Vocation Rhetoric – Part 3: Career Satisfaction vs. Satisfying Your Vocational Call

I came across a really helpful visual on Michael Hyatt’s blog today. His post this morning addressed the issue of job satisfaction, and he laid out an argument for why job satisfaction (for Christians and non-Christians) occurs at the intersection of three vital components: passion, competence and marketplace value. Here’s the visual he used in his post:

Hyatt (former Thomas Nelson Chairman and CEO, bestselling author, and leadership consultant) focusses his mission and his writing on helping individuals become successful leaders in their chosen occupations. From what I know and have observed from his writing, he seems to have a keen understanding of effective leadership within the marketplace.

I share his diagram here, not because I disagree with it or his principles, but because it helps to illustrate the distinction I have been arguing for between “occupation” and “vocation.” As Hyatt illustrates, “career satisfaction” (occupational fulfillment) requires one component that fulfilling a vocational call does not — marketplace value.  Sometimes our vocational callings as Christians may benefit the marketplace, but they certainly exist irrespective of the marketplace. Hopefully this visual helps clarify the distinction I have been getting at in earlier posts on vocation rhetoric (parts 1 & 2).

I have one more post planned for this series on vocation, and then we will move on. Here’s a teaser…the last part on vocation rhetoric has to do with gender diversity in the workplace and how the growing number of women in the marketplace have the opportunity to help shift our cultural focus from a occupation-centric paradigm to a vocation-centric one.

3 thoughts on “Vocation Rhetoric – Part 3: Career Satisfaction vs. Satisfying Your Vocational Call

  1. I was thinking about this topic today.

    We have a unique experience in the scope of history as 21st century Americans. To various extents we can pursue a career of our choice. This is a recent trend in society and for the majority of history was not the case. Most people who have called planet earth home were born into a class and social condition and had very little (if any) social mobility.

    I am alway cautious when the message of The Gospel is connected too closely with a political or economic systems.

    Very rarely are we aware of the size of our own bias. We continually try to make the Gospel fit into the reality that we currently live in if we benefit from that reality. Are we willing to sacrifice all sacred cows?

  2. I think it would be helpful to have a diagram of sorts of how you view and define occupation and vocation. Are they separate entities? Does occupation support vocation? Does vocation inform occupation? Do you only get a vocation once you become a Christian, or is it a more universal concept? I think this would help me (and possibly others?) fully understand your observations and argument.

    As a Christian, when we’re asked what we do, how do you think we ought to answer?

    I want to also address the Venn diagram above, specifically the “Market” element – as Michael Hyatt puts it – “To enjoy a successful career, people must be willing to pay you for what you do. You don’t have to get rich, but there must be a market for your product or service. Otherwise, your career is not sustainable.”

    If we frame this differently and simply replace the monetary aspect with the idea that to be satisfied, you must have consumers of some kind – isn’t that an important part of vocation? If we were lucky enough to be part of a society with no widows or orphans, it wouldn’t be helpful or rewarding to go around supporting or saving them, right? People who were part of the underground railroad had separate occupations – and taking part in the railroad is arguably part of a higher vocational calling, but it wouldn’t have mattered without passengers. Passion and Competence together without consumers, results or a real-world application still strikes me as a hobby… whether the results are monetary or otherwise. I’m not sure what the best words are to fill it in, but I think vocation still needs a third circle, do you? If so, what do you think it should say?

    1. Sorry that it’s taken me so long to respond, Brittany! I think your post got lost in the busy Thanksgiving weekend holiday.

      You had a lot of good observations/questions; so let me try to respond to everything concisely. I don’t know if a diagram would completely communicate my perspective on vocation and occupation. However, if I were to attempt a visual it would indicate that a chosen occupation is secondary to the vocational call of a believer. One’s occupation may help to fulfill one’s vocational calling a great deal, a little, or not at all. I don’t know that I would draw many parallels for a depiction of vocation from the Venn diagram above that illustrates a successful career.

      As for your question about how I see occupation and vocation differently, I highlighted some differences in my first two posts on vocation rhetoric. In those earlier posts I also discussed the origin of a vocational call and it’s universality. I discussed its philosophical roots, which are tied to one’s view of the world. I believe that one’s vocational call answers the philosophical question: “Why am I here?” Different worldviews will generate different answers. I do not believe that the answer to this question can be found in one’s chosen occupation, because occupations are tied to socio-economic systems.

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