Consider you are a bricklayer for just a second…

Three men, all bricklayers, are asked to describe what they do.

The first man says, ‘I lay bricks’.

The second man replies, ‘I build homes’.

The third man describes, ‘I am building the house of God’, or depending on the source… ‘I am helping to build to most beautiful museum the world has ever seen. People will come for miles just to gaze upon its beauty’.

Regardless of exact wording, the three men complete an identical job – as the first man says, they all lay bricks. The difference is in their attitude and the meaning they derive from their work.

The first man describes a job.

The second describes a career.

The third describes a calling.

Those with a ‘job’ use their employment for monetary gains only. Those with a ‘career’ are looking to learn and view promotion favourably as it shows they are growing in their profession. Those with a ‘calling’ believe they are making a difference and feel deeply satisfied in their role and in themselves.

So, who has the right attitude?

Dr. Wrzesniewski, an Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Yale University’s School of Management, has published research showing that individuals who view their employment with a ‘calling’ orientation report higher satisfaction with their lives and work, and are more likely to ‘craft’ their jobs to fit their strengths and interests.

Surely only those with a ‘calling’ are the select few – they must uphold a prestigious role?

No. Not necessarily.

A study of janitors in a hospital found that ‘callings’ are not reserved solely for doctors or specialist surgeons (Wrzesniewski 2003). The study found that some janitors believed they had found their ‘calling’, as they believed that they had the opportunity when cleaning the facility to not only save clients from infection, but to take every chance to communicate with patients to brighten their day. They had found meaning in their role of the greater picture of patient health outcomes.

Or take it from Martin Luther King Jr, who describes a ‘calling’ well before research on job orientation was published:

‘If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.’

So, which bricklayer are you? Think of how you spend your days at work. Do you have a job, a career or a calling?

We will all answer differently. Some may have found their ‘calling’, some searching…millennials may be searching ferociously! Some may have a ‘job’, yet live a deeply satisfying life in providing for their family, so they rationalise their work as a means to an end.

I know where I want to be.

As Steve Jobs said, ‘We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?’

Words such as these wouldn’t have been used to describe longing for a ‘job’. They describe ambition to create positive change and meaning.

Find your calling, build the most beautiful masterpiece the world has ever seen and make a positive mark.

By Alex Hardy 

Photos courtesy of Unsplash



Wrzesniewski, A., Rozin, P., & Bennett, G. (2003). Working, playing, and eating: Making the most of most moments. In C. L. M. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life welllived (pp. 185-204). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

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.