When is a job, a profession or a calling?

When its not just about the 9-5. I got thinking about it this morning as I was checking work email. Yes, Sunday morning and I’m checking work email and I’m not expected at work until Monday.

So I got thinking about what a job is, when a job becomes a profession and when it is a calling.  I think I was born to be a reference librarian. This morning, an offhand cliche in a text with a friend, led me to discover just what the cliche really meant.  I can’t help myself, I even answer retrospective questions!

So many people are stuck in jobs that they don’t like, but because of a multitude of reasons, they stick with it. Others like their jobs, but its still just a job. Those who have a profession, are generally considered as people with formal university qualifications, working in the field of their qualification. Me, I’m one of the insane, I love my job, I do work out of hours more often than I realise (because I don’t consider it to be work), so maybe its more of a calling for me than a profession even.  And there are those who would be considered professionals because of their qualifications, but who work at it as a job.  Confusing I know.

To make it more confusing, there are people out there, who love their work and go above and beyond the call, but don’t have a formal qualification.  I see them being professional in what they do, even if it isn’t considered a profession.

So which do you have?  A job, a profession or a calling? And if its not one of the latter two, do you want it to be different?  Easy to say, hard to do, I know. But speaking from experience, there is virtually nothing in the employment sphere, that is better than doing what you love (and getting paid for it…..)  🙂


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  1. I think this is a fascinating topic, particularly coming straight after your post about ‘postponing the dream’ – it really highlights what a dilemma the work/life balance can become (especially for women?).

    I’m new to this profession and while I am very happy working in it, am still to decide if I love it enough to let it spill into the home side of my ledger. I’ve also been badly burned in the past by the work/life balance swinging way too far towards work so I’ve set up pretty rigid boundaries for myself at this point. I think I will find those boundaries too prescriptive as I move on through my new career, but at the moment am taking things slowly.

    It IS great getting up each morning and being happy about coming to work 🙂

  2. It definitely is great when you are happy going to work. Thanks for the comment!

    • Penny on June 6, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    ooo tricky! I think it is a bit of a calling for me, though I can shut off from work easily enough. What I can’t shut off is my passion for libraries as a “thing” and the service they provide to the communities they serve. Also I can’t help it when it comes to providing people with information… like you I must have been born to be a reference librarian.

  3. Nice to find another soul with the same calling! Thanks.

    • Janine K on June 6, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    I have said it took me 51 years to find the perfect job. Being an avid reader my wish for years was to work in a library. But family and other commitments meant it took a lot longer than I thought. I am still amazed that they pay me money to come to work every day. I love the busyness and people contact, and being able to share my love of books with others and get positive feedback from patrons when they return makes my day.

    The old saying, good things come to those who wait is true for me.

    I don’t have any formal qualifications to do this job, and probably don’t need any really, but I am so grateful for the people that had faith in me and gave me the chance to do this job, and they know who they are. Died and gone to heaven – thats what working in a library is to me.

  4. Same here, except I got here a bit more quickly than you. Well done on the patience and persistence!

    • Hana on June 7, 2011 at 9:36 am

    awww this is an awesome post and comment stream Michelle!

    I think I belong in the.. profession stream, I don’t have a high formal qualification in library and information science, however I am all registered and membered up to my professional association and spend a lot of waking (and sleeping) hours immersed in thoughts of how to do things better and get information to people and more people to the library.

    Sigh. I love what I do, but it does get tiring occasionally when you put so much heart into it.

  5. Everyone gets tired, regardless of whether its job, profession or calling. I know there have been many times when I have just gotten tired and sick of it all. It comes with the territory and with being human. Thanks for the comment and your input, they are both very much appreciated.

    • Nena on June 7, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Right now, I have a job, the qualifications for a profession, and am looking to get into my calling. I know my calling is somewhere in a library. I’ve studied YA services, and that could be it – or maybe reference work. I look up random facts as well. I love it.

    I know a lot of people do jobs because they have to. I’m there now… but I can also see how this job could be rewarding for someone wired just so. I think the world needs fewer people doing jobs and more following their callings. It could just bring all the clichés about working together and world peace all crashing down on us in a landslide of rainbows and sunshine…

  6. Wow, what an ideal world that would be. Good luck on finding your calling and hopefully it is in libraries. Thanks!

    • Library Abbie on June 11, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I love the work I have done in public libraries. Whether I’m answering questions, or connecting someone to a great read, or planning a Storytime, or marveling at the creative energy of teens in a program that lets them take flight, or giving a presentation to Rotary on library resources, I *love* it, I rejoice in it, it delights me. Although I’m currently between positions, I still believe that public librarianship, particularly youth services and community outreach, is my calling, as well as my trained profession–and I hope will be my job again soon.

  7. Good luck with your calling, I am fortunate to have been living it all my professional life.

  8. I’m going through the #blogjune RSS and looking for keepers – I’m really enjoying your content.

    My wife and I are both librarians, and very much we treat it as a calling. It’s become hard recently, as we used to work for differing organisations but we now work for the same one due to an amalgamation. It used to be easier to share/vent on the day, but we now have a greater need to not have our same organisation come home with us.

    I sometimes feel appalled at how much of my life is spent worrying about information retrieval systems, but then I consider people who spend forty hours a week doing things they don’t want to do to pay the bills, and I feel lucky.

  9. Thanks, I’m glad you’re finding value in my musings.

    I too remind myself that it could be much worse for me and I am continually amazed at how many people stay in jobs they don’t like. But, I’m not in their shoes……

  10. I was called by library students. I hung out with library students while I was doing my Media Studies degree and when I finished that with no intention of working in the media or prospect of working anywhere else, they suggested that I become a librarian. Only much later did I recall my high school careers teacher (a librarian) suggesting that I should consider librarianship.

    I have always found it difficult to accept the notion that I am in anyway a professional. I did a 9 month crash course in librarianship (Grad Dip). After 20 years as a full-time librarian, I am still an entry-level Band 5.

    It’s just a job that I kind-of stumbled into at the suggestion of others to avoid working in a hardware factory. Yes, I said no to a public service job interview on the basis of starting the Grad Dip, but that was partly to study rather than work for another year.

    Any successes along have been more to do with boredom and ego than anything else.

  11. Nothing wrong with abating boredom and some ego trips – some of the best things in the world have come out of those. 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

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