I spend a good part of my time these days helping people wrestle with questions related to job, career, purpose and calling. Are they interchangeable? Are they the same thing? Can you be satisfied in a job that doesn’t feel like a calling? If you sense you have a purpose in this world, do you need to leave your career and throw your whole life into it?
Those are great and necessary questions. And they, many times, are laden with emotion and angst. If you have followed me for any amount of time, you know that I believe that every human being has a call upon their life – a “why” to live for. I believe that this calling is insistent. It is an itch that needs to be scratched. So, of course, it is going to carry emotion and raise important questions about how we spend the bulk of our time.
I’m going to suggest three ways that your job or career can intersect with your calling, but before I do I need to offer some definition of terms.
Your job is simply that thing you do that brings in the income to live and maybe pursue the American Dream. Some people like their job, while others don’t. Some people are good at their job, while others aren’t.
Your career is the series of jobs strung together, over time, focused on a particular vocation, e.g. teaching, retail sales, marketing, social work, etc. Again, some people enjoy and succeed in their career while others don’t.
Your calling (or purpose) is the summons on your life. Calling isn’t something you can create; rather, it comes from who you are. I believe it was placed in you before you were born, by your Creator. Calling arises out of passions that are directed to bringing healing to others or the world. Side note: passions that are primarily directed to benefitting ourselves are hobbies. And that’s a good thing! I have a passion for cooking and baking. It gives me joy, but it isn’t my calling. Calling is always others-centered.
Your destiny is the final expression of your calling as you move on to your later years. If you are paying attention to your life and are engaged intentionally in your calling, you will find that calling hones and sharpens over time. It likely will become more and more targeted and specific until it feels inevitably like a destiny.
Legacy is what you leave behind as you exercise your calling. It is measured in the life change of individuals and evidence of healing in one or more of the broken places of the world.
Now, how might job or career intersect with calling? In one of three ways.
First, calling and career may be two separate aspects of your life, which does not necessarily diminish either. You can love your job and be very good at it and have a burning passion to rectify one of the world’s ills at the same time. It’s just that to operate within your calling, in this case, is to do so with somewhat less time or freedom. The good news is that your career can finance your calling. It gives you the wherewithal to pursue your “why”.
Or, your calling and your career might intersect. It may be that the values or mission of your workplace overlap with those of your calling. Here’s an illustration. Let’s say your calling is to bring healing to the decay of our planet, and you work for a company whose commitment is to making sustainable products. You can see the connection. Or perhaps the summons on your life is to help people who are lonely and isolated. So you begin to see the people in your workplace through that set of lenses. Who of your fellow employees is alone? Who needs your care? You can do your job and love people well! The key here is to look carefully for ways that your calling can play out right where you spend most of your time and energy.
Finally, it may be that your calling lies so heavily on you or compels you so completely that you have no other choice but to completely merge your purpose with your career. You might look for an organization that is doing what you are called to do and throw your lot in with them. Or you might even have to call your own shot, create a business or non-profit in which you can live out your purpose 24/7. If this last option feels right, talk to me. I can give you some insight into one man’s journey to this end. I have found it exhausting and exhilarating. It is not for the faint of heart.
Those seem to be your choices. What do you think? Have I missed other options? Drop a comment at the end of this blog or reach out to me here. I’d love to process this with you.
I can imagine that this topic has raised some energy within some of you. You might be keen to discover your calling or anxious to find a way to juggle calling and career. Or you might be desperate to find somebody who’s in the same boat. If any of these are true of you, please do contact me.
Helping guide you happens to be my calling. And it is my job. And I love it!