According to Dr Amy Wrzesniewski, professor of Organisational Behaviour at the Yale School of Management, our attitude towards what we do, or our “work orientation”, falls in one of three categories. We view our work as either a job, a career, or a calling.

No one is happy in a job

A job is something we do out of necessity, which often has a wage as the only reward. If you spend every minute of your working day thinking about when you will be finally off, chances are you see your work as a job.

Others consider their work a career. They are fully invested in what they do, and they rely on their work to feel successful. They often identify themselves with their job description, and although the progress they’ve made gratifies them, they are constantly looking for their next career move.

And finally, there are people who see their work as their calling. They see work as an end in itself. Their work is fulfilling not because of external rewards, but because they feel it contributes to the greater good, draws on their personal strengths, and give them meaning and purpose. What is more fascinating is that any activity can become someone’s calling, however noble or mundane.

All this is important because the fulfilment you draw from what you do heavily affects how happy you are. And as you might have guessed already, people who pursue their calling tend to be happier than people stuck in a job.

Which one are you?

I like to believe I once had a career. Then, lured by the prospect of bigger financial rewards, I managed to turn it into what I’d most definitely describe today as a job. I know I’ve been less happy ever since I got “promoted”, and I know that too often I let that spill out into other areas of my life.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I think that my job had a lot to do with my choice to become a foster carer. I miss being able to think of what I do as my professional career, but I now realise how, for many years, that same career has distracted me from ever searching for a calling.

I always disliked the word “calling”, by the way. The term makes me think of those nuns who remove themselves from society, abandon all their material possessions, and live a simpler life of prayers. Nothing wrong with it–if that’s what you want to do–but I can’t see myself as a nun.

Fostering shares a lot of properties with the typical calling too. Fulfilling not because of external rewards, but because of its contribution to the greater good. Draws on personal strengths, and give meaning and purpose.

I find it really hard to refer to fostering as my calling, but I must admit that, if I could choose, I’d swap my day job for it in a heartbeat.

New at the role

A few days ago, a 8 years old who stayed briefly with us asked me a very strange question, as they do. She asked me if I liked being a carer. Point blank, completely out of context. There was nothing accusatory in her tone, but I still felt as if I had to defend myself. I stupidly replied, “I don’t mind it”, in an unusual cheerful tone to try giving a more positive spin to my reply.

“I don’t mind it”? Allow me to rectify that.

Being able to call myself a foster carer makes me feel happy about myself. I feel fortunate to be able to count myself among other amazing foster carers, a bunch of people who share my commitment towards helping children to whom life gave an impossibly bad hand.

All that surely deserve more than a, “I don’t mind it”.

Would you mind?

Back when I still had a career, I remember people openly confessing to being jealous of me for working in a job I loved. I used to feel sad for them, and a little smug too. I couldn’t imagine spending my life doing something I had no interest in. I can now.

I had a career, then a job, and now I found something to be passionate about, again. And I have to agree with Dr Wrzesniewski: callings are much more fun.

I wonder how many of us are stuck in a job they don’t love anymore. I wonder how many of us would make great foster carers, and for how many fostering could become the calling that has been always missing in life.

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