Skip main navigation

How do you classify your role?

Job, career or calling? Watch Paddy Upton explain how you classify your role will determine your mindset and ultimately how successful you are.
PADDY UPTON: Your attitude towards leadership, coaching, and/or the work you do, and how you view it will have a direct impact on your satisfaction and on how impactful or successful you are. Dr. Amy Wrzeniewski from Yale University describes three different views towards your work, namely seeing it as a job, a career, or recalling. Importantly, it’s not the type of work or your role within network that determines the difference, but rather, it’s how you choose to view it. A job is when you see what you do as a means to an end, usually the paycheck at the end of the month, which is for supporting your family, life, or hobbies outside of work.
It’s generally about going to work, doing what you’re supposed to or expected to do, and then going home, as soon as the job is done. Generally, keeping your job and your personal life separate. If you view what you do as a career, you will focus on success and rising up through the ranks to higher levels, more prestige, status, recognition, and better pay. It’s about strategically advancing yourself as fast as possible up the ladder of success, often competing with others along the way. When work, whether it’s paid or unpaid, is viewed as a calling, people see this as an integral part of their life of who they are.
It’s a service mindset where the purpose is to add their unique skills, talents, and strengths to contribute to causes greater than and beyond themselves, whether it be community, environment, or society as a whole. Their work is seen as a passion. They love what they do, and they often report that it doesn’t seem like work at all. In their calling, people are able to fully express themselves and find immense personal fulfilment, joy, and/or satisfaction through what they do. It’s all in the mindset. The advantage of a job is that it’s the least stressful. You can leave work at work, and the problems that arise are generally someone else’s to sort out.
The drawbacks or the threat of a number of other people willing and able to take your job, maybe even for less money. It’s often seen as a chore, where the paycheck is the only reward, and as the experience is mostly mundane and is done with mediocrity. Thank god, it’s Friday and oh no, it’s Monday come from a job mindset. While someone with a job mindset has little interest in company goals, the advantage of a career mindset is that the person has a clearer focus on delivering on team or company goals, or in a sport context, on winning.
This mindset has the individual focusing on their own career goals and success, with the natural disadvantages being tendencies toward self-interest, overly egoic behaviour, or the need to look good, and even narcissism, which is excessively self-centred behaviour. In comparison, seeing your work as a calling is the ultimate work mindset. These people find their work more rewarding than the other two mindsets. They’re energised by their work, and it brings purpose and meaning to their lives, which ultimately, and in return, delivers deep and meaningful work satisfaction. They are able to work longer and harder without feeling like it’s hard work. Over and above satisfaction, this mindset tends to advance people faster and further than the other two.
Again, it remains a choice how you view your work. Almost any occupation can be viewed as a job, a career, or a calling. The coach of a sports team or the janitor in a big corporation can do their job merely as a job, or they can see it as a stepping stone to advance their career to increasingly higher paid positions with more status, or they can see it as a calling. The sports coach, for example, might see their calling being to help grow young athletes into rounded and grounded human beings, equipped to fulfil their potential in sport and life, and thus become positively contributing members of society.
The janitor, for example, could see their calling as being to make the workspace clean and hygienic for others, to bring smiles to other people’s faces, and to help brighten people’s day. The janitor could redefine their job description, seeing him or herself as chief cleanliness and happiness officer. It’s your choice how you see your work, and your choice has consequences both for you and others.

Job, career, calling … which do you choose?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but the point I want to emphasise is that you have a choice about how you view your work.

As I explain in the video, it isn’t necessarily the type of work you do that leads to professional (and personal) satisfaction, it’s how you view it.

Coming to understand this choice and why you choose a particular mindset requires self-awareness, plus an understanding of the characteristics of each mindset.

In his book Callings: The purpose and passion of work Dave Isay argues that a calling is work ‘ignited by hope, love, or defiance – and stoked by purpose and persistence’ (cited in May, 2016). We hear a lot about ‘finding’ our calling, as if it’s ‘out there’ to be discovered rather than as something we choose to work towards.

It requires self-awareness to be able to make that choice — is the work I’m undertaking something ‘stoked by purpose and persistence’? If not, what might I need to do/change to get to that point?

Your task

In the video I describe some of the impacts on people and their performance of a job, a career and a calling.

  1. What positive impact does your coaching/leadership have on others and the broader team culture?
  2. How does your current coaching/leadership role make others’ lives better?
  3. What might be the ripple effect of this impact in the world?

Make a comment indicating that you found another person’s ideas interesting and useful. Let your peer know what was particularly interesting/useful in their response.


Isay, D 2016 Callings: The purpose and passion of work. Penguin Press, New York.
May, K 2016 7 lessons about finding the work you were meant to do. Retrieved January 24, 2018 from
Wrzesniewski, A McCauley, CR Rozin, P & Schwartz, B 1997. Jobs, careers, and callings: People’s relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 21-33.

See also

If you’re particularly interested in this idea of mindsets in regard to work, you might find the following of interest:

Brooks, K 2012. Job, Career, Calling: Key to Happiness and Meaning at Work? Psychology Today. Retrieved January 24, 2018 from
This article is from the free online

The Self-aware Coach

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education