Notes from the online course – How to Be Your Own Life Coach – Lesson 7. – Work: Vocational Living
Now that you have a firmer grasp on what you want, how to listen to your body, mind, and heart, you are ready to begin life coaching yourself in the more practical ways. Work and career are one the primary reasons people seek out life coaches; in these Work lessons, you have the opportunity to coach yourself to find the best work goals and career choices for you.

First, we must understand the difference between a job, a career, and a vocation. Jobs are simply situations or roles in which you get paid for your labor. It can be a dream job, a day’s work, or slinging French fries at Burger King. Any way you slice it, a job is what you do to get paid.

A career is, ideally, a string or sequence of jobs that share certain aspects of them in common and will lead to vertical growth. That is to say, you may have a job at Child Protective Services, then a job at your local Headstart, and then a job for an adoption agency, all of which comprise together a career of child social services. You most likely want your career to eventually lead to a “higher” level than where you are currently – usually one that comes with more responsibilities, better pay, and a level of authority.

A vocation is what you were born to do and who you were born to be. The entire concept of being your own life coach is based in the notion of living as the person you were meant to in the life you are meant to have. When you contemplate the idea of what you were born to do, does it conjure up feelings of inspiration and hope? Do you find the idea overwhelming and scary? Or is it just maybe something you feel is unlikely because you either cannot find it or you know what it is and cannot (for any number of reasons) do it?

Each of these things is important and while they can all be the same thing, for most of, most of the time, it is not. Possible ways in which two of the three might intersect without being the same thing:

  • Let’s say you are in upper management at a tire company and have been for 20 years or longer, thus making it your career and your job. Now let’s imagine that you are responsible for sending your twin teenagers to college next year, so you start working at a gas station during the evenings. The gas station job is just that – a job. It is not part of your career unless you make it into your career, such as then deciding to take a management position at the gas station.
  • Now let’s imagine you are a passionate photographer, but it doesn’t pay the bills, so you work as a veterinary assistant. You spend your weekends and evenings photographing families and special events. Photography may one day be your career, but for now it is your vocation and a second job. Being a vet assistant is your primary job.
  • Assume you feel most passionate about being a mother; you believe parenting to be your vocation. Nonetheless, you have to work outside the home part-time to make ends meet. In this case, you have a job, which may be part of a career or you may have no plans to really have a career. The most important issue is that your job allows you the freedom for your vocation – to stay at home part-time to parent and still be financially sound.

You may want for your job, career, and vocation to be the same; it is certainly a noble goal. For some people, it may simply be impossible…for now. That’s why your SMART goals are designed to start with a simple step in the direction you want and then can be adapted and updated until you reach your final destination.


Get out your journal. Write down your job, easily the most simple to identify. Write what you like about it and what you do not.

Now, write down what you consider to be your career; is your job part of it? Have you started it? Are you simply not sure what you want it to be?

Last, identify your vocation if you know it. If you do not that’s okay – the next lesson will help with that process. But for now, if you think you know what you were born to do, whether you are doing it right now or not, write it down.

Over the course of the week, spend some time thinking about this subject. When you see someone in a job, imagine if it might be just a job or more than that. Consider the people you work with – have you assumed this is their career or their vocation? What about your loved ones? Have you ever asked what they feel most passionate about? As you contemplate these things until your next lesson, you will begin opening your mind to the idea that there may be more out there for you than just a job or even just a career.

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