Article

Jobs, Careers, and Callings: People's Relations to Their Work

Abstract and Figures

We present evidence suggesting that most people see their work as either a Job (focus on financial rewards and necessity rather than pleasure or fulfillment; not a major positive part of life), a Career (focus on advancement), or a Calling (focus on enjoyment of fulfilling, socially useful work). Employees at two work sites (n= 196) with a wide range of occupations from clerical to professional were unambiguous in seeing their work primarily in terms of a Job, Career, or Calling. Differences in respondents' relations to their work could not be reduced to demographic or occupational differences; an homogenous subset of 24 college administrative assistants were, like the total sample of respondents, distributed evenly across Job, Career, and Calling.
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JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN PERSONALITY
31, 21–33 (1997)
ARTICLE NO.
RP972162
Jobs, Careers, and Callings: People’s Relations to Their Work
Amy Wrzesniewski
University of Michigan
Clark McCauley
Bryn Mawr College
Paul Rozin
University of Pennsylvania
and
Barry Schwartz
Swarthmore College
We present evidence suggesting that most people see their work as either a Job
(focus on financial rewards and necessity rather than pleasure or fulfillment; not a
major positive part of life), a Career (focus on advancement), or a Calling (focus
on enjoyment of fulfilling, socially useful work). Employees at two work sites (n
5196) with a wide range of occupations from clerical to professional were unam-
biguous in seeing their work primarily in terms of a Job, Career, or Calling. Differ-
ences in respondents’ relations to their work could not be reduced to demographic
or occupational differences; an homogenous subset of 24 college administrative
assistants were, like the total sample of respondents, distributed evenly across Job,
Career, and Calling.
1997 Academic Press
Work constitutes more than one-third of waking life for most human
adults, and there is a substantial psychological literature devoted to the study
of work. Satisfaction with work varies widely across individuals (Staw &
Ross, 1985) and seems to constitute a substantial part of the subjective qual-
This research was supported by funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation Network on Health-Related Behaviors. Correspondence concerning this article
should be addressed to Amy Wrzesniewski, Department of Psychology, University of Michi-
gan, 525 E. University, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1109. E-mail: amywrz@umich.edu.
21
0092-6566/97 $25.00
Copyright 1997 by Academic Press
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.
22
WRZESNIEWSKI ET AL.
ity of life (Loscocco & Roschelle, 1991). In a measure of general life satisfac-
tion, work satisfaction was found to account for 20% of the variance of the
entire measure (Campbell, Converse, & Rodgers, 1976). Quality of life, in
turn, can have a major effect on life stress and on health (Adler & Matthews,
1994). There is strong evidence for the belief that dispositional factors are
related to job attitudes (Staw, Bell, & Clausen, 1986; Staw & Ross, 1985).
This suggests that the way individuals view work may be a function of stable
traits, not just reflections of the work itself. It is possible that these traits
interact with the objective characteristics of the work (Hackman & Oldham,
1980; Hulin & Blood, 1968; Schneider, 1983). For these reasons, we believe
it is important to understand the subjective experience of work: how individ-
uals differ in their experience of the work they do.
The inspiration for our approach came from Habits of the Heart, in which
Bellah et al. (1985) argue that there are three distinct relations people can
have to their work: as Jobs, Careers, and Callings (see also Schwartz, 1986,
1994). The distinctions, drawn starkly, are these: People who have Jobs are
only interested in the material benefits from work and do not seek or receive
any other type of reward from it. The work is not an end in itself, but instead
is a means that allows individuals to acquire the resources needed to enjoy
their time away from the Job. The major interests and ambitions of Job hold-
ers are not expressed through their work. In contrast, people who have Ca-
reers have a deeper personal investment in their work and mark their achieve-
ments not only through monetary gain, but through advancement within the
occupational structure. This advancement often brings higher social stand-
ing, increased power within the scope of one’s occupation, and higher self-
esteem for the worker (Bellah et al., 1985, p. 66). Finally, people with Call-
ings find that their work is inseparable from their life. A person with a Calling
works not for financial gain or Career advancement, but instead for the ful-
fillment that doing the work brings to the individual. The word ‘‘calling’’
was originally used in a religious context, as people were understood to be
‘‘called’’ by God to do morally and socially significant work (see Weber,
1956, 1963). While the modern sense of ‘‘calling’’ may have lost its religious
connection (but see Davidson & Caddell, 1994, for evidence that the reli-
gious connection still matters), work that people feel called to do is usually
seen as socially valuable—an end in itself—involving activities that may,
but need not be, pleasurable.
