Career Psychologist, academic editor, and blogger
“Always remember that you are totally unique. Just like everyone else.” — attributed to Margaret Mead
“The Lord said to Moses: Let them present their offerings for the dedication of the altar, one chieftain each day. The one who presented his offering on the first day was Nachshon, son of Amminadab of the tribe of Judah.
“His offering: one silver bowl weighing 130 shekels and one silver basin of 70 shekels by the sanctuary weight, both filled with choice flour with oil mixed in, for a meal offering; one gold ladle of 10 shekels, filled with incense; one bull of the herd, one ram, and one lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; one goat for a sin offering; and for his sacrifice of well-being: two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, and five yearling lambs. That was the offering of Nachshon, son of Amminadab” Numbers 7:11–17.
As part of the festivities surrounding the dedication of the Tabernacle, each tribe sent their chieftain to represent them in presenting the tribe’s various offerings. Nachshon, of the tribe of Judah, was the first to approach the Tabernacle for this purpose. The agenda for the Tabernacle dedication ceremony was to devote each day to another of the 12 tribal chieftains as they brought their offerings (Numbers 7:12–83). Bible students have traditionally had to grapple with the anomaly of the Torah, unusually succinct in most narratives, describing in unyielding detail the daily procedures whereby each chieftain brought identical offerings in the same order; only their names changed. Couldn’t the message have been provided by a brief synopsis––such as ‘Each of the 12 tribal chieftains brought such and such elements for the various offerings’––thus, completing the description in perhaps seven or eight rather than 70 verses?
We are left to contemplate what message is to be derived from this tedious rendering of the dedication ceremonies. Let’s start with the tribes: Each tribe undoubtedly basked in the honor accorded their leader on their tribe’s assigned day, thus reinforcing their tribal distinctions and identity. Indeed, all 12 tribes would enjoy their day in the sun.
Now let’s scrutinize the individual chieftains: In their personal styles or body language, we would likely have noticed some approaching the Tabernacle solemnly and deliberately, others exuberantly tossing smiles to their approving grandstand. Thus, while some chieftains may have relished their 15 minutes of glory, others may have preferred to shun the spotlight and return to their encampment. Whereas some may have felt a peak experience in their intimacy with God, others may have performed their ritual under spiritual doubt or were distracted by concern over a sick child at home.
Thus, we are left with the recognition that even though the chieftains’ may have been indistinguishable from a distance, each had their unique manner in performing their task. Their differences were in their accompanying thoughts, emotions, and motivation and likely manifested in their body language and other nuances. Indeed, their offerings may have been identical, but no two were alike.
But they all look alike!
Imagine visiting a factory or an office as a client or customer. At first glance, you would likely get the impression that all the workers were doing similar things (operating machines, staring at computers, speaking with customers), doing what needed to be done to perform their assignment. If they were indistinguishable in their attire, differentiating among them would be even more challenging.
However, whether visiting an assembly plant or a glass-and-steel high-tech global headquarters, you really can’t know how any worker feels about what they are doing or about what they have accomplished at day’s end. Indeed, their uniqueness below the surface is substantial: One worker may be feeling more burned out by the minute while their colleague may be so exuberant in their assignment that they lost sight of the clock. One could look like they’re enjoying a conversation with a customer but subtly glances at the clock in anticipation of lunch.
We may recall the Work Orientations Model as a helpful framework for considering these subtle interpersonal differences.,, We all come to work with different motivation sets. We’re not talking about getting up on the wrong side of the bed one morning but about how we perceive our day-to-day work. Those subscribing to the job orientation see their work as consisting of what needs to be done to finance their life responsibly, hoping it will not get in the way of what they enjoy. In other words, a job orientation is a means to an end. Career orientation is the second category, describing individuals who seek to advance in their working career, hoping to move up the ladder, whether it leads to increased responsibility and influence, greater prominence in the organization, or enhanced prestige.
The third category is the calling orientation, where individuals see themselves as being personally fulfilled, actualizing their values, and feeling that they are making a difference in the world. The ‘calling’ term may have begun describing a calling for those going into divinity work. Today, individuals with a calling orientation typically seek employment matching their values and life goals and typically enjoy greater job satisfaction than those of other orientations (and higher salaries).
Thus, in a workplace like a government-sponsored social security service or a high-tech conglomerate, all may have the same responsibilities in their department. However, one worker may particularly enjoy their job more than others since they feel they are doing their share to help society’s disadvantaged (calling). Another worker in the same department doing the same task primarily anticipates their salary on the first of each month and can’t wait to get home to fire up their barbeque for a family gathering (job). The worker at the next desk doing the same task (you get the idea) takes their job seriously and anticipates the next quarterly evaluation to pitch their aspirations for promotion (career). A fourth worker, engaging in the same task, seems to come alive at coffee break time, enjoying sharing photos of their most recent vacation (the social orientation). Our last worker may seem a bit older and slower than the others, but still grateful for the opportunity to continue working after the office’s typical retirement age (the keeping-busy orientation).
One career coaching client (we’ll call him Zach) came to me disheartened after his retirement. He acknowledged having erred in listening to a colleague who advised him that his generous pension could approximate what he was earning by retiring now, thus making retirement a no-brainer. What this client didn’t consider was that his colleague (peddling well-intentioned free advice) had a job orientation, prioritizing financial considerations. In contrast, Zach’s orientation was a calling one, appreciating every minute of his work. This anecdote illustrates why financial considerations (the most easily quantified element) are not the only factors driving career moves and may not even be the most critical.
We have been hinting that your values and preferences may change over time. It is up to you to remain aware of your changing priorities throughout your career. Make sure your career decisions align with your current needs and priorities, not what they may have been when you entered the job market. While a tempting salary offer in a new organization cannot be easily dismissed, be sure you are aware of how your overall job satisfaction will be affected by the move.
Feeling the urge to Keep up with the Joneses regarding career-related decisions has costs. Only too rarely will an acquaintance be inclined to share their contentment with their work and tell you, “Boy, do I enjoy my job!” They will likely share the tangible (or extrinsic) perks they may have (such as bonuses, vacation days, and a company car or a parking spot) and will be less likely to share the fuzzy, satisfying (intrinsic) features of the job’s content. So, if you feel pressured to achieve what “the Joneses” are crowing about, consider your whole career situation, both short-term and long-term concerns.
Try this: A frustrated young woman complained to her supervisor, “Why am I stuck with a psychologist’s salary; why can’t I receive the bonuses that bank tellers get (this occurred when there were still bank tellers)?” I won’t forget the supervisor’s response: “But you can also have those bonuses! [Wait for it:] You just have to work in a bank.” This rejoinder implanted the idea that we need to remind ourselves periodically, “Why am I here?” And your answer will hopefully get you through the inevitable low points of the day. When it stops working, it may be time to consider your next career move.
For more Torah-Career insights, visit: The Bible at Work: Career Coaching in the Five Books of Moses
 Recall that, according to the midrash, at the splitting of the Red Sea, Nachshon of the tribe of Judah was the believing soul to first enter the waters of the Red Sea before anyone knew if, how, or when they would be crossing it. Wilding, M. (2018). Do you have a job, career or calling? The difference matters. Forbes.  Mantler, J., Campbell, B., & Dupré, K. E. (2022). Jobs, careers, and callings: Exploring work orientation at mid-career. Journal of Career Development, 49(5), 1152–1167.  Willner, T., Lipshits-Braziler, Y., Gati, I. (2020). Construction and initial validation of the work orientation questionnaire. Journal of Career Assessment, 28(1), 109–127.