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Occupation or Vocation?

Career Exploration

One of the many challenges that service members face during transition is the vexing decision of paying the bills or pursuing their dreams. Most will spend considerable time thinking about enabling uninterrupted cash flow, the best company to pursue and what location to settle. Many will quickly find an occupation to help pay the bills. Reflection, analysis and alignment of their life’s work, will be pushed to another day, never enabling their full personal passion.

Todd Henry explains in his book Die Empty, the grave yard is the most valuable land in the world. Buried, here lay all the unwritten novels, un-launched business and all the things that were to be accomplished tomorrow.

Bottom line, many of us have yet to discern the difference between our occupation and our vocation. The terms occupation and vocation can be confusing. Merriam-Webster defines occupation as, “The work that a person does, a job or an activity that a person spends time doing”. On the other hand, vocation is defined as, “A strong desire to spend your life doing a certain kind of work.” In Latin vocātiō, means a calling or summons.

Scott Gottreu at indicates that you should not try to find contentment in your occupational tasks, as you will not be fulfilling your dreams and you will be continually frustrated. It takes time and reflection to discern your life's work. However, once you know your vocation, pursue it. Until the money starts to flow, your occupation may have to pay the bills to enable your continued vocational pursuit.

“Our occupation is how we make a living… Our vocation, on the other hand, is what we’re inherently wired for. It’s less likely to consist of a set of tasks and more likely to consist of a set of themes.” -Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative

For the few veterans who feel disillusioned because they believe the military was their life’s work, reflect back on what you valued the most during military service. You may have treasured the comradery, training, mentoring, leading, helping others, spiritual growth, physical fitness or some other activity. Here you will find your passion and potential vocation.

Remain resolute in your pursuit of your life’s work. A friend transitioned out of the military a few years ago, desiring to pursue his life’s dream of becoming a stock broker. After two years of studying, testing, licensing and working for a large brokerage house, introspection pushed him to pursue a different direction. He subsequently migrated to defense contracting where he consults and coaches, enabling his vocation through helping others.
Remember, your vocation is your life's work. It is what you were meant to do; and deep down inside what you have always wanted to do. Tremendous satisfaction is found when making a living, pursuing your life’s work.

~ Jay Hicks

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