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What If Energy Management’s Not Your Passion? The Difference Between Jobs, Careers, and Callings

Among our blog audience, there are readers who are absolutely head-over-heels-in love with managing energy. They think energy, they speak energy, and they have cute energy quotes in their email signatures. But not all of our blog readers are passionate about managing energy.


Can they still be successful in the energy management industry? Or is passion absolutely essential for energy managers?

Passion Defined

To answer these questions, let’s first look at passion. But not passion in the romantic, “I would fight for you, I’d lie for you” sense. Instead, passion in the workplace.

In her paper, “The Nature and Experience of Entrepreneurial Passion,” management professor Melissa Cardon defines entrepreneurial passion as, “A positive, intense feeling that you experience for something that is profoundly meaningful for you as an individual.”

Therefore, workplace entrepreneurial passion is:

  • Intense
  • Positive
  • Derived from something that brings deep meaning
  • Related to your self-identity

Now, some of you feel this way about saving energy, but some do not. What if you don’t? Can you still be successful?

Jobs, Careers, and Callings

Enter Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski (Yale is an EnergyCAP user). Along with her colleagues, she published a paper called, “Jobs, Careers, and Callings: People’s Reactions to Their Work.” The paper argues that workers classify their work in one of three different ways—either as a Job, Career, or Calling—even if they’re not aware they’re classifying it. This is important because passionor lack of itis inextricably linked to these classifications.

Her research found that these classifications are present among all types of work, whether clerical or professional, for example. Also, they are evenly distributed with an equal number of workers in the same type of work. Plus, the specific classification helps to determine work motivation, level of health, and life satisfaction.

So let’s look at each classification and try to determine how you view your work.

When Work is a Job

Read this scenario from the paper describing a Job; is this your attitude about your work?

“Mr. A works primarily to earn enough money to support his life outside of his job. If he was financially secure, he would no longer continue with his current line of work, but would really rather do something else instead. Mr. A’s job is basically a necessity of life, a lot like breathing or sleeping. He often wishes the time would pass more quickly at work.

“He greatly anticipates weekends and vacations. If Mr. A lived his life over again, he probably would not go into the same line of work. He would not encourage his friends and children to enter his line of work. Mr. A is very eager to retire.”

According to the research, these are traits of people with Jobs:

  • only interested in the material benefits from work
  • work is not an end in itself, but instead is a means that allows them to acquire the resources needed to enjoy their time away from the Job
  • major interests and ambitions of Job holders are not expressed through their work
  • scored the lowest for satisfaction in life, health, and job satisfaction and in health status

In other words, the goal of the Job is the paycheck, which brings rewards outside of work.

When Work is a Career

Here’s the scenario for Career; is this your attitude about work?

“Mr. B basically enjoys his work, but does not expect to be in his current job five years from now. Instead, he plans to move on to a better, higher level job. He has several goals for his future pertaining to the positions he would eventually like to hold.

“Sometimes his work seems a waste of time, but he knows that he must do sufficiently well in his current position in order to move on. Mr. B can’t wait to get a promotion. For him, a promotion means recognition of his good work, and is a sign of his success in competition with his coworkers.”

These traits are true for people with Careers:

  • have a deeper personal investment in their work
  • mark their achievements not only through monetary gain, but through advancement within the occupational structure
  • advancement often brings higher social standing, increased power within the scope of one’s occupation, and higher self-esteem

The goal of the Career is advancement, which brings rewards inside the workplace.

When Work is a Calling

The scenario for Calling is below; is this your attitude about work?

“Mr. C’s work is one of the most important parts of his life. He is very pleased that he is in this line of work. Because what he does for a living is a vital part of who he is, it is one of the first things he tells people about himself. He tends to take his work home with him and on vacations, too. The majority of his friends are from his place of employment, and he belongs to several organizations and clubs relating to his work.

“Mr. C feels good about his work because he loves it, and because he thinks it makes the world a better place. He would encourage his friends and children to enter his line of work. Mr. C would be pretty upset if he were forced to stop working, and he is not particularly looking forward to retirement.”

People with Callings:

  • find that their work is inseparable from their life
  • work not for financial gain or Career advancement, but instead for the fulfillment that doing the work brings to the individual
  • the work that people feel called to do is usually seen as socially valuable—an end in itself—involving activities that may, but need not be, pleasurable
  • scored the highest for satisfaction in life, health, and job, and in health status

The goal of the Career is personal fulfillment, which often benefits society.


This concept of workplace classification is revolutionary to me. It means it’s okay if your work isn’t your Calling—you don’t have to fake that you love it. It means you can call it for what it is—a Job that pays the bills—and be happy with a job well done even if sparks don’t fly.

Passion isn’t everything. You can be successful at your work even if you don’t have the passion for it. The keys are threefold: 1) develop the skills that make you successful; 2) make sure your “outside of work rewards” are sufficient to keep you motivated; and 3) be willing to sacrifice a level of satisfaction and health to stay in a Job.