What I was blown away by was just the simple power of asking,” Sohn said. “Once I communicated the mission and the vision — the why — these people got it and wanted to be part of it. Their own lives have been impacted, they personally know people who need this, and they wanted to be part of something where they could contribute and help people who are truly in need. So all but one of these speakers contributed their time for free.”
Sohn is making a special offer to readers of this blog. If you register and use the discount code CROWELL30, you can get access to the entire retreat for $70, a 30% discount.
Learn more about Crowell School of Business programs.