Management as Vocation?

After decades of dominance, the ‘career paradigm’ of occupational planning is, again, being challenged by the concept of the calling.  The word vocation had become something of the ‘poor relation’ in career theory as it was associated with crafts-based occupations rather than to more aspirational professional positions!  Occupational snobbery aside, vocations had become something which was perceived as a lower-order of work relationship to organisationally focused careers: technical rather than spiritual.

The road back to vocational thinking has gradually grown clearer through the work of theorists and researchers such as the recently departed Robert Bellah (who’s Habits of the Heart was something of a masterpiece) and Yale’s Amy Wrzesniewski.  Usually when I begin discussing the concepts of vocation and calling in my teaching, students usually ask me to clarify what the difference is between the two.  This is doubtlessly due to the continuing dominance of the career paradigm, and I have attempted to clarify this in a working paper

The second question I am typically asked is ‘what if I don’t have a calling?’.  This is a very important consideration to take into account.  After all, contemporary workplaces are designed to facilitate careers, rather than callings!  The Journal of Management Development will soon publish a paper of mine which aims to outline processes by which managers can investigate their own profile.  I’m delighted to see that an EarlyCite version of this paper is now available at this url