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Campus Q&A

Dr. Jeremy Fyke explores the million-dollar question:
What am I supposed to do with my life?

Fyke, an assistant professor of communication studies in the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication, invites students to consider greater life callings when job hunting. His professional and personal research interests include tackling big questions about careers, vocations and the discernment process.

MM: What makes a job, a career and a vocation different?

JF: I always defined a career as the pursuit of meaningful work across the life span. A job would be part of that. Vocation is your life’s work, which includes things like paid jobs and volunteer work. We come to discover our vocation through discernment. It’s the pursuit of the question: How can I best use my gifts and talents to serve the greatest number of people?

MM: How does someone go about discerning?

JF: Having the three F's  friends, family and faith  helps a lot. Certainly, prayer was something I did at varying rates, but trial and error was my biggest method. I’ve had something like 17 jobs. But even when we land a job we like, discernment should never stop. It’s important to have continual internal dialogues to reflect on the decisions we’re making, how we’re treating people, and other opportunities we could chase that are both realistic and helpful.

MM: What did your process of discernment look like?

JF: My process of discernment was a mess. I don’t know too many professors who have had a path like mine. I mean, I sold vacuum cleaners door to door when I was 20 years old. It took awhile to discover my true passion. When I worked as a pharmacy technician, for me, personally, that was just a job. When I worked at Sonic as a carhop, that was just a job. I started pursuing questions I found interesting and realized there’s a career dedicated to that  being a professor. It’s a career, a job, but it’s also part of this larger pursuit of meaningful work for me.

MM: How does today’s fast-paced society affect discernment?

JF: I really believe the days of being in one workplace for 40 years are gone. There’s a new social contract, maybe even a lack of a social contract. It’s like society today has a Google mindset. People see new things and immediately check them out. I think it’s good, but we have to be mindful and continue to reflect on how what we’re doing now fits into the larger puzzle. Part of discernment is asking: Are you happy? How’s your health? How’s your family? JB


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