No matter the profession you’re in, you likely have the opportunity for it to be a job, a career or a calling. Sure, the paycheck is important, but finding purpose in the work can make it so much more rewarding. In fact, much of our satisfaction from work comes from whether or not we find meaning.
You may be thinking surely this can’t be the case for all professions but think about it more as a mindset than as the actual work being done. Your perspective is extremely powerful.
Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski studied the position of administrative assistant and found that one-third of respondents employed in this role classified it as just a job, one-third as a career and one-third as a calling.
The called were not higher paid or more challenged than the others. They didn’t have more autonomy or feel more respected or face more interesting challenges. What made the difference was the way the administrative assistants individually perceived and engaged in their roles, whether it be a job, career or calling.
Wrzensniewski did a similar study of hospital custodians and coined the term “job crafting” to describe what she found among the happiest and most effective. These custodial workers focused intensely on serving patients, creating work they wanted to do out of the work they’d been assigned. They were able to craft work in order to find it more meaningful and worthwhile.
“In every vocation, the meaning of the work is less in the thing done than in the growth of the man through the doing,” wrote author Edward Howard Griggs.
In every position, we are assigned tasks to complete. The mindset we choose to apply while completing these tasks is completely ours to choose. Someone with a mindset framed in “just a job” thinking will likely find little satisfaction and probably be not as fully engaged and productive as one with a career or calling mentality.
“Working with a sense of purpose day-in and day-out is an act of will that takes thoughtfulness and practice,” says John Coleman, coauthor of the book Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders. “Purpose is not found, but built no matter the profession.”
Coleman describes how to build that purpose in a recent Harvard Business Review article: find ways to connect the work service, craft your work—and make work a craft, invest in positive relationships, and remember why you work.
In the same way you have control over whether you see the glass as half empty or half full, you also can choose to find as much or as little meaning in the work that you do. Take some time this holiday weekend to reflect on your mindset with regard to the work you do. Then see if you can adjust it as necessary and perhaps craft the work so you can find more meaning and more satisfaction.