Job, career or calling?

Posted by Karen in Personal Development

What does your work mean to you?

‘How’s work?’

It’s a question we get asked time and again by friends, family, colleagues…. And no wonder, many of us spend more time at work or working than anything else!

It can sometimes feel that our identity or sense of purpose is defined through work – indeed, this is very much in our culture but there is more and clients find it very helpful when I help them to put ‘work’ more in perspective, i.e. when they can see that their life is not just about work.

A question I have found which helps clients who feel that they lack fulfilment or direction in work move forward is to ask “what do you want from your work or what does work mean to you?”

A job, career or calling

We tend to have varied orientations towards work and knowing what yours is can be liberating; it can clarify a sense of purpose and direction.

When work is ‘a job’, we generally work for the money, and that’s not a bad thing. There can be great satisfaction in being self-reliant. Working to support ourselves doesn’t mean that the job can’t be pleasurable. When we work for the money alone, we work to live and often find fulfilment outside work in hobbies and social activities.

When work is ‘a career’, we find pleasure and satisfaction in the work itself. We feel committed to our work and make a steady effort to further our professional development. Our status or power is likely to have an influence on our satisfaction.

When we see work as ‘a calling’, we live to work, it’s not about the money or furthering our reputation – we do the work we do because we’re staunchly passionate about what we do. Work is often about making a contribution to something that is bigger than ourselves.

What matters most in your work?

What matters most to you in your work? Take some time to really consider the question, to let it sink in. Earning money? Building a career? Making a difference? All three may be important to you but which one matters to you the most?

I often remind clients that work doesn’t have to tick all the boxes. We can also find fulfilment outside work through pursuing a hobby we feel passionate about, through voluntary work or indeed through taking up a course to grow, develop or learn new skills.

Or we can take the time to really consider the job we do and think about how we can re-defining and re-energising our work life – aka ‘job crafting’.

Job Crafting – redefining your relationship with work

Professor Amy Wrzesnieswki’s (Yale School of Management) research has found that “it is not so much the kind of work that matters as it is the relationship to the work.”

Her work on Job Crafting namely ‘what employees do to redesign their own jobs in ways that foster engagement at work, job satisfaction, resilience and thriving,’ (Berg, Wrzesnieswki & Dutton 2010) has received much interest and acclaim and job crafting is seen as a potentially powerful tool for ‘reenergizing and reimagining your work life. It involves redefining your job to incorporate your motives, strengths, and passions’. (Berg, Wrzesnieswki & Dutton, Job Crafting, Havard Business Review, 2010).

Job Crafting is assessing and then altering one or more of the following core aspects of work.

Tasks – You can change the boundaries of your job by taking on more or fewer tasks, expanding or diminishing their scope, or changing how they are performed. For example, consider how you can build your job around your strengths. Emphasising the tasks you enjoy and excel at can help you work through the ones you don’t like.
Relationships – You can change the nature or extent of your interactions with other people. Relationships matter for our wellbeing and Dutton highlights the importance of making high quality connections at work, which in turn helps foster greater positivity at the office.
Perceptions – You can change how you think about the purpose of certain aspects of your job; or you can re-frame the job as a whole.

(sources: Job Crafting, Havard Business Review, 2010Samantha Boardman Huffington Post. Watch a presentation by Amy Wrzesnieswki).

My story

My own professional life began with what I thought was going to be a career in film translation – subtitling and dubbing which I pursued – rather unhappily – for some years until about 13 years ago when I quit my corporate translation career (by then I was heading up a whole department) because I felt deeply dissatisfied and stressed. I didn’t sleep well anymore, I felt empty, uninspired and lacked the energy and drive for anything. I had no sense of purpose or vision for my life. I knew that something needed to change.

I turned to a life coach to clarify what I wanted in my work and to explore possibilities. I then left my career, took some time out. I began training to become a life coach and mindfulness teacher while beginning work at Friends of the Earth, an environmental charity ( Before I found a paid position at Friends of the Earth I had volunteered for environmental organisations for nearly 20 years including a 7-months voluntary work trip to Africa to do conservation work in a national park in Zambia, (one of the best things I’ve ever done!). Both made my heart tick again because helping others and helping make the environment a better place deeply mattered to me.

In 2014, I decided to focus solely on my own business Green Space Coaching & Mindfulness which today I consider as my calling. I can now say that I am truly fulfilled in my work; I have a sense of direction and energy to make a difference. My aim is not to become rich or wealthy. I work for the benefit of others, to lead a decent, simple, yet abundant life. It’s been a long journey to get here and there’s still a ways to go, but therein lies excitement and satisfaction too.

Now its over to you….

If you’d like to talk it over, do get in touch. I offer a free 30-minute coaching taster session in Victoria Park, East London, or via phone or Skype.

green space newsletter
Sign up for monthly inspiration, wellbeing tips, news and offers.