Called to serve : empirical explorations and a review of calling and the social work profession.


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The concept of calling as it relates to work was historically relegated to vocations and jobs within the church or ministry sector. More broadly, people have discussed being “called” to follow Christ or their specific religion, but only more recently have people’s jobs been described as a calling. The goal of the dissertation was to provide insights into the role and impact of a calling model on those pursuing and working in the social work profession. First, in a narrative review, the researcher looked at previous research on calling conducted in other professions and used those studies as a springboard for discussing the social work-specific research on calling. This review highlighted the need for important conversations and experiences around the concept of calling for students within social work. It also highlighted the value of utilizing a calling model with social work students. Second, in a qualitative study, the researcher conducted interviews with eight social workers who were at varying levels of their educational and professional journeys. The intent of this study was to determine the role of relationships in student decisions to pursue the social work degree. I identified four themes including the importance of relationships with family and friends, faculty and field supervisors, and also relationships and interactions with clients. Finally, the researcher conducted a quantitative study to understand how a sense of calling to social work might impact other areas of a student’s life. The researcher studied the relationship between calling, specifically the transcendent summons, and life satisfaction and then included potential moderating relationships with variables such living one’s calling, religiousness, and core self-evaluations. While the study provided valuable insights, some recommendations for future research include a broader and more diverse sample of participants, using a different measure for religiosity or spirituality, and a comparison of students from only non-religious institutions.



Calling. Social work. Relationships. Vocation.