Work Worth Doing

Thomas A. Conklin, Gannon University, published “Work Worth Doing: A Phenomenological Study of the Experience of Discovering and Following One’s Calling” on September 13th, 2011 in the Journal of Management Inquiry’s OnlineFirst section. Dr. Conklin kindly provided the following responses to his article.

Who is the target audience for this article?

This article is particularly well suited to academics and teachers who may be available to the ideas it contains. These audiences are often in contact with younger adults and students and the paper is quite relevant for those groups as they try to feel their way into their future. That notwithstanding, it is also very relevant for anyone who is concerned with the meaning of her work or someone who may be at a crossroads in their career.

What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

Honestly, I believe my own curiosity and challenge to find my work has led me to this topic. The paper grew from my dissertation which was discovered through the pursuit of a different but related question. The original intent of my dissertation was to inquire into those who serve the natural environment in some way and to discover/understand how they maintained their momentum given the rampant environmental degradation we often see around us. What I discovered was a cadre of individuals across multiple organizations who were leading with their passion. I was curious about that and just followed what seemed like a natural path.

Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Yes. I was particularly surprised by some of the themes that emerged from their stories. Wholeness/Integration and The Urgent Imperative surprised me but were such a treasure to discover. As a self-confessed/professed nature freak these themes gave me hope for the participants and what they do. They also affirmed in me the hope that we all must have for those who seek the untrodden path in service to something beyond themselves. It is a high calling and a worthy one indeed.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

I have continued to pursue phenomenology as a process for understanding human experience. This interest has evolved into other writing projects and plans for topics that would be interesting. Currently I am working on a paper that focuses on the experience of the appreciative inquiry practitioner. The heart of the paper has to do with who these folks are becoming as a result of their work. I also find that phenomenology and the natural world are popular topics that are meaningful to discuss with students and clients. It seems that others are curious about these things and these containers are meaningful areas for significant conversations and inquiry into their lives.

How does this study fit into your body of work/line of research?

This work unites two streams of interest I have: phenomenology and career/callings. I believe there are other links between these ideas and my interest in appreciative inquiry, leadership, and pedagogy. I am curious about the intersection of these various ideas and how at times one may be the process and at others it may be the content of the inquiry. Appreciative inquiry, for instance, can be the very topic of inquiry or it may serve as the means my which one could inquire into another topic. I believe the same could be said of phenomenology and pedagogy. I plan on continuing to explore the relationships among these ideas.

How did your paper change during the review process?

The paper and I were both enriched through the review process. The paper reflects some wonderful ideas that would never had occurred to me had it not been for Dr. Marvin Washington and the two anonymous reviewers. The inclusion of Lance Armstrong’s book and the ideas contained there in rounding out the section on meaning was a brilliant suggestion and added immensely to the final project. Further integration of rich philosophical as well as classic literature contributed to a manuscript that far and away exceeded anything that might have been created solely by my own hand.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could go back and do this study again?

Well, through the review process I would have to say that whatever I wanted to change was accomplished. If there was one thing it would be to have more contact with the participants months and years after the writing was complete. The sheer interest in them as people and then as partners in the research process as well as, and more importantly, fellow planetary citizens would be a wonderful privilege. That would offer even deeper insights into who they were and who they are becoming and a fuller understanding of their experience of finding their calling. More important than any of this however, is the opportunity to remain in relationship with these magnificent servants as we all collectively evolve through the conversations that emerge.

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