Why did members of the eighteenth-century French service elite become revolutionaries? This article argues that François de Neufchâteau's adherence to the Revolution is best understood as a career development, that the institution that related his public and private selves was the career. To understand how a career could propel an individual, and by extension a generation, in such an idiosyncratic direction, we need to interrogate our understanding of the idea of a career. The career was a development from the religious idea of the vocation or calling. It was a means of making individual self-assertion morally understandable and socially useful. Through an analysis of his reactions to public and private crisis the article reconstructs François de Neufchâteau's understanding of his vocation as a public man. The career of François de Neufchâteau offers a good example of how the themes of cultural and social history can be united in the study of the Revolution.