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

To some people, this may seem like a simple matter of semantics, but I think there is something much more profound here that is worth discussing. I also find that I get very different responses, depending on who is participating in this conversation with me. When you think about what you do for a living, whatever it may be, do you think about it as a job, a career, or a calling?

Even if you’re not particularly pleased with your current vocation, you may be looking at some greener pastures that are just on the other side of the road. To some people, those greener pastures are just a job. To others, they represent a new career. And to a very select few, it could be what they’d consider a calling… but what is the difference?

A Job Pays the Bills

Up until I embarked on this freelance writing road, I think I only had what you would call jobs. These are the kinds of positions that you do perhaps for the learning experience, but more likely for the money. That’s not to say that jobs can’t be enjoyable, but it is to say that I didn’t really visualize much of a future in any of these workplaces doing the work that I was doing. From a movie theatre to a car rental company, they didn’t represent what I wanted to do “for a living.”

To guys like John Chow, who consider themselves to be “unemployable,” jobs simply are not an option. If you can’t get hired, you can’t get a job. On the flip side, I find that far too many people “settle” on just any job, because they need the money for whatever reason. To them, it’s a job. Given the option, they could dump them at the drop of a hat. There’s no sense of attachment.

A Career Is a Progressive Occupation

And that’s one of the biggest differences between a job and a career. With the latter, you can have a greater sense of ownership, because you might see more of a future doing what you’re doing. You can imagine yourself doing that kind of work five, ten, or even twenty years down the road.

More importantly, a career needs to be progressive. This means that you have opportunities for advancement, taking on more (and different) responsibilities. Ideally, you earn some more money along the way too.

A person may start out as a part-time salesperson, but that same person can go on to become a district manager in the same company. A freelance writer might start with basic blog posts, but he can develop into a legitimate published author. Yes, it happens.

A Calling Defines Your Life’s Purpose

This is perhaps the highest level of them all. Instead of a career that you happen to find, you might say that a calling is what you’re destined to do. It is the kind of occupation that gives your life a great deal of purpose and meaning, both of which are important in finding satisfying work in your life.

I know that there are a number of people in the education field who read this blog regularly. They may or may not think that their careers are a calling, but that’s exactly the impression I get from some teachers. They love children and they love the process of learning. They feel like they were meant for that kind of work and I think that’s fantastic. Doctors, real estate developers, and all kinds of other people sometimes get this same feeling.

For my part, I’m not sure that writing was really my “calling,” per se, but it does give my life purpose and direction. What about you?