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Do You Have a Job, a Career, or a Calling?

by Beth on April 6th, 2011

People typically see their work as a job, a career, or a calling.  Those who view their work as a job do it mainly to earn a living.  People who see their work as a career are interested in money, responsibility, and advancement.  People who consider their work a calling believe the work they do serves an important purpose.  They do the work for its own sake, not for financial or other benefits.  They are passionate about what they do because they feel they are making a difference in the world.

Interestingly, whether or not people experience their work as a calling does not depend on the actual work they do.  People in any occupation can have a job, career, or calling orientation.  Meaning comes from how they understand the work they do, not the work itself.  The fact is most any job has social value.  So what matters is that the person recognize the value of the work he or she does.

In a classic example, a traveler happens upon 3 stonemasons hard at work.  He asks them each in turn what they are doing.  The first one responds that he is “cutting stone.”  The second says he is “preparing a foundation.”  The third stonemason declares that he is “building a cathedral!”  In a modern day example, a hospital janitor explains that his work is as important as the work of the surgeons because if he doesn’t keep the hospital clean patients won’t get better.

People who view the work they do as a calling experience a sense of meaning that boosts their positivity.  They are happier and, as a result, more likely to succeed.  So how do you view your work?  And what about your employees?  Do they see the value of the work they do?

From → Meaning, Work

  1. Keith C. Kerber permalink

    I remember –probably more than 20 years ago- listening to Zig Ziglar talk about two men who went to work for the same railroad company at the same time. Some years later one was president of the company and the other hadn’t advanced much. The difference said Ziglar was their vision (calling): When the man who became president began work he “…went to work for THE RAILROAD” The other “went to work for [$2}AN HOUR”
    I don’t recall the particulars such as th amount per hour but the concept of having a vision for yourself and a sense your calling/purpose has stuck with me. I find I am more motivated to do the mundane tasks like cleaning dishes and floors when I think like the janitor about the higher purpose and end result.

  2. Francesco Frova permalink

    So true!
    This is Vision, declined to workers’ level.
    Some of us are naturally more talented in broadening one’s horizon, but training in it is just as important!!

    I am definitely going to spread this around Beth, thanks for sharing!!

  3. Beth permalink

    Thanks for the comments! I totally agree, Keith! Every job requires some boring tasks, but they are easier to get through when you remember the bigger picture, the “why” of it all.

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