Build a Job or Find Yourself

I am fascinated with people’s career paths and have spent much of my own career focused on why people choose jobs, both as a recruiter and as a data analyst. That’s why I loved hearing this episode about finding meaning at work on The Hidden Brain.

This episode is an interview with Amy Wrzesniewski, a psychologist at Yale University. She says that people can be divided into three groups when it comes their approach to their job: they see it as a “job,” a “career” or a “calling.” People equally split into these groups regardless of position. Those who see their job as a calling report the greatest satisfaction. To see which group you fall into, take the quiz here.

I find this so interesting because a lot of mainstream career advice is to follow your passion. That’s so vague, and in my opinion, so wrongheaded (see Cal Newport’s brilliant take on this). It’s difficult to identify a passion at the start of a career.

As I daydream about the coming summer, I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of stories about outdoor adventures and getting away from it all to find yourself. It’s a romantic idea, but you don’t need to leave it all behind to discover your passion or find joy in the work you do. You may just need to understand your orientation towards work. (Though unfortunately, this makes for less compelling stories of self-actualization.)