The Job–Career–Calling distinction is not necessarily dependent upon oc-
cupation. Within any occupation, one could conceivably find individuals
with all three kinds of relations to their work. Although one might expect
to find a higher number of Callings among those in certain occupations, for
example, teachers and Peace Corps employees, it is plausible that salesper-
sons, medical technicians, factory workers, and secretaries could view their
work as a Calling. Such people could love their work and think that it contrib-
utes to making the world a better place.
JOBS, CAREERS, AND CALLINGS
23
Although this tripartite set of relations to work has not been explored by
psychologists, it is related to some aspects of work that have received consid-
erable attention. One is work satisfaction, which has been found to be sen-
sitive to many different conditions of work, including actual work tasks,
work organization, pay, supervision, benefits, promotional structure, and co-
workers (Locke & Latham, 1990). While we expect that work satisfaction
would be highest for Callings and lowest for Jobs, we do not believe that
the Job, Career, Calling distinction is defined entirely by its potential relation
to job satisfaction. For example, a successful career in business or bureau-
cracy might be just as satisfying as a calling.
Another analysis of work that is related to the present one contrasts intrin-
sic and extrinsic motivation to work. An ambitious recent study on this issue
includes the formulation of a scale, the Work Preference Inventory, to assess
intrinsic versus extrinsic work motivations. Amabile, Hill, Hennessey, &
Tighe (1994) analyzed the extrinsic orientation into two subfactors: compen-
sation and outward orientation. Correspondingly, intrinsic motivation is ana-
lyzed into challenge and enjoyment. We presume that intrinsic motivation
is most associated with Callings, and extrinsic motivation is most associated
with Jobs, with Careers somewhat closer to extrinsic than intrinsic motiva-
tion. However, we do not see the distinction between Careers and either
Jobs or Callings as neatly falling on the intrinsic–extrinsic dimension. For
example, a Calling might be neither challenging nor enjoyable and a Career
might be both.
We believe the Job–Career–Calling distinction has not previously been
explicit in the psychology of work. Amabile et al.’s (1994) Work Preference
Inventory, Hall’s (1968) ‘‘sense of calling’’ sub-scale, and some work on
work involvement and identification (Lodahl & Kejner, 1965) all relate to
issues raised by the tripartite work classification, but none of these research
directions proposes or accounts for the three distinct relations to work that
are the focus of the present study.
The questionnaire developed and reported on in this paper was designed
to provide initial evidence of the usefulness of the Job–CareerCalling dis-
tinctions. We asked how easy it is for people to classify themselves along
these lines, what features of each dimension may be most significant, what
objective and psychological features of occupations or persons are related
to each dimension, and what the correlates of viewing one’s work as a Job,
Career, or Calling might be, in terms of measures of work and life satisfaction
and physical health.
METHOD
The Questionnaire
The questionnaire was titled the ‘‘University of Pennsylvania Work–Life Questionnaire’’
and the terms ‘‘job,’’ ‘‘career,’’ and ‘‘calling’’ did not appear in it (except for ajob satisfaction
question—see below). On the first page of the questionnaire appeared three separate para-
24
WRZESNIEWSKI ET AL.
TABLE 1
Paragraphs Describing Job, Career, and Calling
Job
Mr. A works primary to earn enough money to support his life outside of his job. If he
was financially secure, he would no longer continue with his current line of work, but
would really rather do something else instead. Mr. A’s job is basically a necessity of life,
a lot like breathing or sleeping. He often wishes the time would pass more quickly at
work. He greatly anticipates weekends and vacations. If Mr. A lived his life over again, he
probably would not go into the same line of work. He would not encourage his friends and
children to enter his line of work. Mr. A is very eager to retire.
Career
Mr. B basically enjoys his work, but does not expect to be in his current job five years
from now. Instead, he plans to move on to a better, higher level job. He has several goals
for his future pertaining to the positions he would eventually like to hold. Sometimes his
work seems a waste of time, but he knows that he must do sufficiently well in his current
position in order to move on. Mr. B can’t wait to get a promotion. For him, a promotion
means recognition of his good work, and is a sign of his success in competition with his
coworkers.
