Organization development master’s-degree student Paul Sohn pits career versus calling for the ambitious 20-something Christian in his new book, Quarter-Life Calling.
Paul Sohn knows a thing or two about using his 20s—often called the “defining decade”—to their fullpotential. At 29 years old, Sohn is a leadership consultant for GiANT Worldwide, maintains a blog that has been ranked number 15 of the Top 50 Leadership Blogs to Follow, has worked for a Fortune 500 company, and was named one of the Top 33 Under 33 Christian Millennials to Watch by Christianity Today.
Facing his 30th birthday later this year and set to graduate in August from the Graziadio School of Business and Management’s MS in Organization Development program, Sohn has collected the wisdom gained from his life experience, work, and education to publish a book for young Christians not yet as confident in their own callings. Quarter-Life Calling: How to Find Your Sweet Spot in Your Twenties was released in December 2015.
“A lot of people embrace the model that everybody is working for the weekend, that a job is merely a means to an end,” Sohn says, hinting at the book’s subject matter. “But a calling is something that is God-given and is something that, even if you don’t make a lot of money, you are born to do. The book really explores finding your identity in Christ, as well as finding your ‘vocational sweet spot’—the place where your life story, your gifts, your personality, and your passions intersect. Sohn’s own path to leadership began at the University of British Columbia, where he received a bachelor’s degree in commerce, organizational behavior, and human resources in 2010. As an undergrad, he took on various leadership roles within the student body, such as peer educator for the career services office, public relations officer for the tennis club, and thought leader through his writings for the student newspaper. Childhood, however, was a different story, particularly when his family moved from the United States back to Korea when Sohn was 9 years old. The family stayed in Korea until he was 14.
“I was very comfortable being a follower,” Sohn recalls. “I was trying to simply survive because I didn’t really speak the language well and wasn’t able to understand the culture well, so leadership wasn’t really even an option. It was more like, how do I keep up? Now I would call myself a student of leadership; it’s something I’ve intentionally worked on.”
His professional career began when Boeing Commercial Airplanes hired him as a staff analyst in January 2011, and that summer he launched his leadership blog, paulsohn.org, while earning a certificate in change leadership from Cornell University. He was on track for leadership roles, but he explains that sometime in the last five years he became clued in to a calling towards helping other leaders reach their potential.
He says, “I felt God calling me to a place where I could leverage my spiritual gifts and passions to help other leaders discover their own God-given callings in life.” Currently a leadership consultant for GiANT Worldwide, he mentors clients through workshops, seminars, and one on one coaching for leaders looking to experience real transformation. He has enjoyed seeing clients not just grow into stronger leaders, but, in some cases, find healing in broken areas of their lives.
“One of my clients had really been struggling to think about his identity, calling, future, and goals,” says Sohn. “He had a lot of anxiety behind figuring out his next step. While I was coaching him, it was eventually revealed that the anxiety came from a lack of love he felt from his parents, and that he always felt as though he had to perform and accomplish great things in order to feel worthy. That was a big breakthrough moment.”
The client spoke with his parents and opened up to them about the family dynamic in an intense conversation, the likes of which had never before been broached. His parents apologized for his experiences, explaining that it was unintentional, and the family experienced healing. “That really created a breakthrough for him to find out that his parents really do love him. He was liberated from the bondage of having to live up to their expectations.”
The only expectations that matter, Sohn says, are the ones that belong to an individual and to God. Sohn’s faith is evident throughout his writings; he calls it the single most important influence in his life.
‘It is the most important thread that is woven throughout everything in my life. Without faith, it’s hard for me to talk about my life in general—it’s just something I feel is a non-negotiable part of who I am,” he explains.
Sohn acknowledges that he is fortunate to be in a position to voice his faith as part of his professional calling, but he also has advice applicable to any Christian seeking to lead by example in their place of work, no matter the circumstances.
“There is something countercultural about following the teachings of Jesus, as well as trying to do the very best you can. God has given everyone a gift to exercise, and I believe that if you have a gift, you have a responsibility to steward that and be the very best at it. Doing excellent work is a way to glorify God and keep God at the center,” says Sohn. “You might not have a very influential role or title, but I believe that every person carries influence and becomes a leader when they act in a way that is Jesus-like.”