Business Library

Job Vs. Career

Dr. Tom Denham - Managing Partner and Career Consultant | Careers In Transition, LLC

Having multiple careers is an ever increasing trend. The average American may have two, three or even five careers during their lifetime, but even more extensive array of jobs. In the world of work, the terms “job,” “occupation” and “career” are often used interchangeably. However, there are some major differences that need to be clarified.

A job is a position with specific duties and responsibilities that are regularly performed in a particular place in exchange for payment either on a full-time or part-times basis. It can also be viewed as an agreement between an individual and an employer for an expected completion of a set of tasks in return for wages.

All jobs have several components: 1) a group of tasks to be performed, 2) a population around which the tasks are oriented, 3) a particular kind of organization in which these tasks are to be performed, and 4) a set of skills in order to perform the tasks. Education or training may or may not be required. Frequently, people hold jobs because they don’t have the training or education necessary to enter a particular career, but jobs can sometimes turn into careers.

A job is a paid position of employment that is frequently a means to an end. The purpose is to earn money for something else (i.e. family, travel, school, hobbies, etc.). A job can be routine, boring and uninspiring. It can also lack creativity and flexibility. Unlike a career, a job is often short-term. As a result, there is no significant long-term attachment to a job in most cases.

An occupation is a wide category of jobs with similar characteristics related to skills, training and knowledge. Focusing on a field of study or similar jobs requiring skills used in a number of different work settings, an occupation allows you to move with relative ease from one industry to another. For example, your job could be a Pediatric Nurse. Your occupation could be nursing, and finally, you have had a long, successful and diverse career in the field of nursing.

A career is one’s occupational history. A career is a sequence or string of jobs performed around the same field that an individual acquires during a lifetime or a particular phase of life. It is profession where training or education are necessary. A career is a series of deliberate job choices that strategically build on your experiences and advances your skills and knowledge.

Jobs can be looked at within the context of a larger career. A career is a collection of “jigsaw job pieces” that when put together form a completed puzzle. A random assortment of unrelated jobs do not constitute a career. You apply to a job, but not an occupation or career. An employer gives you a job, but it is up to you to take your occupation and design your career. You don’t build a job or occupation; you build a career. A career requires taking more initiative than a job, and it means you want more than just a paycheck. Your earning potential is often higher in a career than merely a job. People who have careers view them as a pursuit of ambition and the progressive realization of goals.

A career always starts with a job first, then it becomes a process that builds over time. A career is often something that interests you and more fully uses your abilities and talents to reach your aspirations. Considered one’s lifework, a career is a path that affords you a way to earn money with opportunities for advancement for the long-haul. Having a satisfying career involves innovation, risk-taking, courage, persistence and most importantly patience. It takes energy and effort.

A career change can be a long and time consuming process. It may take more time than you initially expect. It means a significant shift in the major tasks performed, type of setting and nature of content. A career change requires some transitional steps such as additional schooling or coursework, internships, volunteer experience, consulting, part-time work or a lower level job within the new environment. Frequently, a loss of salary is involved. Only you can decide whether the sacrifices are worth the ultimate gain. Often, they are.

Your success in a career will be measured by your willingness to embrace challenges and change with a view toward finding solutions to problems. Developing a host of transferrable skills will enhance your marketability and enable you to take advantage of and enjoy new and varied opportunities. Your satisfaction will be impacted by how closely the many roles you assume match your values, interests, personality traits and skills.

Your task is to establish your own meaning for work and fit it in with the realities of the external demands placed on you. Deciding whether you want a job or career can sometimes depend on where you are in the lifecycle. You may want to have career in your 30s, 40s and 50s, but early or later in life, you may want to opt for a job. How you view work and the connection to life determines whether you have a job or have a career. Where you go in life is up to you.

Tom’s Tip: Go now and start to leave your legacy.