Calling
Mr. C’s work is one of the most important parts of his life. He is very pleased that he is
in this line of work. Because what he does for a living is a vital part of who he is, it is
one of the first things he tells people about himself. He tends to take his work home with
him and on vacations, too. The majority of his friends are from his place of employment,
and he belongs to several organizations and clubs relating to his work. Mr. C feels good
about his work because he loves it, and because he thinks it makes the world a better
place. He would encourage his friends and children to enter his line of work. Mr. C would
be pretty upset if he were forced to stop working, and he is not particularly looking for-
ward to retirement.
graphs describing Job, Career, and Calling according to the definitions offered by Bellah et
al. (1985) and Schwartz (1986, 1994) (Mr. A, Mr. B, Mr. C; Table 1). The instructions were
first to read all three paragraphs and then to indicate how much the respondent was like Mr.
A, Mr. B, and Mr. C. on a scale ranging from ‘‘very much,’’ ‘‘somewhat,’’ ‘‘a little,’’ or
‘‘not at all like me’’ (scored 3–0).
1
On the second page of the questionnaire appeared 18 true–false items asking about specific
aspects of relations to work that are relevant to the Job, Career, Calling distinction (Table 2).
Almost all of the true–false items appeared in the prose of at least one of the paragraphs. Of
the true–false items, 5 were intended to probe behaviors related to work, while the other 13
examined feelings about work.
Next appeared three items taken from Campbell et al. (1976) that asked for self-rating of
satisfaction with life (SATLIFE), health (SATHEALTH), and job (SATJOB) on a seven-point
scale (1 5completely dissatisfied to 7 5completely satisfied). Next was a self-rating of health
(HEALTH; 1 5poor, 2 5fair, 3 5good, 4 5excellent) and a self-rating of occupational
status (SOCSTAND; 1 5bottom social standing to 9 5top social standing). In order to gauge
work satisfaction in another manner, respondents were asked to rank hobbies, work, and friends
based upon the amount of satisfaction they received from each (WORKRANK).
1
Future versions of this scale should be in terms of ‘‘A’’ ratherthan ‘‘Mr. A,’’ and so forth.
JOBS, CAREERS, AND CALLINGS
25
TABLE 2
18 True–False Items, with Percent Answering ‘‘True’’ and Relations to Job,
Career, and Calling Paragraphs (n5196)
Correlations with paragraph
scores
Item % True Job Career Calling
I find my work rewarding. (REWARD) 84 246* 213 33*
I am eager to retire. (RETIRE) 36 49* 201 241*
My work makes the world a better place.
(BETTERWORLD) 62 235* 204 28*
I am very conscious of what day of the work week
it is and I greatly anticipate weekends. I say,
‘‘Thank God it’s Friday!’’ (TGIF) 62 40* 08 241*
I tend to take my work with me on vacations.
(VACATION) 15 220* 05 42*
I expect to be in a higher level job in five years.
(HIGHERLEVEL) 49 211 58* 206
I would choose my current work life again if I had
the opportunity. (CHOOSEAGAIN) 50 247* 219 48*
I feel in control of my work life. (INCONTROL) 68 227* 216 20*
I enjoy talking about my work to others.
(TALKWORK) 68 248* 05 40*
I view my job primarily as a stepping stone to
other jobs. (STEPPINGSTONE) 26 06 55* 213
My primary reason for working is financial—to
support my family and lifestyle. (FINANCIAL) 64 54* 0 258
I expect to be doing the same work in five years.
(SAMEWORK) 54 205 247* 22
If I was financially secure, I would continue with
my current line of work even if I was no longer
paid. (STILLWORK) 25 232* 211 47*
When I am not at work, I do not think much about
my work. (THINKWORK) 51 24* 219 233*
I view my job as just a necessity of life, much like
breathing or sleeping. (NECESSITY) 50 48* 01 229*
I never take work home with me. (TAKEHOME) 31 21* 205 232*
My work is one of the most important things in
my life. (WORKIMPORTANT) 48 241* 204 59*
I would not encourage young people to pursue my
kind of work. (NOTENCOURAGE) 25 39* 02 231*
Note. Decimal points omitted from tabled correlations. Item abbreviations appear in parentheses.
*p,.05, two-tailed. Job and Calling items coded ‘‘1’’ for responses indicating Calling
and ‘‘0’’ otherwise; remaining items coded ‘‘1’’ for response indicating Career.
