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If Money Was No Object, What Would You Be Doing?

By Gerald Walsh ©

Which scenario describes you the best?

  1. You work to finance the necessities of life: pay the rent, support your family, or fund your hobbies. You don’t want your work to interfere with your personal life. Loyalty to your employer is low and you’ve changed jobs often as you seek higher pay.
  1. You are focused on building your career. Receiving promotions, assuming new responsibilities, and gaining greater prestige, are driving forces for you. Job titles, academic achievement, professional designations, recognition from others, and an impressive resume, mean a lot to you.
  1. You love what you do and if you could afford it, you would work for little or no pay. Even if you had financial independence, you would continue to do this job. Your motivators are intrinsic. You see higher meaning in your work and feel like you are contributing to the greater good.

Where do you fall? 1, 2 or 3?

According to Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, associate professor of organizational behaviour at Yale University, if you fall into #1, your work is a “job.”

If #2 describes your relationship with work, you are in a “career.”

Lastly, if #3 describes you, your work is a “calling.”

Surprisingly, she found that even in occupations that involve helping others—like nurses, social workers and teachers—there are those who are doing it just for the money.

Likewise, she found there were postal carriers, labourers, and shelf stockers—occupations that involve monotonous, repetitive tasks—who see their work as a calling.

Generally, people who see their work as a calling focus on the benefit they provide to others. For example, a hair stylist who sees their work as making customers feel better about themselves or an auto mechanic who see their work as making sure cars operate safely.

And while there is no absolute right or wrong orientation toward work, individuals who consider their work a calling, experience higher satisfaction in their work and their lives, change jobs less, and perform at much higher levels.

Given the amount of time you spend at work, you owe it to yourself to be happier when you’re there.

Questions: Is your work a job, career or calling? If it is a job or career: Are there ways you can redesign your work to make it more meaningful? How does your work contribute to your organization’s mission and goals? How do your daily tasks help others, like clients, colleagues and friends?


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 30 year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.