Leadership

Oprah Winfrey: Here’s the No. 1 clue you’ve found your life’s calling

Oprah Winfrey 1978
Afro American Newspapers | Gado | Getty Images

Millennials' job-hopping ways have earned them an unfair reputation as disloyal. But that willingness to try different jobs is an approach Oprah Winfrey supports — and one she thinks can help people find their life's calling.

Most people aren't Bill Gates who knew his life's purpose as a teenager. Many — like Oprah Winfrey — needed more time. According to Winfrey, all that's really important is that when you do find your calling, you're able to recognize it.

"Your real job in life is to figure out what it is you are called to do," Winfrey says on her eponymous network. "And you use a job until you can figure out what the calling is."

Like most young people, Winfrey held jobs early in her career that did not bring purpose or meaning to her life, she says. As a teenager, she hated every minute of her job at a grocery store. "I wasn't allowed to talk to customers," she said in an article for Oprah.com. "Can you imagine?"

An early job in TV news wasn't a fit either. She disliked interviewing people in times of tragedy, thinking it exploitative. She also found it difficult to control her emotions because she related so closely to the people in crisis. "I used to be exhausted all the time," Winfrey says, "because I hated it."

At age 22, Winfrey was demoted from her news anchor position in Baltimore, MD, where she was making $22,000 a year. "I thought I was in heaven because I was making my age," she recalls. At the time, her dream was to earn $40,000 by age 40.

While some people would have left the job, two things stopped Winfrey from doing so: She wasn't a quitter and her father advised against it.

"My father was like, 'Better not quit that job. You're making $22,000 a year. Who's going to pay a black woman $22,000 a year? You're never going to make that kind of money,'" the now-billionaire recalls.

Unsure what to do with Winfrey, the station placed her on a local talk show one morning and asked her to interview celebrities. This experience changed her life.

"I felt like this is what I'm supposed to do. All these years I'd been misplaced in news because I couldn't relate," says Winfrey. "The moment I did that talk-show I felt like, 'Oh, I can be myself' and … that was the beginning of fulfilling the calling."

Since that time, says Winfrey, she has never felt worn-out over a job. "If you can find what is your passion, if you can find what you love, you never get tired," says the media mogul. And if you do feel tired, she adds, you're still "fueled by the energy of your work."

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