Finally, several demographic items appeared at the end of the questionnaire, including occu-
pation, age, sex, years of education (SCHOOL), income, years in current position (JOB-
YEARS), hours worked per week, days missed per year excluding vacation (DAYSMISS),
marital status, and number of children. Income was divided into five categories (from under
$25,000 to over $75,000) and age was recorded in years. Respondents were assigned to occupa-
26
WRZESNIEWSKI ET AL.
tional levels based upon the occupational prestige score given to their occupations by the
Nakao & Treas (in press) 1989 General Social Survey (OCCSTATUS). The occupational
prestige scale ranges from 0–100, and respondents were divided into levels by increments of
10; therefore, a respondent with an occupation that scores 26 was assigned to the third occupa-
tional level.
Respondents
The respondents were 76 (out of 130) employees of a major state university student health
service, and 162 (out of 283) non-faculty employees of a small liberal arts college (total 238 out
of 413 employees) who volunteered to complete the questionnaire. Only respondents reporting
working at least 35 or more hours per week were retained, leaving a total of 196 respondents
for analysis.
The two work sites were surveyed at different times. Some minor additions and deletions
of questions were made after the first site (student health service) was surveyed, but all ques-
tions reported in this study were identical in the two samples. The questionnaires were com-
pleted anonymously.
RESULTS
Characteristics of the Respondents
Of the 196 respondents, 79% were female, with a mean age of 42 years
(range 21–69). This sample included individuals in a range of occupations,
including physicians, nurses, administrators, pharmacists, health educators,
librarians, supervisors, computer programmers and analysts, medical techni-
cians, administrative assistants, and clerical employees. The income distribu-
tion of the respondents was: ,$25,000/year, 39%; 25,000–34,999, 28%;
35,000–49,999, 18%; 50,000–74,999, 13%; .75,000, 3%. The distribution
of occupational status (OCCSTATUS), as defined above, was level 3 (3%),
level 4 (19%), level 5 (12%), level 6 (34%), level 7 (29%), level 8 (2%),
and level 9 (2%).
Categorization of Respondents
A respondent was placed into the category corresponding to the paragraph
to which the respondent gave the highest rating. A small number of respon-
dents misunderstood the instructions and rated only one paragraph, presum-
ably the one that was most like them. Others rated two or more paragraphs
as being equally like them. These two groups of respondents (total n561)
were not included in the analyses in which respondents are categorized by
the highest rated paragraph, but were included in analyses of correlations of
particular paragraph scores with the various outcome variables and in analy-
ses focusing on responses to the true–false items.
As shown in Table 3 (top), respondents are clear in expressing how they
view their work. Mean relevance ratings for the highest rated paragraph are
2.5, 2.4, and 2.4 for Job, Career, and Calling respondents; the mean ratings
for the other paragraphs range from .23 to .70. The standard deviations indi-
JOBS, CAREERS, AND CALLINGS
27
TABLE 3
Means of Characteristics of 135 Respondents Viewing Work as Job, Career, or Calling
Job (n544) Career (n543) Calling (n548)
Paragraph ratings
JOB 2.5 (0.7) 0.7 (0.6) 0.2 (0.4)
CAREER 0.5 (0.7) 2.4 (0.6) 0.5 (0.7)
CALLING 0.2 (0.4) 0.6 (0.7) 2.4 (0.6)
Demographics
AGE 43.0
a
(8.0) 37.1
b
(10.0) 44.9
a
(10.7)
INCOME 1.9
a
(1.1) 1.8
a
(0.9) 2.5
b
(1.3)
SCHOOL 14.8
a
(2.4) 15.1
a
(2.3) 16.6
b
(2.4)
SOCSTAND 4.5
a
(2.0) 5.2
a
(1.7) 6.0
b
(1.4)
OCCSTATUS 5.5
a
(1.2) 5.2
a
(1.3) 6.5
b
(1.2)
JOBYEARS 6.7
b
(4.5) 4.8
a
(3.7) 8.1
b
(7.4)
Well-being
SATLIFE 4.5
a
(1.1) 4.7
a
(1.1) 5.5
b
(1.0)
SATHEALTH 5.3 (1.4) 5.4 (1.4) 5.6 (1.2)
SATJOB 4.2
a
(1.5) 4.6
a
(1.4) 5.7
b
(1.2)
WORKRANK 2.6
a
(.54) 2.4
a
(.66) 1.6
b
(.74)
HEALTH 3.2 (0.7) 3.3 (0.7) 3.3 (0.6)
DAYSMISS 3.2
a
(2.1) 4.3
a
(2.9) 2.0
b
(2.1)
Note. Table includes only respondents who rated all three paragraphs, and rated no more
than one dimension as most like them. Some means are based on 1–4 fewer respondents than
column nbecause of missing data. Standard deviations appear in parentheses. Means in the
same row that do not share the same superscript (aor b) differ at p,.05 two-tailed.
