This past weekend I spent some time interviewing for a spot in a program I would like to be a part of. One of my interviewers asked me an interesting question. He wanted to know what I thought the difference was between a job, a career and a calling. I want to share with you my answer. Let me know if you agree. Hopefully it can open your eyes to circumstances in your own life and make you aware of any changes your may need to make.
So What are They?
In order to understand the difference between the three, we need to define what each of them involves. And while this is how I chose to define the three, your answers may differ. Feel free to include your input in the comments below for all of us!
So what is a job? A job, in its most basic form, is when we do something for a measured amount of time for a predetermined rate of pay. In the context of the three terms we are comparing, a job would be the least glamorous and least personally fulfilling. Sometimes we say we have a job to do. This usually more closely resembles a chore. At times, there may not even be a monetary reward.
A career on the other hand implies more of a sense of duration. Careers tend to be similar to jobs, but we refer to them as a lifetime pursuit. We make changes and improvements to our career over time. That is to say we make changes and improvements to our work environment and renegotiate related terms. Careers carry a dose of identity with them. When we answer what we want to be when we grow up, we typically refer to our vision for our career.
A calling is slightly different than a job or a career. A calling is one part purpose and one part responsibility or duty. I think of a calling as a personal mission statement. It encompasses many overarching lifelong goals we would like to accomplish. It also includes any “higher purposes” we may feel we should live for.
In summary, we can compare the three to transportation. A job would be like taking the bus or the train. You buy your ticket and go where the driver takes you. There are many people on it with you, all doing the same thing. A career on the other hand is what happens when we purchase our own automobile. All of the sudden we have more freedom. What we drive is often related to our personalities and the identity we want to have. And whether you have a job or a career, your calling is the direction you’re going and the destination you hope to reach. It’s often possible to reach it by train or bus, but you can be so much more effective with your own vehicle.
What Do We Get from Each?
When we have a job, we are motivated by one thing – a regular paycheck. By my definition, we do it for the money. Most of us have endured less than pleasurable jobs because of the lure of that paycheck. We are briefly satisfied by the money, but it soon dwindles and we are left looking forward to the next one.
A career gives us a chance to not only work for a paycheck, but to give us a path to a higher paycheck and to throw in a dose of personal satisfaction and fulfillment. When our jobs involve doing something we enjoy and move us closer towards where we want to see ourselves later in life they become part of our careers instead of just a job. We also become more attached personally to our work and we feel it starting to define us. How do you answer when someone asks what you do? Do you tell them you’re an architect? Or do you tell them you would like to be an architect but are currently working at Starbucks to pay the bills? One is a job, the other – a career.
Your calling as a person is completely different. What you feel is your calling will determine your actions regardless of pay. Money can’t change what you feel is your calling. When we find our callings in life, it is because of the personal satisfaction we get from doing it. We feel that we would work towards our calling whether or not anyone paid us to do it, and we can find joy in it even when it’s not financially rewarding. Think of your local school teacher. If people taught for the money, we would have no teachers.
Why Should We Even Care?
That’s a good question. Where do you think true happiness lies in life? Personally, I believe we can maximize our happiness at the intersection of all three – where our job becomes a career working towards our calling.
What do you do with your time each day? Do you go to a job? Do you have a career? Or are you motivated by a higher calling? Does your career take you away from your calling? Does your job steer you in a different direction than where you would like your career to be? Can you increase your “fulfillment to minutes in the day” ratio by making any adjustments? I feel it would be safe to bet that the majority of those who are successful and happy have aligned their lives in this manner.
I invite you all to reassess your own lives. Chances are that you’ll find types of all three in every place you work. If you continually find yourself going to a job every day, think about how you can make changes and work on a career instead. If you make sure your career gives you a chance to live your calling, you will be well on the road to happiness. Just remember, this entire post can be summed up in one quote:
“Choose a job that you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”