Career Vs. Vocation: What is the Difference?


I’m sure you’ve heard the quote, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” But does that seem like a pipe dream to you? Many people go to work each day with thoughts of the weekend already on their minds, hoping to get through the eight hours and get home as soon as possible so they can live their ‘real lives.’ Their work is not fulfilling, but it may be draining, leaving them feeling exhausted and depleted. If this sounds like you, you’re probably pursuing a career rather than a vocation. What’s the difference, and how can you dedicate your working life to something that truly matters? Here are some ideas.


What is a Career?

While a career is more goal-oriented than a job, it’s still focused on making money to pay for the things that fill your heart; your family, hobbies, and travel for example. Maybe you got there because it seemed like what you wanted, or you were told it would be a good move, or perhaps it fell in your lap. Though you may be very good at your career and have spent years in school or training to get where you are, you still think of it as something you do to pay the bills, and you strive to keep your career and personal life separate so you can have ‘balance.’


What is a Vocation?

A vocation is similar to a career in that it pays the bills and allows you to have the freedom to pursue your hobbies and take care of your family. If you’re working in a vocation, you never feel like you’re going through the motions or that you’re merely working on getting through to the weekend. A vocation is a calling; something for which you have a driving passion. If you have a vocation, you feel you’re working for a purpose, and this provides you with a deep sense of fulfillment. Careers and vocations can be the same ‘job’—the difference is how you feel about it and what type of personal satisfaction you get from it. Simply put, a career may give you satisfaction, but a vocation brings you joy.


How Do You Find Your Passion?

Many people who find themselves in a career rather than a vocation got there because they listened to external advice rather than listening to their gut instinct. You may have gone to medical school because your parents were both doctors, or you decided to become an attorney because your high school teachers told you how well suited you were for the courtroom. However, you probably ignored that little voice in your head telling you that your real passion was something very different.


Discovering your passion is about accessing what brings you joy, fulfillment, and personal fulfillment. Looking at your hobbies and what you do in your spare time is an excellent place to start. Think about what you loved to do as a child to see if there are clues there. Ask yourself the question, “What would I be 100% happy doing for the rest of my life even if I never got paid for it?” When you start to think in this way, you’ll be surprised at how quickly the answers come to you.


Everyone deserves to have a vocation that fills us with fulfillment and satisfaction. When you pursue a vocation as your life’s work, you benefit, and those you serve benefit as well. It’s never too late to re-examine your situation and make a change.

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