For my students – A career or a job?

Dear students,

In the Intercultural class, we’ve been discussing the cultural trope of “you are what you do,” i.e., our sense of personal identity is closely related to the kind of work we do.  We often take the privileged standpoint of believing that work should be personally (spiritually) fulfilling, as well as paying the bills.

Image result for career

Perhaps we’ve lost sight of the differences between a hobby, a job, a career, and a vocation.  Perhaps we’ve fallen for the (unrealistic) cultural expectation that everyone *has* a vocation, and if you haven’t identified yours, it’s some kind of a character flaw.

Look, hobbies make you happy, and are an enjoyable way to spend your time, but they won’t necessarily pay the bills.  A job *will* pay the bills, if nothing else.  You might not like your job, but you are trading your time and labor for money, and that money will (presumably) enable you to do other things that you like better.  A career is a job or series of related jobs that you find fulfilling enough to make sacrifices for.  You might relocate for a career, or get additional education in order to advance.

Then there’s the idea of a vocation – that one form of work that’s like a holy calling.  The thing you would do, whether or not you get paid.  The work you’d build your life around.(I’m one of the fortunate ones – for me, teaching is a vocation, and I’ve sacrificed a lot to be here).

I encourage you to read this interview with author Elizabeth Gilbert:

Elizabeth Gilbert on the best career advice we’ve ever heard

You know I wish all the best, most wonderful things for you, and I want you to have a rich and fulfilling life.


Dr. Hamel