cate that there is practically no overlap in relevance ratings: essentially all
those viewing work as a Job, for instance, rated the Job paragraph as ‘‘very
much’’ or ‘‘somewhat like me’’ and rated Career and Calling as ‘‘not at
all’’ or ‘‘a little like me.’’
In this sample of 135 employees, nearly equal numbers of respondents
viewed work as a Job, Career, or Calling (44, 43, and 48, respectively).
Furthermore, Job and Calling paragraph ratings were strongly and inversely
related [r(n5135) 52.52, p,.01], whereas Career ratings were not
correlated (rs52.14 and 2.01) with either Calling or Job (correlations not
tabled). Consistent with the descriptions of the three dimensions, Calling
respondents ranked work as relatively more important in comparison to hob-
bies and friends (mean rank 1.6) than did Career or Calling respondents
(mean ranks 2.6 and 2.4; see Table 3).
Relation of Dimensions to the 18 True–False Items
All but three of the true–false items appeared in at least one paragraph,
and we examined responses to these items chiefly in order to confirm our
expectation about the correlation of items with paragraph scores. That is,
the true–false items provided the opportunity to test our expectation that
28
WRZESNIEWSKI ET AL.
each hypothesized feature of Job, Career, and Calling would individually
correlate higher with the rating of the paragraph in which the feature ap-
peared than with ratings of the other two paragraphs.
As shown in Table 2, the correlations of true–false items with their corre-
sponding paragraph ratings were generally significant and substantial (.25
to .55). The significant correlations include the three statements that were
not included in any of the paragraphs, ‘‘I enjoy talking about my work with
others’’ (positively with Calling and negatively with Job), ‘‘My primary rea-
son for working is financial—to support my family and lifestyle’’ (positively
with Job and negatively with Calling), and ‘‘I am very conscious of what
day of the work week it is and I greatly anticipate weekends. I say, ‘Thank
God It’s Friday!’’’ (positively with Job and negatively with Calling). The
only surprise was the extent to which Job and Calling items correlated
equally well (in opposite directions) with both Job and Calling paragraph
ratings. Career items correlated only with ratings of the Career paragraph.
In short, responses to the true–false items give the same picture as the inter-
correlations of paragraph ratings already described: Job and Calling are in-
versely related, whereas Career is independent of both Job and Calling.
A principal components factor analysis of the matrix of intercorrelations
of the 18 true–false items revealed four factors with eigenvaluesgreater than
1.00: 4.91, 2.09, 1.64, and 1.25. The rotated factors accounted respectively
for 27.30, 11.60, 9.09, and 6.92% of the total variance. Of these factors, the
first was identified by item loadings as representing the Job/Calling di-
mension. Because the responses of those who view work as a Job or Call-
ing are often judged to be opposite responses to the same items, it is pos-
sible that the same factor can be representing both dimensions. The items
with the highest loadings were CHOOSEAGAIN, WORKIMPORTANT,
TALKWORK, STILLWORK, FINANCE, AND NECESSITY (all load-
ings ..54; see Table 2 for full items). The second factor was identified
by item loadings as probably representing the Career dimension. The
items with the highest loadings were HIGHERLEVEL, SAMEWORK, and
STEPPINGSTONE (all loadings ..55) and the only other item with a load-
ing above .40 was THINKWORK.
Relation of Dimensions to Demographic Characteristics
Table 3 presents the mean scores on demographic variables for those re-
spondents who view work as a Job, Career, or Calling. With the exception
of age, with Career respondents younger than Job respondents byan average
of 6 years, there were no significant differences between Career and Job
respondents. Compared with Job and Career respondents, however, Call-
ing respondents were significantly better paid (INCOME) and better edu-
cated (SCHOOL), and had occupations higher in both self-perceived status
(SOCSTAND) and objective prestige level (OCCSTATUS).
