We all look at work differently.  A few years ago a friend at the Ross School of Business, shared a paper written by Kathryn H. Dekas and Wayne E. Baker that discussed work orientations.  They stated that “every person in a work organization has a work orientation, which characterizes an individual’s overall perception of the meaning of work, and the constellation of values and assumptions one holds …”  They went on to discuss 3 primary work orientations: job, career, and calling.

Photograph of Glass Factory Worker Rob Kidd 1911 - NARA - Wikimedia Commons

It seems fitting to reflect on how we each experience our work this Labor Day.

Calling Orientation. The origins of the calling orientation can be traced back to when work meant using your skills and resources for the benefit of God or one’s community.  While this is still true for some, a calling orientation today is more likely to mean a person finds deep personal fulfillment through what they do. When this is true, people experience their work as a means to personal fulfillment.

Career Orientation. The career orientation is rooted in the values of discipline, hard work, and achievement.  Work is a means to achievement, upward mobility, and personal gain.  When this is true, people experience their work as a means to achieve their personal goals.

Job Orientation. Those with a job orientation see work as an economic exchange; a means to an end. Work is a way to gain income, not to find fulfillment. When this is true, people experience their work is a “job” done for extrinsic rather than intrinsic rewards.

Three individuals can have the same job, each with a different orientation.  They will experience it differently.  In our Experience Economy, how we see our work may impact the experience we create for others.

How would you describe your work orientation?