Do you know the difference between a “job” and a “career”?
According to the dictionary, a “job” is defined as “a paid position of employment and something one has to do, a responsibility.” Interestingly enough, the root word for “job” is, humorously, an Old English word that means “a lump”. The reference is to a quantity, a “lump” of work, so to speak. As it applies to our topic, it is one distinct and unrelated period of employment in a series of jobs one may have.
A “career,” on the other hand, comes from Middle French and stems from an earlier word for “car” — and then “street.” So, a career is a path. The dictionary defines it as “an occupation, a way of making a living, especially with opportunities for advancement or promotion, and progress through life.” It is a journey – a career pathway.
These definitions are nice and dandy – but what do they mean to you?
Basically, you could think of them as a jigsaw puzzle of say, a circle. The job is a piece in the jigsaw puzzle. The career is the circle image. You could decide to keep all the pieces separate or fit them any way you want, and they would remain incoherent. There would be no image built and it would just be a scattering of random jigsaw pieces that do not mean anything.
Similarly, a job is an individual employment period in your life. Jobs are often just a means to an end. You need a job to help pay for your tuition fees, so you find something part-time at a local restaurant. You might take on a temporary job to pay your rent every month and earn some money for bills. There is no real long-term attachment to a job. You could start a job today and quit to start another one next year. As long as it pays what you want, it’s just something you have to do to get by.
But, a series of jobs can lead to a long-term career if you make considered choices in employment. A career is something you build throughout your lifetime. Career planning is when you look ahead and strategise about where you want to go and how you can get there. Whilst a job is often uninspiring and mundane, a career is often something that excites you and uses your talents in a way that fits with your personal aspirations.
Your view of work and its link to life will define how the path you choose between a job and a career.
So which should you choose? A series of unrelated jobs that fulfil your financial needs and is separate from your personal life, or a cohesive linkage of career moves that become building blocks towards a career doing something you like and that fits with your lifestyle. Neither is more valid than the other. Your choice really depends upon your objectives in life and what your view of work is for yourself.
For example, a close friend of mine works for six months a year only to earn enough to travel for another six months. To him, the job is a means to an end – a way to earn enough to do what he really loves – travel. So, doing a rather mundane job is bearable because he focuses on his end goal – six months of freedom to travel the world.
On the other hand, others see work as part of their life. Says Tom Parry: “The notion of just muddling through, day after day, without feeling genuine excitement or passion about my work, feels intolerable. Despite the stability, security, and comfort it provides me, ultimately, I can’t imagine staying for the sake of money. I see my career as a big part of my identity and life. I want to make sure what I do jives with who I am for the present and future term.”
To answer the “Job vs. career” question, consider what your philosophy is on work. Should you decide that you are looking for a longer term career journey, start planning now by asking yourself questions about where you want to be and look for individual jobs that build upon each other towards a resume that will get you the experience required to achieve your career goals.