JOBS, CAREERS, AND CALLINGS
29
Relation of Dimensions to Well-Being
We suggested that Callings would generally be associated with greater
life, health, and job satisfaction and with better health. Results were consis-
tently in this direction, with Job respondents scoring lowest and Calling re-
spondents highest on all four of these measures (Table 3). Calling respon-
dents reported notably and significantly higher life and job satisfaction than
Job and Career respondents. Calling respondents also ranked work satisfac-
tion significantly higher (relative to hobbies and friends) than did Job and
Career respondents (WORKRANK, Table 3). In contrast, differences be-
tween Job and Career respondents on satisfaction and two health measures
were all small and non-significant.
Although this study was not directed at assessing work performance, we
did include one relevant measure: self report of days of work missed. Calling
respondents missed significantly fewer days than either Job or Career respon-
dents; Career and Job respondents did not differ significantly in days missed
(Table 3).
Results from 24 Administrative Assistants
Since respondents who viewed their work as a Calling did work of signifi-
cantly higher occupational status than respondents in the other two groups,
the data reported here could be taken to make the fairly obvious point that
people in relatively high-status occupations think more positively about their
work and have more interesting and challenging work than people in rela-
tively low-status occupations. We were able to assess this possibility by ana-
lyzing the results from a subset of our respondents. The largest single occu-
pational group represented in our sample consisted of 24 administrative
assistants at the college work site. This group was analyzed separately in
order to determine both whether the Job, Career, Calling distinction might
be made within a single occupation, and if so, whether the dimensions might
relate to well-being variables.
Surprisingly, the administrative assistants produced a broad and rather
equal distribution of work orientations: 9 respondents saw themselves as
having Jobs, 7 had Careers, and 8 had Callings. Table 4 presents a compari-
son of means for those respondents who view work as a Job, Career, or
Calling parallel to the comparison for all respondents in Table 3. Although
Table 4 results will not support statistical analysis—given the small total
of administrative assistants—nevertheless the results are descriptively quite
striking. The Job–Career–Calling distinction emerged just about as clearly
for administrative assistants as for the total sample. Respondents with Jobs,
Careers, and Callings were very similar in age, income, and education, but
may have differed in self-perceived social standing of their occupation (Ca-
reer highest) and years in present position (Career between Job and Calling).
30
WRZESNIEWSKI ET AL.
TABLE 4
Means of Characteristics of 24 Administrative Assistants Viewing Work as Job,
Career, or Calling
Job (n59)
a
Career (n57)
b
Calling (n58)
c
Paragraph ratings
JOB 2.6 (0.7) 0.2 (0.5) 0.3 (0.5)
CAREER 0.9 (0.8) 2.0 (0.8) 0.5 (0.8)
CALLING 0.0 (0.0) 0.6 (0.6) 2.1 (0.8)
Demographics
AGE 44.9 (7.8) 47.3 (8.9) 47.1 (12.7)
INCOME 1.3 (1.0) 1.4 (0.5) 1.3 (0.5)
SCHOOL 14.7 (2.0) 14.1 (2.2) 15.0 (1.8)
SOCSTAND 4.6 (1.5) 6.7 (1.4) 5.1 (1.7)
OCCSTATUS*
JOBYEARS 4.2 (3.3) 6.8 (3.8) 9.2 (8.5)
Well-being
SATLIFE 4.1 (1.4) 4.9 (1.5) 5.3 (1.6)
SATHEALTH 5.6 (1.7) 6.1 (0.9) 5.6 (1.4)
SATJOB 3.8 (1.8) 5.1 (0.7) 5.3 (1.8)
WORKRANK 2.7 (0.5) 2.0 (0.6) 1.9 (1.0)
HEALTH 3.1 (0.8) 3.6 (0.5) 3.6 (0.5)
DAYSMISS 2.6 (1.6) 1.0 (1.0) 2.1 (2.4)
Note.plevels not marked on this table because of small n.
a
n58 for Career, Calling, and Satjob.
b
n55 for Job and Calling.
c
n56 for Job and Career; n57 for Socstand.
* All administrative assistants shared the same occupational status rating.
Particularly notable is the fact that, descriptively, the difference between Job
and Calling respondents was about the same for the homogenous subgroup
as for the total group. For SATLIFE, SATJOB, and WORKRANK, the mean
difference between Job and Calling respondents was about the same magni-
tude for administrative assistants (Table 4) as for all occupations together
(Table 3).
