A Perspective on Working

In a study of 28 hospital cleaners (Wrzesniewski, 1997) with the same official job description it was found some cleaners saw it as a means to earning money (a job), others a way to become a supervisor (a career) and others saw themselves as playing a critical part in healing patients and anticipating the needs of the doctors (a calling). So, like any job, hospital cleaning can be all three – a job, a career or a calling. A job is what you do this for a pay cheque. You do not seek other rewards from it. It is just another means to an end. And when the wage stops, you quit. A Career entails a deeper personal investment in work. You mark your achievements through money, but also through advancement. When the promotions stop, you look elsewhere for gratification. A Calling is when you have a passionate commitment to work for its own sake. Individuals with a calling see their work as contributing to the greater good. The work is fulfilling in its own right without regard for money or advancement. The research demonstrates that, it’s not the job description or the day-to-day tasks that give people a sense of working in a calling. Rather, it is how the person perceives what they do, whether their role provides them with a sense of meaning and purpose and how they view the impact their role had on a greater cause.

Edgar Schein developed 8 life anchors that reflect our basic values, motives and needs. Of the 8 anchors there are usually one or two that we won’t give up. Knowing what these are is important because when choices have to be made our anchors come into play and become a driving force behind the decisions that we make. Our anchors evolve once we begin our working life and then generally remain stable across our adult life. Schein used the metaphor of anchor because once we know what our top two anchors are we track how these have floated with the different career paths we’ve taken throughout life. So just like an anchor we won’t forgo this basic need however we use the insight to see how we can adapt our situations to be consistent with our anchors.

Career Anchors: Self Assessment
Edgar H. Schein
Pfeiffer Wiley
ISBN: 0787984280

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