Jobs vs. Careers: Which Are You Building?
There is a difference between a job and a career. And having one can help you get to the other. Which are you building? And why?
It took me a long time in the employment market to realize that a job wasn’t the same thing as a career.
People have jobs, and this changes every day as people are let go or move on to other jobs by choice. However, people build careers that last for decades and often transcend across more than one employer in a lifetime.
Here’s the difference between a job and career, and how one will help you reach the other.
Most people set out to find a job first, and they do this because they have to. Things like bills and rent have to be paid, but jobs often have nothing to do with what people wanted to do as their careers.
Before she became an actress, Whoopi Goldberg spent time working at a funeral home, but she didn’t stay there forever. Your job is a means to an end, but should never be your end-destination if you want a career instead.
A job versus a career
People have jobs, but they build careers. Would you rather have a job at the new law firm or a career with the new law firm? They even sound different when you say them. That’s because they are.
Careers are built on years of experience in a chosen field. Careers mean that you have spent years refining your experience in this field and have also spent the same amount of time building up contacts and industry tricks. This means that you have more to offer the next employer than someone who was, for the same amount of time, simply doing their jobs.
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Careers can span across employers
Employees can hold a “job” with the same company for decades, but once you have built a career (and a reputation), your career can span across several employers.
A career means that you have a useful skill-set that could be useful to the next employer if you lose or leave your job. That’s one more reason why it’s important to build a career, not just have a job.
Never too late to start a career
Do you feel like you’ve chosen a job instead of career? It’s not too late to change things.
First, look at your job now. Are you happy doing this? Could you find work in the relevant field using the experience you have built up over the past couple of months, years, or decades? If you said yes, you have already built a career. Congratulations!
However, if you didn’t, you should grab a piece of paper and write down what you think should have been your career and what you think you can do to change that.
Careers end, too, but they move on
When a job ends, people are often left out of work, panicked, and desperate.
The same can be true when a career ends, but having a career means that you have skill sets that will be valuable to another employer in the same direction. Having a career can also mean that this skill set could allow you to start your own business. Thousands of career professionals have taken their experience and contacts to the freelance market when necessary.
From a job to a career
Here’s what you can do to make the switch from doing a job to building a career.
- You don’t have to change your job to make it into a career. Sometimes you just have to apply yourself differently in the job you have now. Find out if you can apply for any promotions or positions in-house. The right job to start your career might already be waiting at your current workplace, and you won’t know if you don’t ask.
- Are you happy with your chosen direction, but unhappy with the company? That’s a good reason to stick with the same career line, but consider switching to a different company. This is where you should start sending out your resume in your free time to see what comes back.
- Keep your resume at the ready. Speaking of resumes, make sure that yours is up to date if you want to submit or upload it to job search websites, and if you’re chasing a career, it should reflect any relevant experience in the field. Hire a professional resume writer to look it over if you aren’t sure how to make yourself look good in writing.
- Study and expand. Did you pick a job that had nothing to do with your chosen career and now you want to switch? There are ways to make this work. Intern in your chosen career or find out what courses there are that you can take to improve your skills in the career you want to do. Enrichment is always a plus on your resume.
- Keep on building. Jobs are about getting by. Careers are about gaining experience, building contacts, meeting people, being an asset to your employer, being happy at what you do, and being able to do far more than just getting by.
Reviewed January 2023
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