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

by | Jan 12, 2023


The Mega Millions jackpot for Friday’s drawing is $1.35 Billion. If you won, would you quit your job?

How you answer this question depends on your work orientation: whether your work is a job, a career, or a calling.

Work as a Job

A job orientation is a transactional view of work. These workers view their work merely in terms of tangible benefits. They work for their paycheck and benefits and count the minutes to the end of their work day. They are likely to switch jobs if they think they can get more pay. Those who “quiet quit” likely have a job orientation.

This sounds miserable.

Work as a Career

Employees with a career orientation see their job as a means to an end. Their job is a stepping stone to something else: a feeling of achievement and success, respect, status, identity, and more money. These workers may enjoy their work, but look forward to retirement and vacations.

I have friends with this work orientation. They talk about what “number” they need to get to in terms of wealth before they can retire and look forward to retiring.

This sounds better than miserable, but not great.

Work as a Calling

Some people view their work as a calling: their jobs manifest their purpose. They love their jobs and think that their work is important and makes a positive difference in the world. Their work excites them, and they aren’t primarily motivated by money. I know teachers, nurses, and therapists that feel this way. I also know accountants, wealth managers, and lawyers who view their work as a calling.

I think this is what we all want for ourselves and our children — to have our work be our calling and aligned with our purpose. Of the three categories of workers, these are the ones who would happily show up at their jobs after winning $1.35 billion.

A Nice Summary Table

Here’s a helpful chart summarizing the three work orientations from the book Happiness: Unlocking the Keys to Psychological Wealth by Ed Diener and Robert Biwas-Diener (that book is also the source for this IFOD):




  2. Nice post John — even inspired me to read more. Still…a quibble, if I may. It is fascinating the way our minds love to categorize and bin. We really do like to have discreet boxes we can place things into. In my experience every position I have had is comprised of a little bit “job” mixed with aspects of “career” and including some degree of “calling”. And over our lifetimes the recipe changes to reflect different combinations. Even when pursuing work that manifests our highest calling there is always aspects of it that can only be described as a job. But even in then – the tedious and seemingly least rewarding aspects of what we do are still in the service of purpose. I think young people in particular need to know that its getting the mix right that they should aim for and not rejecting work that is not 100% of perfect.


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