Vocational Wayfinding: Navigating the Work-Life Journey


“What am I to do with my life?” “Who am I?”

There appears to be an inextricable connection between the work that we do and our sense of who we are. As the poet David Whyte has suggested, work is for all of us a pilgrimage of identity. It is not, however, a pilgrimage for which any of us are provided with a GPS device, allowing us to navigate in straight lines with comfortable certainty towards clear career objectives that cohere in obvious ways with an immutable sense of our identity. Instead, this pilgrimage is more like the experience of Polynesian sailors, who traversed the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean with the help of the stars, memory, and close attention to the patterns of the waves on the surface of the ocean as these reflected features of the ocean (including far-off islands). Polynesian wayfinding was a way of navigating that required alert improvisation and frequent reorientation from within a perpetually shifting context. Our vocational pilgrimages require of us to find our way in a similar manner. 

Vocational Wayfinding is a two-part course that will equip participants to navigate the work-life journey by providing frameworks with which to make sense of the meaning of their work, as well as tools to make decisions on how to go about the next phase in their careers. These frameworks and tools will be equally helpful to people who are preparing to navigate the college to workplace transition, who are dealing with a quarter- or mid-life crisis, or who are preparing to navigate the transition from the workplace to retirement (a.k.a. the third third of life, and especially if they are considering an encore career, whether paid or as volunteers). The course will be very helpful to people who are helping others to navigate their work-life journeys, including campus ministers, pastors and priests, high school teachers, coaches and mentors.

The first six-week module, beginning the week of September 19, will focus more on frameworks for digging into the meaning of our work-life journeys, and will include a discussion of David Whyte’s book Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity. The second six-week module, beginning the week of November 7, will focus more on practical tools for figuring out how to go about the next phase of our careers, and will include a discussion of Herminia Ibarra’s book Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career.

While Vocational Wayfinding will be available directly to individuals as an online course, we hope that most participants will be part of a small group doing the course together with their local church or work organization, with weekly small group discussions in addition to the online course material. To facilitate this, ICS will provide a discussion guide and training for these small group leaders.

There are three possible levels of participation: 

  1. Participants taking the course at the level of an adult discipleship experience will focus on the core reading, video viewing and in-person small group discussions, and will have access to the online materials (video and readings) and discussions provided by ICS. It is recommended that participants in the course at this level be part of a learning community in their church or organization which would meet weekly to discuss the course material using a discussion guide developed by ICS. These weekly meetings would be moderated by small group leaders from your institution who have participated in training provided by ICS. (See 2. below) Fee: $150.00/person/6-week module
  2. Participants taking the course as preparation to lead a small group will participate fully in the online forum moderated by the ICS instructor, while doing all of the required reading in addition to the core reading and video viewing provided by ICS. In addition, participants at this level will have access to online video meetings with the ICS instructor throughout the duration of the six-week module. Fee: $250.00/person/6-week module
  3. Participants taking the course for credit will receive an ICS Certificate in Vocational Wayfinding as well as full course credit towards a degree (if they intend to include this course in either of ICS’s Masters in Worldview Studies or Master of Arts in Philosophy degrees) after completion of all of the required reading and viewing, participation in small group discussions as well as the online forums, and the completion of additional writing assignments. Tuition fee: $900.00/student for both 6-week modules (credit course).

The ICS instructor for Vocational Wayfinding will be Dr. Gideon Strauss, Associate Professor of Worldview Studies at ICS. Gideon will be available to participating institutions for sermons, talks, and discussions relating to Vocational Wayfinding before the start and during the course of the two modules, by prior arrangement and at a negotiated fee paid to ICS.

If there is sufficient interest ICS will work with participating institutions to offer a one-day retreat in the Greater Toronto Area for Vocational Wayfinding participants, the fees for which are to be determined.

For more information, check out the ICS website

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