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The Difference between a Job and a Career

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The Difference between a Job and a Career
When I think of a job, I think of a task that needs to be completed – now, today, this week.  Taking a step back from any job you should immediately see a start, middle, and end that you can easily define.  A career, on the other hand, is a different beast altogether, it has a start, but what roads and paths we travel to get to the end, could be completely different from whence you started.  While a job can be considered a singular occurrence, a career is the culmination of many jobs, events and changes in our life that shape and define us over time.  However, in our race to finish first and be the best, we can sometimes lose sight of the path we want our career to be on and instead focus on finding a job, sometimes the right job, sticking with the job, working on the job, staying up late for the job, etc, etc.
When perhaps what we really need to focus on is whether this job is aligned to our career path and goals.

Our Job is not our Definition

A job is an act of completing a task – I clean the yard, I deploy a new server, I exercise, etc, etc.  A job can be of short or long duration, but it always has a beginning, middle, and end.  Over time, our jobs have become our definition of who we are and what we have accomplished.  When we meet someone new, the conversation inevitably turns to the question of “what do you?” which we answer with our current job title. While LinkedIn is an incredible platform for connecting with people and sharing content, it also proliferates this idea by connecting with people by our job placement and title.   It is easy to say to someone, I do X for Company Y and have been there for Z years – done and done – we can move onto the next conversation.  It is a completely different scenario when we talk less about what we are doing, but rather what we have done, are doing and where we are going.  All of a sudden the conversation changes from the job and to our career – why am I branching out into new avenues, what am I trying to accomplish, where do I want to go.
If you want to stop being defined by your job, then stop talking about your job as if it defines you and start talking about your career directions instead.

Our Career is our Path

Careers and jobs have a somewhat symbiotic relationship, you can’t have one without the other. Jobs are the opportunities that define our career path, letting us try new things, succeed, fail and build upon those learnings. Careers are the collection of those opportunities that start the creation of the path we want to go down where to start to focus on questions that go beyond our job.
Where do we want to go?
What do we want to accomplish?
What jobs do we enjoy that we want to do more of?
How can I better myself through my professional life?
Why am I doing this?
While it is perfectly normal to jump from job to job to learn and grow as professionals we always need to be mindful of the path that we are on and ensure that the jobs we are taking align to where we want to go.

Where they come together

If you are coming home each day from working on the “job”, stressed out from the day’s activities, not looking forward to what’s next and overall feeling as though you are burnt out from all that you are doing – it’s a sign that your current job is not in alignment with the direction of your career and the path you want to be on.  Does this mean it’s time to leave?  That answer depends on whether the job provides you any additional value to furthering your career.  If not, then perhaps it is time to move on.  If it is, then find a way to get through the stress and the drudgery and make it interesting and inspirational once more.
When we don’t map out our career path, we find ourselves going from job to job, hoping the next job puts us back on the path we want to be on when this could not be further from the truth.
Your career is your responsibility – not someone else’s.
The onus is on you to understand where your job and career intersect and identify how one fuels the other.  If you are in a job and not thinking about your next step, your career path and where you want to go – then you need to be and you need to be doing it now.  Start simple and put together a 6, 12, 18-month plan and then identify whether your current job aligns to that path.  It doesn’t need to be complicated – start with what you are doing and what you want to be doing and draw the lines between them.  If the lines don’t connect how can you start to make them connect?  What do you need to do to start having that feeling of fulfilment needed to align your job and your career?
Break the cycle of thinking that jobs and careers are one and the same – and start planning your future.

Featured photo credit: Marius Boatca via flickr.com

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