Do You Have A Job, A Career Or A Calling?

What is your relationship with your work? How do you approach your work?

In Habits of the Heart, Bellah et al. talks about three distinct relations people can have to their work: as a job, a career and a calling. Most people approach their work in one of the three ways.

Let’s take a look at the definitions:

  • Job – A paid position of regular employment.
  • Career – An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.
  • Calling – A strong inner urge toward a particular way of life or career.

If you see your work as a job, you are only interested in the material benefits from work and do not seek or receive any other type of reward from it. Your focus is on financial rewards and necessity rather than pleasure or fulfillment. The work is not an end in itself, but a means that allows you to acquire the resources needed to enjoy life. You pursue hobbies for satisfaction and fulfillment that your work don’t give you.

If you see your work as a career, you have a deeper personal investment in your work. You have goals of advancement, promotion, and prestige. Your focus is on advancement. The advancement often brings higher self-esteem, social status and more power.

If you see your work as a calling, you work not for financial gain or career advancement, but instead for the fulfillment that doing the work brings for you. Your focus is on doing socially useful work, on the impact and purpose of what you do. You see your work as contributing to the greater good. When you are living your calling, you have moved from external to internal motivation. Your work is intrinsically fulfilling, you are not doing it to achieve something else.  You are willing to work even without pay. You would continue to work, even if you suddenly became very wealthy and have no need to work. Your work is inseparable from your life. You so enjoy your work that it doesn’t feel like work for you. Time flies by quickly.

A job tends to deplete you and a calling can energize you.

Many people simply have a job to do. They give time and energy to their employers in exchange for a compensation. They find no motivation, no satisfaction and no fulfillment on the job.

If you see your work as a job with no satisfaction and fulfillment, maybe it’s time to do some soul searching and find your calling in life.

If you are an employer, a manager, a leader, what are you doing to help your employees find their sense of calling in what they do?


For further reading:

Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C. R., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People’s relations to their work

1 Response

  1. John

    Again, well thought out! We have fallen asleep at the wheel in our lives and followed the formula instead of our hearts. Formula: be good, do good in school, go to college, get a good job. Auto-pilot has created a society of automatons.

    Keep up the encouragement!

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