JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN PERSONALITY
31, 21–33 (1997)
Jobs, Careers, and Callings: People’s Relations to Their Work
University of Michigan
Bryn Mawr College
University of Pennsylvania
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
ϭ 196) with a wide range of occupations from clerical to professional were ...view middle of the document...
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 individuals 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 holders are not expressed through their work. In contrast, people who have Careers have a deeper personal investment in their work and mark their achievements not only through monetary gain, but through advancement within the
occupational structure. This advancement often brings higher social standing, increased power within the scope of one’s occupation, and higher selfesteem for the worker (Bellah et al., 1985, p. 66). Finally, people with Callings 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 fulﬁllment 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 religious 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 occupation. 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 salespersons, medical technicians, factory workers, and secretaries could view their
work as a Calling. Such people could love their work and think that it contributes to making the...