“To them it is just a job.” I hear this complaint all the time as one of the litany of complaints about “the new generation”. So what. Some of the best law enforcement officers and trainers I know started in law enforcement because they needed a job. They came out of college or university or the military and needed a job. Some were frustrated in their current job and were looking for something different, something more interesting and perhaps more challenging. Law enforcement was a job that paid well, had good benefits, had a pension and offered some excitement other jobs did not. Some agencies still refer to it as “the job” and cops talk about “When I came on the job…”.
Yale Professor Amy Wrzesniewski is an expert in how we experience work. She has found, for example, that people tend to see their work in one of three ways: as a job, a career, or a calling.
A job is a means to make a living and support your family. They constantly look forward to the time they can spend away from the job and their satisfaction and fulfilment comes from activities outside of work. While they may hope to advance, they don’t think in terms of a strategy of career building. By contrast, people who view their work as a career work not only out of necessity, but also to advance and succeed. They are invested in their work and want to do well. They are on an upward trajectory of skill mastery and greater responsibility. Finally, people with a calling view work as an end in itself; their work is fulfilling not because of external rewards but because they feel it contributes to the greater good, draws on their personal strengths, and gives them meaning and purpose. Unsurprisingly, people with a calling orientation not only find their work more rewarding, but work harder because of it.
Even if someone views his or her work as “a job”, they can still show up every day, give 100% and do a ‘good job’ while they are there. When the end of the shift comes however, they want to forget about work and focus on other activities. Of course, some people who see work as a job simply show up and put in the time to get to the end of the day, doing only what is required of them in that time.
Some who saw it as a job quickly got the bug once they got on “the job”and it became more than a job, it became a career. Others saw it as a career from the start and were willing to invest the time and energy to develop their skills and abilities. With the career mindset you may have sought movement to special units or sought promotion and advancement. Seeking promotion however, is not a prerequisite for it to be a career or a calling. There are some who want to spend their career working as a patrol officer or get promoted once and spend the rest of their career at that level. They love what they do and they are striving to continually get better in that role and make a greater impact in their organizations and communities. When we view our work as a career we tend to derive greater pleasure and satisfaction from the work we do than if we see it as a job.
For some people in law enforcement it has grown into a Calling. Often it morphs into a Calling when you find that role in the profession where you feel it contributes to the greater good, draws on your personal strengths, and gives you meaning and purpose. You find your work more rewarding, and work harder because of it. For some that is working patrol, for others it is in-service or recruit training or being an FTO, for others it is SWAT or Canine, others it is working in schools, or working with youth or the elderly, others it is crimes against the person investigations or commercial crimes investigations, or it might be crisis negotiations or any other myriad of roles in the profession. For some it is becoming the best leader they can be and seeking formal leadership positions in the organization so they can have a greater impact on the culture of the organization and continually work to develop new leaders as well as a culture of leadership within the organization.
There are very few people in any profession for whom it was a calling right from the start. In researching his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport found that most people develop their ‘Calling’ only after years of working in their profession.
A note of caution. Be careful to ensure your Calling does not become an obsession where everything, and everyone else get neglected because of your monomaniacal focus on your Calling. A calling does not mean you do not have important relationships and activities outside of work you remain committed to.
So, back to those who come into the profession seeing it as a strictly as a job. I said, “So what.” at the start of this post. I am going to add to that next week in the mean time spend some time reflect on where you fit in the job, career, calling spectrum and your journey to get there. While it may be a calling for you at this point, the reality is that was not always the case.
And, please stop bad mouthing those who come into the profession seeing it as a job.
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