Whether your work is a Job, Career or Calling is very much down to your point of view. One man’s calling is another man’s drudgery.
Jobs, Careers and Callings – What’s the difference?
- A job – Something you do for the money. You get paid for your time and don’t expect any other benefits of doing the work. You’d probably drop the work like a hot potato if you won the lottery. Maybe your job pays for you to follow your passions and hobbies outside work.
- A career – A career can be differentiated from a job, by the recognition and progress being made. By “climbing the ladder” at work, or within an industry, you might gain better social status and are likely to achieve more autonomy and responsibility. Work is more challenging and enjoyable.
- A calling – A calling involves a strong sense of purpose that motivates someone. It might involve mastery of a subject, or serving others, or building connections with others – but it will provide a deep sense of personal fulfilment. In contrast to a job, you might choose to continue doing this if you won the lottery – because you enjoy it, it speaks to your strengths and values and you find the work rewarding. Unlike a job or career, which might be driven by external factors and the things that happen as a result of the work, a calling comes from within, it’s not for the money or recognition – but the personal satisfaction it brings. You love it for the work itself, not what it generates.
A calling is in the eye of the beholder
A study in 1997 asked two hundred workers on how they saw their work. The group included 24 people in exactly the same role, and interestingly roughly a third found their role just a job, a third a career and the final third a calling.
From my own experience I fell into my first job by chance. I was saving up to go traveling and stumbled into the credit control department of an Information Technology distributor. I naturally gravitated towards the sales floor and before you know it my traveling went out the window as my roles in technology sales started to take off.
The first sign of a career for me was when I was headhunted for a role. It was a step up and involved progression, a steep learning curve and responsibility. In short it was a challenge and very rewarding.
A few years later and senior management changes led to a bit of disillusion with the company and I decided to start out on my own. By then I was itching to run my own business. Despite my passion for entrepreneurship I still wouldn’t call it a calling. That came later when a side project focussed on IT Asset Management started to gain traction.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what a calling feels like. I felt compelled to do it, it just felt like the right thing to do, despite no evidence that it might work in the longer term! It is said that people following a calling enjoy the highest level of life and work satisfaction, you just feel you are doing the work you were meant to do.
Being nudged in a direction
As part of my midlife awakening described in previous posts – I started a Masters Degree in occupational psychology in September 2022, something I’m thoroughly enjoying. I also feel drawn to this subject – despite not knowing what the outcome might be.
I really want to explore how people identify what their true calling is, if they don’t already know it, and how to address the barriers preventing them pursuing it.
A “calling” originally had religious connotations, you’d be called by God towards a particular vocation. The psychologists Bryan Dik and Ryan Duffy refer to a calling as a “Transcendent Summons”, but I think this approach still clings to the religious element. Whilst there is no doubt that a calling comes from within and needs to be teased out, there must be a systematic way of identifying it without it being a mystical experience?
Let me know how you are getting on with your own career journey and whether you’ve found your true calling. Do you have a job, career or calling?
Image Credit: https://openai.com/dall-e-2/
Jobs, Careers, and Callings: People’s Relations to Their Work
Calling and vocation at work: Definitions and prospects for research and practice.