Career vs Calling: What’s the Difference?

What does God want to do with my life? I always assumed this question meant what job does God want me to get, but what if it means so much more? In my first semester of college, several professors challenged my ideas of career and introduced me to the idea of calling. The implications of understanding my calling have made all the difference in my life.

Career vs calling

A Whole New World

In August this year, I was a recruit - a voyager into a land I had never seen before. I was an astronaut floating out into unknown territory, thrilled and awestruck, yet worried about what the future might bring. I was going to college and my first semester at Ouachita (WASH - itah) Baptist was by no means lacking in struggles. There were the laundry machines to find and events to join, and of course the weird wild world of socializing with college freshmen to figure out.

clarifying my calling at Ouachita Baptist University

One skill I quickly had to learn was the art of small talk. I found it wasn’t so easy to jump into deep conversation when you didn’t even know a person’s name! Undoubtedly, the most common question asked on campus was “What is your major?” with the follow up of “What are you going to do with that?” It was the equivalent of the kindergarten “What do you want to be when you grow up?” but with real consequences. It was the all-important question that determined your identity in the college field. 

Your Calling is Not Always Your Career

My thoughts on college and its purpose were challenged in a class I took called “Spiritual Formation.” Dr. Duvall helped students in the Christian studies department understand different aspects of growth: prayer, silence and solitude, fasting, celebration and many others.

One particular topic encompassed the difference between a “career” and a “calling.” Dr. Duvall defined a career in his book Experiencing God’s Story of Life and Hope as something you do for a living. Contrarily, a calling is God’s mission for you on Earth. Your calling is usually specific and oriented to your spiritual giftings (e.g. communication, serving, prayer, leadership). However, Dr. Duvall gave an important distinction by clarifying that your career is not necessarily your calling.

career vs calling

The activity that provides for you and your family does not have to include your calling, though it often does. The problem with impartially gluing career and calling together forces some to believe that their God-given mission can only happen after that promotion or after those eight years of schooling. It confines your calling into the close-cut corners of a career. I could work at McDonald’s (career) and help at a soup kitchen (calling). You could be an accountant (career) who is also a God fearing parent (calling). Whatever it may be for me, this distinction told me that the “What’s your major?” and the “What are you going to be?” questions were not as monumental as they seemed. 

Your Career Should Fit Who You Are

I know, this idea is extremely countercultural - the American ideal is to choose the college that will get you the best degree that will win you the best job that will pay you the most money. However, if our calling is far more important than our career, what does that mean for our practical lives?

Ultimately, since money is not the end goal of the Christian career, we can choose our majors and careers based on the calling we have received. The first step to choosing a career in accordance with your calling is to look for what types of careers naturally fit you. My parents greatly helped my in this process by helping me consider my strengths, my passions, and my past. God never wastes what he creates.

Take a look at the opportunities God has already given you, and look for how he might be preparing you for a career, a calling, or both. Personally, God has given me many opportunities and a desire to speak in front of others and to write, so I am considering a career in communications. 


One important thing to understand concerning the search for a career is that it is OK to change your mind. I started out as a Biblical Languages major at Ouachita. After much prayer and an examining of my strengths, passions, and past, I felt that my major needed to change. I was the guy who heard that college students “often change their majors” and scoffed, thinking, “Ha! I’ll never change my major.” Yet here I am changing majors after the first semester. It’s OK! These things take time. 

Your Calling Frees You to Serve God Right Now

While my strengths and passions lead me towards God’s will for me for a career, my past connected me to what I believe is my calling. God has also blessed me with a wonderful family who loves the Lord. I believe my calling is to create family-like environments wherever I go. I feel freedom in the fact that I can fulfill my calling before I have even earned a diploma. Likewise, I can know that this calling can be fulfilled in any situation. If I put barriers on God’s plan for my life, I am allowing something good while constricting what is great. 

Claiming that my calling must fit with my career is like turning wood into a chair and saying that wood can’t be used for anything else. Especially in a world where jobs are becoming more and more unique, it is important that we carefully consider our callings and how it can be fulfilled in our everyday lives. Above all, we must consider where our identity lies. Do you find it in your career? Or do you find it in your calling - in the Lord?

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