Hey, with very few exceptions everyone has to do something to bring in some money on a regular basis, right? And I find it interesting that when you talk to people about how they earn their pay, most tend to talk about what they do in three different ways. They either say, “it’s just a job,” “it’s my career,” or “it’s my calling.”
When someone sees what they do as just a job; they usually mean it’s something that needs to be done in order to bring home the bacon – they’re in it for the money. If cushier working conditions, better benefits or a higher-paying job opportunity comes along, they’ll probably go for it because it’s all about the paycheck.
For those that see what they do as a career, it’s usually a little bit different. Sure, the money counts for a lot, but usually more as a measuring stick and a side benefit to the bigger things. And those bigger things will usually include the status, advancement opportunities and authority that can come with moving up the ladder of career success.
And then there’s the last segment, those who view what they do for a living as a calling. To these folks it’s the work itself that really matters. For them, deriving great personal satisfaction from the work they do is the most important force that drives them on a daily basis.
So which group would it be the best to be most closely related to? To be honest, I don’t think it really matters all that much. I believe that the best group to belong to is most likely the one that’s right for you and your personality, motivations and goals.
Whether you are looking for your first job or have been in the workforce for many years, it’s probably a good idea to explore the possibilities of which job path is the right one for you, and to assess and widen your skill set in order to be the best you can be at whatever it is that you do for a living. This should help you make the right choices and take advantage of any options that may come your way.
Don’t you think you owe it to yourself to give your best shot to everything you set out to accomplish in life? Don’t you think you should try to stand out in just about everything you do? You’ve got special talents, skills, desires and dreams; everyone does. Put a finger on those things and assess where you’re at now, both personally and financially. Then go ahead and sketch out where you’d like to be 5, 10, and 20 years from now.
What road are you on now?
I’m sure that some folks get into a job at certain times of their lives simply because they need a way to bring in a paycheck on a regular basis. So what they do for a living ends up being just a job, something they are doing just for the money. The consideration of whether or not that line of work will still be enjoyable and challenging 5 to 10 years down the road is not a priority. Unfortunately, this situation can sometimes result in someone sitting stagnant for years in some work environment that they were not really suited for in the first place. It can also be frustrating and a constant letdown to never be able to fully realize one’s true career skills.
While some people have gotten onto a job path basically because of money pressures, I’m sure there are many others who have managed to choose the exact path they thought was right for them – only to later discover that what was once an exciting challenge has now morphed into a mind-numbing grind. And now they feel unhappy, unmotivated and somewhat trapped because they don’t know what it is that they would really like to do instead.
The truth is, I think it’s only in exceptional cases where someone manages to go right out and snag the perfect job or dream career right off the bat. Most of us don’t get that figured out until we are well into our working lives, if ever. But wherever you are today, you can come up with a plan to find your true path, and you can start working on it right now. There’s no age or place in life where someone has to just give up on looking at the big picture and going after the possibility of what could finally be the perfect employment situation.
Face the mirror, look at yourself and do some profiling
The first thing you may want to do when you’re looking to break out of your current employment situation is to take a good look at yourself and create a sort of personal profile. Ask yourself some serious questions: What kinds of things interest you? What do you like doing? What do you hate doing? What are you good at? What do you stink at?
Then do some honest thinking about your present and past jobs. What skills were required? What skills did you develop? Did you receive any specialized training? What have your performance appraisals revealed, good and bad? Have you spent time working on the development of your leadership or interpersonal skills?
Put the answers to a detailed list of questions like these together and you’ve got a pretty decent profile of yourself to work with. Now you can more effectively look around, check out and try to choose some career areas that would seem to mesh well with your ‘profile’.
- One exercise many people find enlightening is to find ways to actually talk to some people who are working in those potential career areas. Almost everybody likes to talk about themselves, and if you approach these folks in a non-threatening way and explain that you are thinking about getting into their field as a career, they’ll usually be more than happy to tell you about their work life – the good, the bad and the ugly.
It’s your call
It’s obvious, but still important to emphasize, that only one person is responsible for and can make the personal career growth plan that’s the right one for you, and that would be you. So craft some career goals; go ahead, it’s not going to kill you. For example, if you actually land a job in a career that you think is right for you, what do you eventually hope to accomplish? Where do you want that career to take you? What position would you be eventually shooting for? How long do you think it will take to get there?
Don’t waste your mind power fantasizing about things like, “I’ll start out in an entry-level job and eventually become the CEO.” That may seem noble enough, but it’s not very realistic, and you need to get real with it. You need to have career goals that are attainable in the short term that point the way to your longer term goals, and you need to feel that you can reach your goals “in spite of” – in other words, as a result of your own consistent efforts to develop yourself, both personally and professionally.
Make a plan of what you’ve got to do to reach your goals. Map out what you think will be the stepping stones, the actions you will need to take, the order you will need to take them in and how long you think it should take to complete each step along the way. These stepping stones will be things like specific skills, particular contacts, relevant education and wider experiences.
Then you’ve got to commit; you’ve got to get on it, put forth the effort and work the plan. You should also take a step back from time to time and reexamine your plan to see if your motivations, big-picture goals or anything else has changed that may require you to alter your plan. If so, that’s cool; it’s good to be flexible!
One thing that may be helpful to keep in mind as you are doing some soul-searching about your work life and your future is this:
Recently there was a study done at the University of Chicago that tried to get a handle on why some people think their job is highly satisfactory and others think theirs basically sucks. One of the things that really stood out from this survey was the finding that people that are 50 years old and over tended to be the happiest in their jobs. Why? Well this group said that the reasons for their satisfaction and happiness were that they:
- Liked the field that they worked in
- Had gotten promoted over the years through hard work
- Had the freedom to make choices and decisions on the job
It’s also kind of interesting to note here that a classic study in the field of psychology showed that the older people get, the less of a motivating factor money becomes in their lives. Is that just because when people get older they’ve just kind of given up hope of ever being able to bring in bigger paychecks than they were able to in the past? Perhaps, but it is more likely that the driving forces in their lives have changed. They’re still working hard and money is still coming in, but trading in the time and making the sacrifices in pursuit of the next big pay blast just doesn’t have as much allure as it used to.
The bottom line
I think the bottom line is this: For most of us, our work and our calling will probably never be the same thing. But our work, whether it be “just a job” or a “career” is what can support our calling. I like to hold the Apostle Paul up as a prime example. Paul was a tentmaker and he supported himself with his own manual labor. This was his job. But Paul also had a calling, and this calling produced some letters that have had an impact on the world like no others before or since.
Paul kept his day job, and it funded his calling.