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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Robinson Bruner

Going from Job -> Career -> Calling for Organizational Engagement

Updated: Mar 27

Engaging your team begins by understanding who is on your team and what motivates them (we’ll talk about how to do that in an upcoming post). Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski has developed a classification system to better understand how employees interact with their work. Those interactions can be as a job, career or calling with about 1/3 of workers in each category.

man sitting in the dark


Motivation: Pay and benefits

Focus: Outside the organization. They are extrinsically motivated

Work as a job opens a path for individuals to reach a goal outside the organization like paying for school, buying a new car or paying bills. This can be a strong motivator especially if tied to a person’s basic needs. But, that motivation will not increase their engagement with the organization.

A job may look like a student in school who is working as a waitress to cover her books next semester and expenses over the summer so she can complete an internship at a prestigious firm.


  • Be mindful that this group makes up a significant portion of the workforce.

  • Determine if the position they are in will meet their needs

  • Help resolve other work aspects (work stability, length of assignment, schedule, requirements outside of work, certifications needed, etc.).

  • Help them develop a desire for their own professional development and connection to the organization (ex. if the organization exceeds its sales quota every quarter for the year, think about offering bonuses or an extra vacation day)

business man straightening his watch


Motivation: Titles. Awards. Promotions. Status. Success.

Focus: Goals within the organization/industry. This group is still extrinsically motivated because they are driven by validation from outside of themselves.

Work as a career provides the prestige of career advancement, moving up the organizational hierarchy, increasing notoriety in their field, titles, recognition, and achievement within their organization/industry. Their predominant focus is on advancement. They engage in an organization to help them achieve their career goals.

A career may look like the person switching to a new organization or a new graduate who comes in with lots of ideas, wants additional assignments, works long hours, wants professional development and most importantly will express their desire to have a clear career path.


  • Implement organization-sponsored professional development programs

  • Give them special assignments to help them grow and prepare them for the next phase of their development


group brainstorming on the wall

Motivation: This is what they were meant to do with their lives.

Focus: Making an impact. The reward is intrinsic. They work for personal fulfillment or self-actualization.

Work as a calling is an end rather than a way to get to something else. The work is their purpose and it is largely focused on making a difference in an area that matters to them. They want to help make the world a better place.

Side Note: A calling has to allow for one or meet their basic needs. A person cannot be self-actualized (Maslow, 1943) or motivated (Pink, 2009) without having their basic needs met. So as leaders and employers, we have to build a financially sustainable system that provides fair pay that ensures our team can support themselves and their families.

People who work as a calling still need a paycheck so there is a minimum threshold that must be met. But, they get up in the morning for a different reason. They engage with work as a calling and are seldom absent. The goal of the leaders is to connect or reconnect staff with a sense of calling in their work this is achieved by helping to promote meaning and purpose through the organization.

A calling may look like someone who takes pride in the work they do. They want to see the results of their work and understand how it impacts the world. Because of this impact, they come to work, put in extra effort and want to do a good job.


  • Meet them where they are. What about their work speaks to the calling in their life? Make sure at least 20% of their workload is dedicated to that work.

  • Constantly connect their work to their calling. Show them that the purpose of your organization is aligned with their calling.

  • Develop their strengths. They are in it for the long haul, which may mean they could

be with you for the long haul.

Here are some questions to help determine which classification someone is in:

  • What is important to them?

  • Which part of their job do they like?

  • If money was not an issue, what would they do?

  • Do they want to rise to the top of their chosen career path or are they happy where they are?

What do you think?

I’d love to hear your perspective on whether you and your team are working at a job, in a career or at their calling. If you have any tips to engage staff and help them develop their calling t

weet me @gladedsolutions or comment below.

Want to read more? Check out: Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C. R., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People’s relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 21-33.

job to career to calling

About the Author

Natalie Robinson Bruner

Natalie Robinson Bruner helps organizations develop systems and

implement strategies that engage their workforce by offering a three-stage process of training, action plan and individualized consulting. By using research, experience, case studies, pragmatic solutions, humor, engaging activities and her o

wn secret sauce, Natalie delivers a powerful message about engaging staff. This provides organizations and their staff with the tools to engage in purpose-driven mission, reduce turnover, and impact their bottom line. Her clients included large to medium-sized businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations

Glad●ED Solutions offers creative solutions for personal and organizational development through corporate training, individual coaching for professional growth and special events to support career advancement.

In a fast-changing world, we need information that can help us stay effective, increase sales and achieve our mission. Glad●ED Solutions offers succinct, research-based, experienced-informed training coupled with a pragmatic action plan for implementation.

Connect with Natalie on LinkedIn and visit her at

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