Living an Integrated Life of Meaning in the Career World

An interview with Bryan Dik exploring the intersection of faith and work.

Posted Jan 27, 2021

Bryan Dik, used with permission
Source: Bryan Dik, used with permission

Going to work and doing the same tasks every day can prove to be monotonous and redundant. How can we find meaning at work? In this interview, Bryan Dik shares the importance of integrating religion and work to find excitement and meaning in one's career.

Bryan Dik, Ph.D., is a vocational psychologist, professor of psychology at Colorado State University, and co-founder and Chief Science Officer of jobZology. Bryan studies meaning and purpose in the workplace, calling and vocation in career development, and the intersection of faith and work. He has delivered keynote lectures on four continents, has published four books (including Redeeming Work and Make Your Job a Calling), and hosts the Purposeful Work Podcast. He is an American Psychological Association Fellow and recipient of the John Holland Award for Outstanding Achievement in Career or Personality Research (APA Div. 17) and the Applied Psychology of Religion and Spirituality Award (APA Div. 36). He lives with his wife Amy and their four sons in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Jamie Aten: Why did you set out to write your book?

Bryan Dik: I’ve devoted my career to studying what makes work meaningful for people, and especially what it looks like to approach work as a calling. And I’m a person of faith. Many people of faith want their beliefs to be relevant not just within their spiritual lives, but within every aspect of life—including and perhaps especially their work. Yet so many of them struggle to discern how they can best accomplish this. There are many resources that address this question—indeed, a faith at work movement has been building for decades—yet it struck me that these resources have almost completely ignored what we’ve learned from the field of vocational psychology in general and research on meaningful work in particular. Recognizing this tremendous gap, I sensed a calling to write a book that addresses the quest to integrate faith and work in a way that honors powerful theological frameworks but that also integrates empirical research and evidence-based practice. That project became Redeeming Work.

JA: What is the primary takeaway you hope readers will learn from reading your book?

BD: If I had to distill it to one, it’d be that fully integrating one’s religious and spiritual meaning system within their career development is not only possible, but doing so is exciting, enriching, energizing, and prompts the kind of massive benefit to self and others that we would expect from living an integrated (rather than compartmentalized) life.

JA: What are some lessons from your book that can help people live more resiliently?

BD: Resilience is essential within the career domain right now, given the threats to our careers caused by the pandemic and by the rapidly changing world of work.  

One key strategy people can employ to live more resiliently is cultivating “career adaptability.” Career adaptability refers to one’s readiness and resources for coping with “tasks, transitions, and traumas” in their careers. Some transitions people face are ones they expect, like finding employment after finishing a degree. Others, like getting laid off, may feel like they come out of nowhere. Nearly all transitions, whether good or bad, are stressful, and require adaptability to manage successfully. Fostering this type of adaptability requires developing a future orientation, recognizing that you have control over your choices, being planful, and actively engaging in an ongoing process of wisely evaluating courses of action. The alternative is passivity and reactivity. Sitting back and just letting things happen takes less effort, but it is a recipe for disappointment, maybe disaster.

Across more than 90 studies, research reveals that people’s career adaptability is linked to numerous beneficial outcomes, including a strong career identity, a sense of calling, reduced job stress, enhanced employability and promotability, and increased engagement, job performance, job and life satisfaction, and positive emotions. Adapting within one’s career journey, in other words, bears fruit.

JA: What are some insights from your book that help readers support a friend or loved one?

BD: There are powerful, evidence-based, theologically-informed strategies that people can lean on for help in integrating their faith within their career journeys. Doing so helps foster a meaningful, integrated life laden with purpose, joy and meaning.

The book also includes access to PathwayU, an online career assessment system designed to help people discern and live out their callings within their careers. 

JA: What are you currently working on these days?

BD: A few things. I’m continuing to help develop PathwayU; I’ve launched the Purposeful Work Podcast, and I’ve started to get interested in understanding how people can extend their callings (or pursue new ones) into retirement. There are so many opportunities to engage the world in meaningful, generative ways in that life stage, and I’m eager to learn more about how best to make that happen.

References

Dik, B. J. (2020). Redeeming work: A guide to discerning God’s calling for your career. West Conshohocken PA: Templeton Press.