As already noted, the results for our small sample of administrative assis-
tants cannot have more than heuristic value. Nevertheless, we believe they
are important in showing that the Job–Career–Calling distinction can be
made clearly even within a group of persons relatively homogenousin occu-
pation and background, and that these orientations may have some interesting
correlates even within the homogenous group.
DISCUSSION
We believe that we have demonstrated that it is easy for most people to
assign themselves to one of the three Job, Career, or Calling dimensions,
based on degree of agreement with three paragraphs representing the three
JOBS, CAREERS, AND CALLINGS
31
work-relations. The differentiation of the three orientations was clearer and
easier than we had anticipated. In accord with our predictions, we presented
evidence indicating highest life and work satisfaction for respondents who
see their work as a Calling—even when income, education, and occupation
are at least roughly controlled (the administrative assistants).
Our results offer some support for our suggestion that being in a Calling
is related to better health. This suggestion came out of the growing literature
relating lifestyle and other social factors to health (see, e.g., Adler, Boyce, &
Chesney, 1993, on SES and health). Although respondents in a Calling were
not higher than others on self-reported health, they did, in our total sample,
report missing fewer days of work. Whether missing fewer days is better
interpreted as better health or better motivation for work cannot be estab-
lished in this initial study.
In addition to the evidence favoring the meaningfulness of the Job, Career,
Calling distinction and its linkage to satisfaction and other outcome vari-
ables, we note three somewhat surprising results of this study.
1. Although there are no doubt relations between occupation and distribu-
tion of people across the Job–Career–Calling dimension, it is clear that all
three dimensions can be well represented in at least some occupations. We
demonstrated this for the case of administrative assistants.
2. While Job and Calling seem to fall on a single dimension, having to
do with work as fulfillment versus work as a boring necessity, self-perception
as having a Career seems to be orthogonal to this dimension. A Career, as
represented in this study, focuses on promotion and associated changein the
kind of work performed. Furthermore, the concern with advancement that
seems to mark a Career does not appear to confer much advantage over a
Job in the various well-being variables we assessed.
3. Satisfaction with life and with work may be more dependent on how
an employee sees his or her work than on income or occupational prestige.
Our evidence for this claim is that the absolute size of Job vs. Calling differ-
ences is about the same in the homogenous sample of administrative assis-
tants as in the total sample of respondents.
Respondents in lower level occupations are likely to see themselves as
having either a Job or a Career. The prevalence of Career in lower status
occupations may be at least partially a function of age; Career respondents
tend to be the youngest respondents. This interpretation implies that younger
employees may be willing to work harder than their older counterparts, in
order to advance within their organizations. If true, this would have important
implications for managers trying to generate higher levels of productivity.
It is possible, however, that the link between youth and Career means not
a willingness of younger employees to work harder, but rather an expectation
held by younger employees that they will eventually move on to better posi-
tions. This interpretation would predict more hope but not harder working
32
WRZESNIEWSKI ET AL.
habits for more youthful employees. Indeed it may be that many younger
people who think they have Careers later become resigned to having only
a Job.
We believe that our results offer initial support for the value of viewing
work according to the Job–Career–Calling distinction. But many important
questions remain. Because the Amabile et al. (1994) paper came out after
we had completed our study, we were unable to introduce some of the ad-
vances made in that study into our own. Amabile et al. (1994) identified
‘‘challenge’’ as an important factor in the intrinsic–extrinsic distinction. Our
paragraphs did not represent this concept well, and it might be a critical
feature that differentiates both Careers and Callings from Jobs. Our Career
dimension has the ‘‘thinnest’’ definition, focusing almost entirely on the sin-
gle dimension of advancement. Challenge might enrich this dimension, and
make Career less unidimensional.
Future work should relate the Amabile intrinsic–extrinsic distinction to
Jobs, Careers, and Callings. Future work might also address the relation be-
tween Job, Career, and Calling and measures of work performance, as well
as the distribution and predictors of Job, Career, and Calling within the steps
of a well-marked ladder of Career advancement, such as is found in some
large corporations or in the armed forces. Most critically, since we can find
people who locate themselves along each dimension in at least some occupa-
tions, we can begin to ask how the same work can be a Calling for one
person and a Job for another. This issue may require moving beyond the
questionnaire methods of the present study; interviews of considerable depth
may be necessary in order to develop hypotheses about how an individual
comes to understand her work in terms of Job, Career, or Calling.
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