What’s So Different About A ‘Calling’?

By Tim Ryan - February 20, 2013   0 Comments

We spend a great deal of time trying to figure out what it is we should be doing. Whether trying to define a specific career path early on or looking to make a switch in emphasis part-way through, it’s a consideration that never seems far from our mind. All the more reason then to make sure we’re getting exactly what we need from our work, aside from simple monetary considerations.
Puzzle
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Bill Barnett entitled “Make Your Job More Meaningful” pointed to three distinct attitudes about work – jobs, careers, and callings. According to the article, identifying your own perspective can help you better define what it is you want from your own professional life.

Those that see their work as a “job” are working more for the money and derive less satisfaction and meaning from it.

On the other hand, “careerists” work for “advancement, pay, and prestige”. Their level of satisfaction tends to differ quite broadly. If they believe they’re advancing well relative to their peers, then they tend to be relatively happy with their work. However, in cases where they feel they’re being held back or are perceived to be missing out on opportunities it can swing to the opposite end of the spectrum. It tends to be quite a delicate balance.

However, those with callings are entirely different. They see their work “as a positive end in itself” and are on the whole much happier and satisfied. These individuals differ drastically because of what they prioritize in their work.

According to Barnett their goals are distinctive in three ways:

They emphasize service – their main motivation is in helping others, whether in public service, charity work, or as business owners looking to lead changes that make their customers better off.

They emphasize craftsmanship – these individuals place a high value on excelling in their field not in order to advance their own interests, but because they believe it to be an intrinsically worthwhile endeavour.

They de-emphasize money– those motivated by a calling are not motivated by money and it doesn’t factor into their decision making.

Ideally, we all want to derive the same satisfaction from our work life as those with callings. However, if you see your work more as a job or a career this won’t be as easy. One way to improve meaning your career is to focus in greater detail on the service and/or craftsmanship component.

As Barnett points out, it may not lead to a calling but can help your find greater meaning and fulfillment from your work.

This is based on Bill Barnett’s original article: Make Your Job More Meaningful.

Photo: used under CC license .

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