Career vs. Vocation: When they don’t match up

If I could be granted 3 wishes, I’d wish that (1) everyone knew their true calling or most natural strengths, (2) everyone would get paid lots of money for fulfilling their true calling, and (3) I could help everyone achieve this!

The path to achieving my wishes lies here:

Appreciate the difference between career (a series of professional roles) and vocation (application of your greatest strengths and natural “calling”). Leverage one to improve the other.

Most people use external rather than internal criteria to determine what they will pursue in their studies and career. They often gravitate toward “where the jobs are at,” or what can provide a decent salary to raise a family.

I’m not suggesting that these are poor criteria to decide on a career path. I’m suggesting that it doesn’t serve you to use these external factors as the sole criteria to make that determination.

What is likely to happen when external criteria are used exclusively to make career decisions? You may find yourself in mid-career, feeling dissatisfied and stuck, searching on Thumbtack for a career coach.

Most people don’t even recognize their natural strengths or vocation. And even if they did, they might not link their natural calling to their career.

You might be the person who is wired for relationship building, naturally building and investing in her family and community. However, it might never have occurred to you to pursue a role a sales, a natural fit for building relationships.

You might be the person who organized his toys well as a child without ever being asked. Should you pursue organizational management and director of operations roles?

In mid-career, don’t despair that the years of investment in one area was all for naught. You can use your natural talents to cultivate additional options for yourself.

In a job you don’t like much? Try to look for opportunities to flex your vocation in the job in small or large ways. (You might recognize this as job crafting.) You may find your satisfaction with your current job increase.

Looking to make a career pivot, but don’t know what to pivot to? Use your vocation to help identify roles that would optimize your natural calling. You may find your job satisfaction maintained after the newness wears off.

If you want to explore further, I’ve got a couple of resources for you.

1. Check out the short video below for some additional insight.

2. Download this worksheet for an exercise that will help uncover your vocation, if it’s not immediately obvious to you. (If you want useful tools like this one delivered via email regularly, sign up at the top of this page.)

You might also like:

Finding your voice

Uncover new language to position yourself for change