Work, Profession, Job, Vocation, Occupation, Career or Calling? Getting Clear on Language About Work
by Jeff Haanen
“You don’t just have a job, you have a vocation!” Really? It feels more like I need a vacation.
“Some people have a calling,” my father said to me. “But most of us just have a job.”
“Profession? Sounds like what rich people do. ‘Round here, we just work.”
“I think I’m gonna quit. I just don’t feel called to this anymore.”
This is just plain confusing. Work, profession, job, vocation, occupation, career and calling. What exactly are we talking about here?
Does vocation and work mean the same thing? When is a job a career, or just a job? Am I working if I’m not getting paid? Do I really have to be called to every task I do at work? Or is it ok to be called to something completely different than my 9-5? Why does it feel like the hardest work I do is at home, and I go to work to rest?
The language we use around work – especially among Christians – can be mystifying. And a mist in the pulpit usually means a fog in the pew. Defining terms would help. But Webster can’t tell us how we use these terms in relation to one another.
In this short video (6:16) I take a stab at trying to get clear on both how we actually use these terms, and how we ought to use language around the idea of work based on Christian revelation.
My friend is fond of saying, “Change the language, you change the culture.” That’s hopeful. Maybe we can at least get a little less confused.
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This post was published March 22, 2017
Jeff Haanen is a writer and entrepreneur. He founded Denver Institute for Faith & Work, a community of conveners, teachers and learners offering experiences and educational resources on the gospel, work, and community renewal. He is the author of An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life and an upcoming two-book series on spiritual formation, vocation, and the working class for Intervarsity Press. He lives with his wife and four daughters in Denver and attends Wellspring Church in Englewood, Colorado.