Which Matters Most: A Job, a Career or a Calling?

One of my favorite quotes ever comes from Steve Jobs who famously once said “Passion is the difference between having a job or having a career”.

When we graduate and embark on a new job, it doesn’t come with a GPS device or road map. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Careers and life in general will take many twists and turns over the years. Maybe you get promoted, or laid off or face relocation to a new state. You start your married life and possibly have children. Your values change as different things take priority.

All too often when people enter the workforce, they just want a J-O-B. For them it’s all about the paycheck and benefits. Having a job provides tangible rewards as you work to survive.

At some point your brain and heart click in and you figure out that what you really want is to have a career.

Now what becomes important to you is seeing a path ahead and being rewarded with a new title, bigger job, more recognition and ultimately more money. Coupled with this is a need for recognition and appreciation. Attaining these things is what has you believe that now you’ve got a good career going.

For a large percentage of the workforce, this is the ‘destination’ that they were looking for on their personal journey. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this as your goal. To have a fulfilling career is a great goal. But to some, there’s still something missing.

For this group, it’s all about a calling. Money is great, as is responsibility, advancement and recognition. What’s missing for many of us is that undeniable feeling that we don’t want to just survive but rather we want to THRIVE. Having a calling is getting up everyday knowing that we are doing what we are passionate about and knowing that we can impact lives by what we do.

In 2011 I was fortunate to be able to morph my career into a calling to speak to others about reengaging both in life and at work. The number one question I get when I speak to people around the country is “how do I make my passion my career and find my calling”.

Here are a few of my thoughts around working to thrive, not just survive:

  • You need to be willing to take a really long look in the mirror and pay attention to what you see back in your reflection. You can’t make change if you don’t accept what needs to be different. It all starts with being open to what’s really happening for you in the workplace. No sugar coating is allowed in this process.
  • Take out a plain sheet of paper and make two columns, one that is labeled aspirations and the other marked deal breakers. Now start listing those things you want to do and then move over to the other column to record what you aren’t willing to compromise on. For me, when I did this exercise I knew I wanted to do something more creative, to be able to write and speak about engagement. My first deal breaker was that I no longer was willing to work for anyone else.
  • Be thoughtful, plan-full and strategic. And while it’s great to dream, you also need to inject a dose of reality in there. Think about how you can monetize your passion. It may mean that you start out small while you are still working at your job and do some things on the side to develop this passion and a build a financial cushion. It takes time to build a business or look for a new job. You need to completely understand that things don’t happen overnight.
  • Patience is key and it’s important to remember that it is always better to work toward something better, not run away from something bad. If your passion is strong it will still be there years down the road. Anything good is worth waiting for.
  • From day one of your work journey, always remember to save for a walk-away fund. It’s incredibly important to save for retirement as soon as you get a paycheck to get the full effect of compounding to grow your portfolio, but it’s also smart to start this second fund as well. Have one or two less coffees a week, go out drinking with friends two less times a month, buy one less pair of shoes a month. Whatever it takes put that money to better use so you can fund your passion.
  • Remember, anything good is worth waiting and working for.