Job vs Career: What is the Difference?

Job vs Career. Career vs Job. What’s the difference between the two?

Long gone are the days where the majority of people leave school, get a job, and stay with that employer for the rest of their working lives.

Of course, this does still happen. But it is far more common nowadays for people to hold multiple jobs throughout the duration of their career, or indeed careers (plural).

So that begs the question: What is the difference between a job and a career? And why does it matter to make a distinction between the two?

Put simply: A job is a temporary form of employment. A career is a more permanent, overarching definition of your life’s work.

Let’s start by looking at the definitions…

Definition of ‘Career’

There are many definitions of the term ‘Career’, although they are all very similar in their description. Here are a few examples:

  1. An occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training, followed as one’s lifework (from;
  2. An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress (from the Oxford English Dictionary).
  3. A profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling (from Merriam-Webster).

Definition of ‘Job’

Again, there are numerous definitions of the term ‘job’. But, also again, they all have a similar theme. Some examples include:

Key Differences Between a Career and a Job

Did you notice the key differences between the two definitions?

The definitions of ‘career’ all include reference to the long term. They also include phrases like ‘lifework’ and ‘permanent calling’ which confirm that a career is not just a temporary thing.

The definitions of ‘job’ referred to employment, and being paid. There was no mention of a job being for life – the inference is that a job is temporary, and does not define your life’s work.

How Does a Job and a Career Fit Together?

Let’s look at an example that helps demonstrate this:

In the diagram above, we can see that one can have multiple jobs throughout the duration of a career. And in fact, we can also see that not all jobs are aligned with our career paths.

This is not unusual. People often work jobs that don’t naturally sit in a logical career path, often out of necessity. For example, when bills have to be paid it is sensible to take whatever work you can get – even if the job is not part of your desired career path.

Now let’s look at another example:

The diagram above shows that one can change careers during one’s lifetime. Within these multiple careers, there can be multiple jobs.

What we see here is that a series of jobs effectively define a career. After all, we are what we do, not what we think or say, or what we want to do.

Take the cliche example of a budding actor / actress. They want to act, but never actually get any acting work. Instead, they work a series of jobs waiting tables. Over sufficient time, their career is actually in hospitality, not acting, despite their dreams to the contrary!

How to Turn a Job Into a Career

If you feel that you are currently working a job, but would like to build a career, what should you do?

Here’s our step by step guide…

1. Define Your Career Goals

The first step is to identify your career goals. What do you actually want to do for a career?

For example, a common career goal is to find a type of work that you enjoy doing and that make you happy.

Whatever you decide, it is important to write your career goals down and describe them as vividly as you can. Research shows that you are more likely to achieve career goals that are written down.

You may also find that you need to try several different jobs before finding out what it is that really motivates and excites you. This may involve taking some risks, as you change jobs to find the right one.

Related Article: Give Your Career a Boost

2. Create an Action Plan

Once you have your career goals defined, you then start to think about what actions you need to take in order to achieve those goals.

Your action plan should include things you can do in the short term to support your longer term career goal. For example:

a. Develop your skills

You should look to enhance and deepen your existing skills that align to your career of choice. This can be through formal training or on the job experiences.

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Similarly, you should think about what skills you don’t currently have that would benefit you in your chosen career, then seek out ways to develop those. Again, this might be through formal training courses or via work experience.

If you’re unsure what new skills you should be looking to develop, ask people in your chosen career field that you respect and admire what they would recommend.

Which ties in nicely with…

b. Seek out a mentor

If you’re serious about turning your job into a long-term career you should look to identify at least one mentor who can support you.

An ideal mentor would be someone who is more senior than you are in your profession, with plenty of experience.

If you approach them and explain that you would like their mentorship to help you develop in your career there is a strong chance that they will agree – being asked to be a mentor is a big ego boost for even the most senior of people!

c. Consider internships

If your current job is not in the field of your desired career, you may want to consider ways in which you can build experience in your chosen industry, and an internship can help.

Not only will an internship help you get relevant experience in your career field, it will also demonstrate your dedication and commitment.

d. Build your industry network

You should look to meet other people in your chosen field to build up your network of contacts. This will help you gain insight and opinion from other people, share your own experiences.

Crucially, it will also help you build up a network of connects that you can tap into when looking to make the next step in your career.

Related Article: How To Make LinkedIn Connections Like A Networking Expert

e. Take training

Identify relevant training courses that will support your career goals. Formal training that is accredited and recognized within your chosen field will help, but can come at a cost.

But there are many free resources available online that can provide you with knowledge and insight without costing a cent.

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3. Monitor Your Progress

As you work your way through your action plan, you should regular monitor and track your progress to ensure your are moving in the direction of your career goals.

If not, you can course-correct to get yourself back on track. Or if you’re finding that your career goals are changing as you learn more, you can amend your goals.

If you do amend your goals, be sure to update your action plan accordingly too.

Job vs Career: Conclusion

A job is a temporary form of employment. A career is a more permanent, overarching definition of your life’s work.

Jobs are fixed and cannot change – that’s why jobs can become obsolete. Whereas a career is adaptable and can take many twists and turns to fit in with personal, societal and technological changes.

A career encompasses our whole lives. When one career avenue is closed to us we need to take stock of the skills and experience we have built up in order to continue the career, or indeed forge a new one.

Job vs Career: Summary Infographic

What is the difference between a job and a career