I recently read something on LinkedIn that prompted me to ask the question: What is the difference between a job and a career? I really don’t remember what it was that I read, but I do remember posting that I would write about it “soon”. As life would have it, “soon” turned into a fortnight (something I’m not proud of at all. Seriously! My time management skills need some work). However, I did a little research during this time, and I found some very interesting views.
In an article published in 2008 by Trent from The Simple Dollar, a job is described as something you do just to get some money. You don’t necessarily have to enjoy it, and you shouldn’t invest your emotional energy in it. He also says a job is something that’s very short term. You don’t see yourself doing that same thing five years from now, which is why you should put minimum effort in it. By minimum, I mean enough to keep your boss satisfied without tiring yourself. Another interesting observation he makes is that a job provides very little networking opportunities as you interact with the same people over and over and over again. Bottom line: a job is a necessary evil.
If you take all the stuff I mentioned above and simply write the opposite, you get what a career is (again, according to Trent). A career is something progressive, something you do for more than just the bag. It is worth investing your entire self in, as you see yourself doing the same thing over a longer period of time, hopefully for more money. A career provides you with countless networking opportunities, with people who have the potential to help you advance. It is meant to fulfil you, to bring some sort of meaning to your life. In other words, a career is…deep.
At first, I thought I agreed 100% with this view, but because I wanted to find out more, I kept on reading.
Lo and behold, I bumped into yet another article that completely disagreed with Trent. This one was published on Get Rich Slowly. They say that each job has an impact on your career, whether you realise it or not. The author, like most of us, worked several petty jobs before getting to where he is now (a distinguished writer with his own business). He says every job he had, from being the bus boy at some restaurant to being a door-to-door insurance sales man, either prepared him for or propelled him towards his career. He says there really is no difference between the two.
By now, my brain was doing front flips in my skull. Is there a difference or nah?
My conclusion is, there is only one difference between a job and a career.
A job is short-term, while a career is long-term
A career, in the traditional sense of the word, meant you start at the lowest position in a given company, then you work your way up over the years to senior management or, if you’re lucky, to owning the company. In this case, you go to school and learn skills that you will definitely use in your career. You go through a series of jobs, but all of them are related.
Now, a career is more complex than that. Many people didn’t go to school for their careers. They just stumbled upon them like a farmer who stumbled upon a diamond in his field. A career today is still influenced by several jobs, but the difference is, now these jobs don’t necessarily have to be related. For instance, one could start out as a waitress, and end up running an entire airline.
The founder of Careers Zimbabwe (and a good friend of mine) Pardingtone Nhundu, likes quoting this statistic (the origins of which I am yet to discover): The average person changes careers at least three times in their lifetime. After doing my little research on this topic, I am inclined to differ with him just a little bit. I think the average person changes jobs at least three times in their lifetime. Each job will ultimately have an influence on whatever it is the person ends up doing for the rest of their life.
Now, let me put a disclaimer here and mention that I am no expert in this whole careers thing. I’m just trying to make sense of it all. With unemployment on the rise, the question that keeps nagging me is: Should people still seek for jobs, or should we move into a stage where everyone can carve their own unique career that can sustain them for a lifetime? Of course, if I ever get the answer, I’ll be sure to write another eight-hundred or so words about it.
PS: Some dictionary definitions of the word job are super funny. The funniest definition I found was “a damaging piece of work”. Used in a sentence, “The barber did a real job on my hair.” LOL. Don’t I know that story all too well…