Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

THE VOCATIONAL MEANING SURVEY [VMS] an Exploration of Importance in Current Work

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

THE VOCATIONAL MEANING SURVEY [VMS] an Exploration of Importance in Current Work

Article excerpt

Work provides an opportunity to satisfy a wide variety of human needs including economic, social, identity, time and life structure, as well as meaning and purpose of existence (Schaffer, 1953). In other words, work itself offers precious gifts to one's life. Rarely, however, does any work project or work for pay (i.e., employment) satisfy all human needs in the moment. Realizing this, individuals seek to satisfy specific needs or to derive certain meanings in their work. Even then, work may lead to disappointment when it fails to meet all of their desires or expectations for certain rewards or meanings. For purposes of this undertaking, rewards (Herzberg, 1966) allude to the extrinsic consequences or payoffs from work, whereas meanings refer to the intrinsic feelings of significance or importance of work to one's self (Websters, 1957).

In describing rewards and meanings from work, Sam Keen (1992) offers a useful distinction between occupation and vocation. An occupation is work that provides for necessities of life such as basic survival needs such as food, shelter, social connectedness, and sense of accomplishment, whereas vocation alludes to a higher order sense of "calling" or purpose to one's existence. Moreover, a vocation (derived from the Latin word, vocare, to call), may entail a spiritual connection to something beyond one's daily existence. Thus, one's work may be described as an occupation if it provides for occupational rewards and meanings, but one's work may be perceived as a vocation if it satisfies a higher order sense of purpose (Warren, 2002). Nevertheless, not all work is likely to satisfy both occupational and vocational rewards and meanings. To fulfill both in life, an individual may work at an occupation during the week to satisfy fundamental survival and social needs for self and family, but work at projects on the weekend that have a higher-order purpose such as activities related to conserving the environment or providing volunteer services to people in need.

Sometimes, individuals may express general or specific negative thoughts about tasks, duties, peers, and supervisors, as well as experience feelings of emptiness, boredom, ennui, and dissatisfaction about their work. Or they may feel as if "something is missing in my work and even life," or they may be living out lives of "quiet desperation." At the same time, they have difficulty in identifying specifically the factors that underlie their feelings of emptiness and discomfort. Moreover, without identifying the actual root causes of despair, individuals may change jobs or even life partners for inappropriate or justifiable reasons. To assist individuals in identifying potential underlying causes of a lack of enthusiasm or dissatisfaction in work, the Vocational Meaning Survey (VMS) and the Vocational Fulfillment Survey (VFS), herein presented, were designed to assess the meanings one desires in their current employment, and the extent to which one's present employment meets the desired meanings.

At this point, we find it useful to distinguish two attitudinal outcomes from one's work, satisfaction and fulfillment. Satisfaction (Ortony, Clore, & Collins, 1990) is when an individual experiences positive or pleasurable feelings about an activity, object, or phenomenon. Satisfaction may also be thought of as a subjective or "soft" representation of an emotion that does not directly engage a motor response (Zajonc & Markus, 1984). Fulfillment, on the other hand, is what is experienced when an individual's expectations for an event or activity are met or exceeded. A lack of fulfillment in meaning in work occurs when there is a gap between the level of meaning one desires from work and a perceived lower level of meaning derived from it. Finally, while satisfaction and fulfillment may be correlated phenomena, they are considered different in that an individual may experience a degree of satisfaction with work, or aspects of it, but not experience fulfillment. …

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