So a job, a career and a calling are sitting at a table.

So here I am, sitting in my twelfth interview in the past four months, at a small but beautifully designed agency. I’m chatting with a young-ish owner about the various businesses he’s got his hands in, in addition to the one I’m interviewing for. Our conversation feels more like two people chatting over drinks than an interview. My thoughts start to wander to the internal dialogue happening inside my head that is making it very hard for me to concentrate on what he’s saying. I’m nodding and mm-hmm’ing as my thoughts are completely centered around the immediate awareness that this position is clearly just a job to me; not part of my career path and definitely not my calling.

I’ve always been on a quest to find my calling, since a young age. That thing that you do for the rest of your life that is all the most amazing things wrapped into one: balanced, harmonious, the right fit, makes a ton of money, inspires you and others, doesn’t feel like a job, never causes Sunday night dread or a case of the Mondays, is so comfortable but yet so challenging and is what you want to devote your life to. I’ve taken countless career tests, read dozens of professional self-help books and talked with tons of people that claim to be living their calling. I used to think that a career is synonymous with a calling, well I guess it can be both, but what I’ve come to realize through my job turned career journey is that there truly is a distinction between the three: a job, a career and a calling. I am in search of the third.

I spent all of my high school and most of my college years chasing the job. It was all about survival. Living paycheck to paycheck to keep a roof over my head and at least one meal a day in my stomach. My basic needs. I began to understand the possibility of a career in the last year of college and a few years after college but had absolutely no idea how to go about getting one. I didn’t have mentors or parents that showed me how to do things like that. So I got a few internships and tried on some different jobs to get a feel for what I liked. I very quickly went back to job mode, seeking the paycheck instead of finding a career that stayed true to myself. That led me to leave journalism, something I loved that didn’t pay well in the least, to marketing, something that came very naturally to me and paid pretty good compared.

I’ve done it all. I made keys at Ace Hardware, ordered fruit at Jamba Juice, sold clothes at BCBG Max Azria, tanned people at a tanning salon, passed out shots and flyers as a promotional model, did cigar runs for tips as a caterer, written bios for graffiti artists, managed promotional street teams for SF Bay Guardian, served tables at a golf course, researched art grants for The Lab, watched four kids under the age of four as a nanny, trained spokespersons for Costco Roadshows at SebaMed, slept at offices and printers for Wunderman and Young & Rubicam, and even cleaned houses for cash.

We all have these vivid and awe-inspiring professional histories that have taught us about what we like and don’t like doing with the 30% of our lives that we spend working. I like being around people, a lot. I like health. I like brands with distinct personalities. I hate using my sexuality to sell something. I like helping others. I hate subjecting people to UV rays that will expedite their deaths. I like planning parties. I like using my brain, charm and wit. I like researching things. I don’t like cleaning diarrhea diapers. I like knowing that I’m making someone else’s day easier in some way. I like casual, creative work environments.

In my professional career, I’ve advanced in all the ways imagineable: title, money, experience, and respect. But at the end of the day, it felt empty. I didn’t feel that I was serving a greater good or invigorating my soul. Does your work need to do that for you? Maybe not. Maybe they can be separate things, like stock broker by day and yogi by night. Or maybe it all depends on what your purpose for working is. Maybe if you know your purpose is to make ends meet then the ends justify the means. For me, I just know I didn’t feel good and that’s important to me.

So the quest continues. I’ve done what I need to do to pay the bills and give myself space to explore the differences between a career and calling and what exactly that looks like to me. I’ve interviewed with dozens of companies, large and small, start-up to established. I’m starting to get more of sense of what kind of companies I like being a part of, if I decide to work for someone else. My own creative juices are brimming with dreams of companies that I would like to start on my own.

But most importantly, I’m digging into that off feeling I felt, with the help of a book, more a workbook, called The Desire Map. What did that feeling mean? What was it signaling? Why was I feeling that way? How do I want to feel? How do I bring that feeling to life in my professional career?

I definitely don’t have all the answers but am pushing myself to start to figure them out. Because heck, if I’m going to spend as much of my time working as I do sleeping (We all love sleeping, right?!), I might as well completely love what I’m doing, while I’m doing it.

Tell me about the feeling you get at your job, career or calling in the comments below. Love it? Hate it? Feel numb?

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