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Vocational Coherence

Do you have a job, a career, or a vocation?

Unfortunately, most people tend to use these terms interchangeably. Understanding the differences in these three terms will help us define our future working life, and to better mentor those who work for us.


A job is something short-term that we do for money. There’s no long-lasting fulfillment or happiness from a job. For those of us who have had jobs, or have one now, we know that we outgrow one job to quickly then search for the next job.

A career is something with long-term goals for which we earn money. People try to separate their career from their personal life, yet when people ask about ourselves, our careers are usually a big part of how we explain who we are. Careers may provide the monetary means to obtain material possessions, but our careers often aren’t fulfilling.

A vocation is something to which we all should strive. A vocation is similar to a career except we get deep satisfaction and fulfillment from our vocation.

Not only do we earn money to obtain material possessions, but those of us who have found our vocations enjoy those eight to twelve hours we spend in the office Monday through Friday. When people ask, “Who are you?” you can answer that what you do to earn a living truly is part of who you are.

Importance in Understanding the Difference

Business leaders want employees who see their time with you as part of their vocation. These are employees who understand the coherence of what they are doing while working with you regarding the bigger picture, and vocational people always have a bigger picture.

For example, a nurse who works for you in the hospital is not just a nurse but a provider of medical care. The plumber who works for you building houses isn’t just installing sinks and bathtubs, but they are helping to build a home where families will be raised. And the guy replacing tires on your car isn’t just replacing tires, but is concerned for your safety and the safety of everyone else on the road traveling with you.

Employees who understand vocational coherence can, and will, do what they do for any employer, they will give the same care, concern, and attention regardless of where they work. It’s not that they are not loyal employees, but they are more loyal to their vocation.

As an employer, when you have the opportunity to hire someone who understands their vocation in light of your employment, you need to do all you can to keep them. Your other employees, clients, and customers all will quickly see how this vocational employee cares for his or her work and how that care sets them apart.

The Bible

Romans 8:28 says.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

God has a plan for all of creation, and within that plan, we all have a role to play. Our vocation is how we see what God has called us to do within the scheme of everything else that is going on.

All the successes, distraction, changes, constraints, and limitation that we encounter within our occupation are viewed as part of God’s plan. They are not deviations from His plan; they are His plan. And when we accept that, then anything that happens in our vocation will not detract us from accomplishing what God has set as His purpose for us.

We all need to have a vocation. What we do as work needs to be seen in the light of God’s plan and His glory.