Bryan Dik ’98 quickly admits that for a vocational psychologist, his own career journey was a little messy—and not very scientific.
He felt more than slightly “nudged” to attend Calvin because his family’s roots in the school are so deep. After all, his grandmother, Celia Bruinooge Dik ’52, wrote the words to the Calvin alma mater.
But once he arrived on campus, Dik said he “totally fell in love with the place.” He immersed himself in classes and residence life leadership and stormed through the college in just three years.
He remembers a treasured psychology professor-mentor, Wayne Joosse; discovering a book, The Fabric of This World, by philosophy professor Lee Hardy, that has been a lifelong touchstone; and a semi-casual conversation with Broene Center counselor Bob Reed that led him to his first tentative career decisions.
Dik is also quick to add that meeting his wife-to-be, Amy Van Guilder ’00, on a Calvin interim trip to Israel positively changed the course of his life as well.
In graduate school at the University of Minnesota, Dik coordinated his program’s career assessment clinic and counseled mid-career adults who were often successful but seldom happy in their work.
“I remember some of them using the word ‘calling,’” he said, “as in, ‘I want to find my calling.’ And this hit home for me, because perhaps ironically, I was still struggling with that myself.”
He discovered that within the social sciences, there were very few studies on calling and purpose in work.
“Here was my opening,” he said. “One way I could use my training was to initiate research on calling—measure it, see what difference it makes if people feel called to their work, and develop some strategies for people to discern and live out their callings.
“In other words,” he continued, “I felt maybe ‘calling’ was my calling.”
After completing his PhD in psychology at Minnesota, Dik took a faculty position at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He’s been there 11 years, collaborating with colleagues across the globe to introduce “calling” more prominently into academic and popular conversations about career development.
Dik defines “calling” as a transcendent summons toward purposeful work carried out for the greater good.
“I’m interested in understanding how people think about their work, and how that influences the way they feel about their lives.”Brian Dik
“The word ‘calling’ implies a caller,” says Dik. “Christians identify the caller as God. Others may point to other sources. From a theological perspective, I believe that by his grace God uses anyone he pleases to carry out his redemptive work in the world. But from a psychological perspective, I’m interested in understanding how people think about their work, and how that influences the way they feel about their lives.”
With colleague Ryan Duffy, Dik published a trade book, Make Your Job a Calling: How the Psychology of Vocation Can Change Your Life at Work (Templeton Press, 2013). He and another colleague also teamed with entrepreneurs to develop an online career assessment system called JobZology. The software offers evidence-based guidance for students and jobseekers and uses patented algorithms to connect individuals to career paths based on psychological fit. The goal is to help people identify opportunities that will bring them joy and meaning—and ultimately to help organizations find employees driven by a sense of purpose.
Calvin is testing the use of JobZology in classes and in the career development office this year.
Dik finds his joy in helping people discover their God-given calling: “It is exciting when people who were in the place I was, wondering what to do with their lives, can use these tools and see how they are unique and explore career paths that fit them well.
“Christ is Lord of every square inch,” he added, “and I believe he’s glorified when people find the square inch they are called to steward.”