Unhappy at work? It might be because you’ve got a job, not a vocation.

When someone complains that they’re unhappy at work, my first question to them is this:

“Is this your job, or your vocation?”

It’s an important question, and I’ll tell you why. A job is work that you do for payment. It’s a transactional activity that you don’t need to feel particular passion for. It’s about earning a salary, putting in the time, and going home to focus on what’s really important to you. A vocation on the other hand, is about channelling your passion in a professional context, and making something meaningful of the hours that you spend at your desk.

I’m not passing judgment on either. For some, having a meaningful career just isn’t that important, and they prefer to find meaning in their world outside of work: their family, homes, hobbies etc. For others, being purposeful at the office is an absolute non-negotiable. It’s a transformative activity.

You can be unhappy in both a job and in your vocation. But for very different reasons. The remedy therefore, is vastly different depending on which category you fall into. Let’s unpack this, and start by figuring out whether you’ve got a job, or a vocation.


Now, at different points in your career you may have either one of these two. Sometimes you’re going through a rough patch in your personal life, and just need a job that doesn’t require you to really invest. At other times, you might be in a learning, growing mindset, and relish the challenge of a vocation that pushes you to your limits. The first step is to figure out where you are, and hopefully the table above has helped you with that!

The first reason that you might be unhappy at work, is because what you thought you were doing, is not what you’re doing in reality. You might want a vocation, but be doing a job. Conversely, you may really need to be in a job space right now, but find yourself in a whirlwind of vocation! So, examine where you’re at, and whether this aligns with your expectations, and with what you want.

Then, let’s delve a little deeper, shall we?

If you’re unhappy in your job:

  • Do you feel like you’re being fairly remunerated?
  • Are you in a non-toxic environment at the office?
  • Can you leave work, at work?

If you’re unhappy in your vocation:

  • Are you clear on your purpose?
  • Do you know your workplace values?
  • Are you learning, growing and developing?

These are just a few questions to get you thinking about the reasons for your unhappiness. If you’ve answered “no” to any of the above, there’s a problem!

Reach out to us at hello@merakicollective.co.za to chat more about how we can help you create a work environment that suits you – now.

Posted in At the office.