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The Difference between a Job and a Career

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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Greg Thomas

Software Architect

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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