Enjoying Work: Finding Your Calling

Only half of all Americans would describe themselves as satisfied with their current employment.  This begs the question, what can we do to make our current jobs more meaningful and pleasurable, or barring this, find a new job that will make us happier?    To tackle this, it helps to know whether you experience your current position as a job, a career or a calling, as defined by sociologist Robert Bellah and his colleagues.  A job is viewed as a task to get accomplished for the end goal of receiving a paycheck.  It does not provide any personal rewards or fulfillment.  A career is seen as a means for increasing your income and status via accomplishments and promotions.  You are motivated by extrinsic factors and when you reach the pinnacle of achievement, you often look elsewhere for a deeper personal investment.  A calling is seen as gratifying work that you are passionate about.  You work not just for the paycheck or opportunities for advancement, but because you enjoy the job in and of itself.   Depending on one’s perspective and approach, a truck driver could view his job as a calling whereas a brain surgeon might see his position as a job.


You are most likely to find enjoyment in your work, when it utilizes your skills and talents, makes a positive impact on others, and is neither too easy or way above your skill level.  A dream job is rarely handed to anyone on a silver platter, putting the onus on the individual to work hard to sculpt an occupation that meets their needs.   Setting goals for yourself, carving out niches that you find rewarding, and seeking out new learning experiences are all possible ways in which you can expand upon your current role for greater satisfaction.    You can begin to identify how to transition your job into a calling or select an occupation that truly suits you by

merging and finding the overlap amongst these areas:  what your strengths are, what gives you pleasure, and what you find to be meaningful. 


Exercise # 1:   Reflection/Discussion: How do you view your current employment:  Is it a job, a career, or a calling? What is your idea of a dream job? How do your co-workers view their positions, and why?  What about employment that you held in the past: did you view it any differently?  Can you increase the amount of time you engage in activities you like at work or decrease the amount of time you spend in activities you dislike?


Exercise #2: Reflection/Discussion: Think about a time when you did something spectacular at work.  What kinds of thoughts, feelings, and feedback did you experience? What were the personal strengths that you displayed in that situation?  Have a friend or spouse do this exercise with you and then swap stories.


Exercise #3:  Journaling:  Make three separate lists of your general strengths, what gives you pleasure, and what you find to be meaningful.  Examine the three separate lists and see if any items appear to go together across the lists.  Are there ways to incorporate any of these areas into your current position in order to transition more aspects of your work into a calling?   If you view your employment as a job and can’t see any ways to improve upon it, do you have the desire, motivation, or flexibility to look for something else?  Why or why not?