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How to Build a Calling for a Career

Written by Brandon Painter, M.Ed., C.U.G.

There are numerous ways an individual can feel about his or her work. Statistics say that a person will work 1/3 of their adult life. It is important that everyone finds meaning in the work he or she does since we spend so much time at work. Seeking a meaningful career through career coaching can help individuals create more purpose and happiness in their work they do each day. At the same time, it also enhances a person’s overall life-satisfaction.


3 Perspectives of Work-Orientation

Some of the top researchers of vocational psychology say everyone has a perception of how they look at the work he or she does. The first perception is people view their work as necessary evil. The second perception is that he or she sees their work as a step ladder to a better life. The third level is that individuals view their work as a calling. This orientation people find profound purpose in not only their only life, but he or she wants to help others find meaning in theirs.


The Job-Oriented Perception

The first is having the perception of my work is “just a job.” This individual looks at the work they do is dull and views it to make ends meet. You know the type. The unmotivated people at work it seems like you must cow pod to get things done. I’m only joking, sort of! This kind of work-orientation does not fulfill a person’s desires, so he or she is always looking for something better. However, most individuals who have this work-orientation find jobs that are just as meaningless. He or she will live this unfulfilled life until they find something more meaningful to them. He or she must look for work that gives their life purpose. They can do this by seeking a career or finding work that he or she feels like is a calling.


The Career-Oriented Perception

The second type of work-orientation is a person who views their work as a career. An individual finds great significance in the work they do. However, it is not based on their purpose. This type of work-orientation comes to work to kill it. They are highly motivated and view their career as a stepping stone to achieve professional greatness. This type of person can be fantastic to work with because they like to get things done. However, some will run others to succeed. Even at this level, individuals are not completely fulfilled because he or she is missing their life’s purpose.


The Calling-Oriented Perception

The third type of work-orientation is an individual who views their work as a calling. Dik (2013) states, “In my research with Dr. Ryan Duffy, we define calling as having three dimensions: (1) a “transcendent summons” to (2) approach work in a way that connects it to a broader sense of life purpose and meaning, with (3) “other-oriented” values and goals as a key source of motivation” (para. 2). To sum this up, this person finds great purpose in their work that he or she feels compelled to do. This person’s mission for their work is to serve others and what they do gives to the greater good of society. You know, the work you find such great passion in that you would do it for free.

People have reasons and purpose for working no matter what work related orientation he or she fits in. Some just have a higher degree of meaning and give back to others and society at the same time.


Why do people not seek a calling?

He or she feels like their past will get in the way

Don’t have enough money

Not enough education

Getting caught up on daily patterns

Low self-esteem or self-worth

Family responsibilities

Family/Personal issues

Lack of self-awareness around purpose, values, boundaries, and personal standards

Never thought about it

Fear of the “unknown,” change, success, or failure

Feeling “stuck”

External pressures

Zero support

Lack self-efficacy

Age and feeling it is too late to change


How does one go about building a calling?

To start, we will look at Dik and Duffy’s writing toward vocational psychology

Dik and Duffy (2012) state, “Meaningful work has been closely associated with authenticity, a sense of self-efficacy or confidence; a sense of personal control, responsibility, and initiative; successful navigation of obstacles; and self-esteem. It has been linked to a sense of interconnectedness, belongingness, community, and identification with others” (p.86). They also described, “A calling is a work a person feels compelled to do, that draws deeply from their sense of purpose, and that gives them a way to make a positive difference in the world” (adapted from Dik and Duffy, 2012, p. 6). To summarize these points together, one can build a calling by…


10 Steps to build a calling

Create self-awareness of what your life purpose is

Make a list of products or services you would do for free

Define what careers are in those areas

Pick ones that interest you and seek more information on how to make it a career

Get educated, job shadow or volunteer in those careers to see if you find as much enjoyment as you think you will

Once you find careers that you enjoy, make a pro and con list of reasons to switch careers

Define your purpose in those careers

Define your personal and career values and strengths and how they intertwine in that career

Seek an education in that field

Choose a career or make your own business around your calling


10 Coaching questions and statements to build a calling in a career

How would you define a meaningful career?

Describe what you feel like your purpose is on this Earth.

What do you feel that you do is meaningful that helps others or society?

List your personal and career values.

List your personal and career strengths.

What hobbies do you have that people would pay for?

Describe what desires you have when it comes to working.

What type of work could you do that you would be excited about each morning to wake up and do?

What type of communities are you a part of or wish you were a part of that contributes to the well-being of others or betters this world?

What would it take for you to start a new career based on a calling?


Coaching is about learning about one’s self and acting. If you want to set up a free consultation on how to become your best possible self or if you have any questions or insights you’d like to discuss with a professional, I am available upon request. My contact information is at



Dik, B.J. & Duffy, R.D. (2012). Making your job a calling: How the psychology of vocation can change your life at work. Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press.

Dik, B.J. (2013). A superhero’s calling [blog file]. Retrieved from