Calling, Change, and Career

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In June and July MethodSpace will focus on research-oriented careers including career purpose and goals, skills, as well as expected and unexpected transitions. Find the whole series of posts here.

Whether you are interested in career development because you are in the midst of your own job-search, or you work with students who are starting or changing careers, you’ve undoubtedly considered some common questions:


  • What am I meant to do, what is my purpose or calling?
  • Given my background, personality, and life goals, will I fit in with this line of work and this organization?
  • Am I taking the right steps to build my credibility and reputation, including in the way I present myself online?

This collection of open-access studies touches on these questions. While research articles are not typically framed as how-to guidance, you might find some ideas you can use!


Boon, C., & Biron, M. (2016). Temporal issues in person–organization fit, person–job fit and turnover: The role of leader–member exchange. Human Relations, 69(12), 2177–2200. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726716636945

Abstract. Person–environment fit has been found to have significant implications for employee attitudes and behaviors. Most research to date has approached person–environment fit as a static phenomenon, and without examining how different types of person–environment fit may affect each other. In particular, little is known about the conditions under which fit with one aspect of the environment influences another aspect, as well as subsequent behavior. To address this gap we examine the role of leader–member exchange in the relationship between two types of person–environment fit over time: person–organization and person–job fit, and subsequent turnover. Using data from two waves (T1 and T2, respectively) and turnover data collected two years later (T3) from a sample of 160 employees working in an elderly care organization in the Netherlands, we find that person–organization fit at T1 is positively associated with person–job fit at T2, but only for employees in high-quality leader–member exchange relationships. Higher needs–supplies fit at T2 is associated with lower turnover at T3. In contrast, among employees in high-quality leader–member exchange relationships, the demands–abilities dimension of person–job fit at T2 is associated with higher turnover at T3.


Gruzd, A., Jacobson, J., & Dubois, E. (2020). Cybervetting and the Public Life of Social Media Data. Social Media + Societyhttps://doi.org/10.1177/2056305120915618

Abstract. The article examines whether and how the ever-evolving practice of using social media to screen job applicants may undermine people’s trust in the organizations that are engaging in this practice. Using a survey of 429 participants, we assess whether their comfort level with cybervetting can be explained by the factors outlined by Petronio’s communication privacy management theory: culture, gender, motivation, and risk-benefit ratio. We find that respondents from India are significantly more comfortable with social media screening than those living in the United States. We did not find any gender-based differences in individuals’ comfort with social media screening, which suggests that there may be some consistent set of norms, expectations, or “privacy rules” that apply in the context of employment seeking—irrespective of gender. As a theoretical contribution, we apply the communication privacy management theory to analyze information that is publicly available, which offers a unique extension of the theory that focuses on private information. Importantly, the research suggests that privacy boundaries are not only important when it comes to private information, but also with information that is publicly available on social media. The research identifies that just because social media data are public, does not mean people do not have context-specific and data-specific expectations of privacy.


Kim, S. S., Shin, D., Vough, H. C., Hewlin, P. F., & Vandenberghe, C. (2018). How do callings relate to job performance? The role of organizational commitment and ideological contract fulfillmentHuman Relations71(10), 1319–1347. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726717743310

Abstract. Do individuals with callings perform better than those without? Why or why not? There are not clear answers to these questions in the literature. Using a social exchange framework, we posit an intervening process between callings and job performance, focusing on the role of organizational commitment and ideological contract fulfillment – the degree to which organizations live up to their ideological promises. Specifically, individuals with callings will be more committed to their organization, and this commitment, in turn, leads to job performance. Further, this relationship of calling to job performance through commitment will be attenuated when employees perceive under-fulfillment of ideological contract. We found support for these hypotheses across three studies that utilized self- or supervisor-rated performance data from a non-profit organization and multiple for-profit organizations. Interestingly, while the relationship between commitment and performance did depend on fulfillment of the ideological psychological contract, contrary to our prediction, the calling-commitment relationship was not attenuated by under-fulfillment of ideological contract. Our findings deepen our understanding of the organizational implications of callings from a social exchange-based perspective. This study further informs practitioners as to hiring and motivating individuals with a calling.


Peeters, E. R., Akkermans, J., & De Cuyper, N. (2020). The Only Constant Is Change? Movement Capital and Perceived Employability. Journal of Career Assessmenthttps://doi.org/10.1177/1069072720918195

Abstract. This study examines to what extent the four aspects of movement capital (i.e., human capital, adaptability, self-awareness, and social capital) contribute to individuals’ perceived employability. Building on the model of career mobility, we expected positive effects of all movement capital aspects on perceived employability over time. Hypotheses were tested by means of longitudinal structural equation models in two samples of Belgian respondents from the private (N = 409, 6 months between measurements) and the public (N = 718, 8 months between measurements) sector. We established a reciprocal relationship between self-awareness and perceived employability. The other associations of human capital, adaptability, and social capital were surprisingly small and inconsistent. There appears to be a disconnect between conceptualizations and measurements of employability; whereas conceptualizations of perceived employability focus on obtaining and retaining employment, measurements only tap into the former. At the same time, movement capital conceptualizations focus on obtaining employment, whereas their measurements tap into obtaining and retaining employment.


Vianello, M., Galliani, E. M., Rosa, A. D., & Anselmi, P. (2020). The Developmental Trajectories of Calling: Predictors and OutcomesJournal of Career Assessment28(1), 128–146. https://doi.org/10.1177/1069072719831276

Abstract. There are many open questions concerning the development of calling, and longitudinal empirical evidence is limited. We know that a calling is associated with many beneficial outcomes, but we do not know how it changes through time and what predicts these changes. Previous studies have shown that calling is relatively stable at the sample level. We show that, at the individual level, calling shows huge variations through time. We identified nine developmental trajectories that are typical across facets of calling, and we found evidence that the development of a calling is fostered by the extent to which individuals have lived it out. We also observed that the more a calling has grown over a 2-year period, the more it is lived out during the third year. These results provide support for a developmental model of calling according to which having a calling and living it out reciprocally influence each other. The practical and theoretical implications of these results are discussed.


Wyant, A., Manzoni, A., & McDonald, S. (2018). Social Skill Dimensions and Career Dynamics. Socius. https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023118768007

Abstract. All work is social, yet little is known about social skill dimensions or how social skill experiences accumulate across careers. Using occupational data (O*NET) on social tasks, the authors identify social skills’ latent dimensions. They find four main types: emotion, communication, coordination, and sales. O*NET provides skill importance scores for each occupation, which the authors link to individual careers (Panel Study of Income Dynamics). The authors then analyze cumulative skill exposure among three cohorts of workers using multitrajectory modeling. They find substantial variability in social skill experience across early-, middle-, and late-career workers. White, female, and highly educated workers are the most likely to accumulate social skill experience, net of total years of experience. Group differences in cumulative exposure to social skill are rooted in early-career experiences. This study enhances the understanding of social skill exposure across careers and has important implications for future research on social stratification and economic inequality.

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