In my early working years, I often asked myself: “When does a job become a career?”
We had “Career Counselling” in school but it focused on choosing universities based on your best subjects. Those best subjects were the ones that you got the highest grades in.
For someone like me who got A’s across her eleven (11) subjects, choosing a career at that time felt like an impossible task.
I eventually chose Actuarial Science because I was good at Mathematics and my Mum and Teachers told me that I would earn a lot of money.
While doing my one (1) year Actuarial internship, I was introduced to computers and programming. I quickly ditched the idea of becoming an Actuary out the window. I qualified as a Programmer and Systems Analyst became a Junior Manager at 21 years old and started to train employees to use computers.
That led me to Human Resources and Marketing.
Does all this sound too familiar?
In my experience, it does for many, if not most, people. Allow me to explain.
Does A Job Become A Career?
A job becomes a career when medium to long-term strategy is applied to learn, develop and become your best in the chosen role. Job changes are not the same as career moves. When you have a career you approach it with a tactical mindset. Jobs may be stepping stones to careers and serve to provide a better title or more compensation.
According to the Oxford dictionary, a “job” is defined as “a paid position of regular employment” or “a task or piece of work, especially one that is paid”. There is an emphasis on being paid.
A “career” is defined as: “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress“.
In other words, when your job becomes a career, you focus on your performance, your growth and well-being and your personal satisfaction.
That is when you know you have made the transition.
These definitions will help us to explore and understand the connection between a job and a career.
You Start To Care
This is probably one of the first signs that your job is becoming a career. You start to care about how you do what you do. More time and attention are invested to ensure that the work you produce is of good quality and well received.
Instead of wanting to complete the task quickly to move on to the next one, you some regard for the work’s purpose. It gives you some sort of satisfaction.
At the same time, you pay attention to ways to improve on it and do it better. There is a greater feeling of pride in what you are doing.
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You See Opportunities For Advancement
A job becomes a career when you can see opportunities for advancement and growth. These advancements do not necessarily have to be promotions. Learning and development are also opportunities to advance.
There may be the opportunity to acquire a new skill set or the feeling that the company is investing in you as a person and seeing you as a valuable asset.
When I started my Actuarial Internship, I was assigned to the Finance Department. My job was to receive batches of records with insurance premium data and enter it into the computer’s database.
That job launched me into my first career.
Computers were new to the world of work at the time and I was fascinated by them. I would arrive early to work and leave well into the night. After completing my job, I used the additional time to research and study how computers worked.
That extra care and attention were seen by my Managers and I was invited to be assessed for a career as a Programmer/Analyst.
My job in the Finance Department was a stepping stone to my career in Information Technology (IT).
You Are In Control Of Your Choices
A job is usually something that is given to you. Perhaps it is delegated by your Supervisor or your Direct Manager.
However, you have greater or fuller control of the choices you make for your career. In making your choices, you are in charge of creating and shaping your career path. You decide where it takes you.
You may also apply for jobs and work in a series of them without a lot of thought for the future. On the other hand, a career usually involves progressing in one occupational area or aiming for some sort of long-term goal. Thus, one of the key differences between “job” and “career” lies in the way you perceive and manage the work.
I recall the effort I put into studying for my career as a Programmer/Analyst. I always got to the office early and wasted no time getting started.
As soon as all my tasks were completed, I would bury myself in learning and building my newfound career skills. I could see myself in that career in the long-term.
Interestingly, although IT has changed drastically over the years, I still enjoy applying that knowledge to the career I enjoy today.
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You Are Recognised For Your Expertise
Most people believe that a career is better than a job because a career typically utilizes your skills and interests. But, it also involves progress and growth.
If you see something as “just a job,” you probably aren’t deriving much fulfilment from it. But if you commit to something as a career, you are inspired to learn more about that field and pursue jobs that further your goals and increase your knowledge.
Over time, you become recognised for your level of expertise.
That expertise serves you in good standing if, like me, to ever decide to pivot into a new career.
When I look over my career path, I realise that I have always been considered as an IT “expert” by my peers. I am usually the “go-to” person when someone in the office needs help with their software or hardware.
Although technology has changed so much, I am remembered for my achievements and contributions during my IT career stage.
You Learn From Each Job
Every job you perform in will teach you lessons you can apply to your career and future jobs. You will also gain a variety of skills, knowledge and experiences.
For example, maybe your job as a Receptionist taught you how to handle difficult situations with tact and grace. Your Customer Service Representative job may have taught you good communication and customer service skills.
Other job roles might help develop your writing skills, develop your ability to handle rejection or teach you the value of perseverance and hard work.
Collectively, this learning will make you more effective and valuable at each stage of your career. They are life skills that can be utilised in any job or profession.
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Closing Thoughts . . .
I had my first “job” when I was four (4) years old. At the time, I did not know that it was a job. My Grandmother sold produce in our capital city’s market. She could not read or write and I had to help her.
It was the skills I learned doing that job that helped to make me a success in school, college and corporate life. I learned to read, write, do maths in my head, trade, organise, negotiate and manage a business. I also learned what courage, determination, persistence and grit were.
Those skills were the foundation on which I built the career I enjoy today.
We now have a name for that career. It is called being an Entrepreneur.
Back then, I saw it as helping my Grandmother. At times I felt lonely and trapped. While other children were at home or playing, I was working.
In ‘The Hero’s Journey‘, Joseph Campbell examines the stages of the hero who goes on an adventure, faces a crisis and wins, and then returns victorious.
That is how a job becomes a career.
You are the hero and along your journey to find your career, you will learn from many jobs. Some may lead you to a crisis but, in the end, you will ultimately find your chosen career.
About The Author
Cassandra is a Management Consultant, Internationally qualified Facilitator, Coach, Strategist and Behaviour Change Agent. She enjoys travelling, exploring cultures and learning about historical and social networks and dynamics.
Her driving force is the education and development of her tween daughter. The roots of her inspiration to diversify her niche markets and the motivation to expand and scale her business investments rest firmly in this relationship.
This is the reason for creating her legacy.