The Difference Between a Job and a Career

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Often, I hear people talking about finding a job or how much they dislike their jobs. Other times, I'll hear people discussing their careers – about how to further their career or what they think is the next move. 


After doing a little research and reading an article at Harvard Business Review, it seems that the biggest difference between a job and a career is how well they integrate with the rest of your life. The people who have jobs are always striving to find new ways to strike a balance between their work lives and their home lives. Those who have careers tend to already have this balance.


The article describes how the biggest complaint people have about their jobs is that it requires too much effort. However, the amount of effort something takes is relative to how much you enjoy it. If you think about it, reading a book for pleasure is simple, but reading a book for a college course can be a chore. If you're passionate about what you do, it doesn't feel like work and the extra hours you devote to it are much easier to sacrifice. On the other hand, when your job doesn't challenge you and you don't enjoy doing it, any amount of effort you have to expend will feel like too much. Soon, your job becomes a chore and one that you don't enjoy. Suddenly, your career becomes just another job.


If you are trying to find a better work-life balance and turn your job into a career, here are a few ways to help:


Realize that complaining about it is pointless – We all seem to have this idea that the goal of our lives is to be happy and do as little as possible; however, that's not the case. Complaining about the fact that you have to work everyday is pointless. No one cares about how boring or silly your job may be. Instead of complaining about it, find a way to make peace with the job you have and do your best to make it as pleasant as possible.


Find something that engages you – No matter what your job is, you can find something about it that you enjoy. Whatever that is, make the most of it and find a way to feel enthusiastic and passionate about what you do. This change doesn't have to be a big one. For example, if your job is to file medical records all day and you find it terribly boring, look for ways to turn it into a challenge. You could try timing yourself by creating new goals to reach each day. It might sound silly, but the more engaged you are, the less each minute at work will hurt.


Make the changes you want to see – Too often we complain and say things like “Somebody ought to...” or “I wish they would ...”. Instead of wishing for someone else to make the changes that will get you excited about your career, realize that you are somebody and can create the changes you want to see. If you feel that your office is too dreary, ask your boss if you can add some decoration. If you think that some of your tasks are overly repetitive, present your ideas for streamlining them. Remember, you are the person they hired to do the job, which means that you are the only one who has the power to make your vision a reality.


The biggest difference between having a job and having a career is how happy you are about doing it. When you only have a job, finding a balance between work and home will be a constant struggle. However, when you create ways to feel enthusiastic and engaged, even part of the time, your job will quickly become a career.


Do you have a job or a career? What do you do to make your job more exciting? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Image Source: OpenClipArt


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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks for the comments. Everyone has made some great points. If you don't love what you do, try to do something you love. However, that isn't always possible for everyone. Some people don't have the skills or education needed to do what they love, or what they want to do isn't possible at this point in their lives. When that's the case, changing the way you approach a job can make a huge difference. It's like a person who got a job in Fast Food. At first, he hated the job and felt that the work was beneath him. Then, he changed his outlook and decided to love what he did - no matter what that was. Everyday, he went in to work with a smile and tried his best to do whatever his bosses told him. He tried to live the ideals of the company, like "service with a smile" and "if you have time to lean, you have time to clean." His bosses were impressed with his dedication and of course, his work was outstanding. Soon, he received raises and was asked to train new employees. Then, he became the assistant manager. When the store needed a new manager, who do you think they chose? If he didn't want to continue working with that company, the skills and dedication he showed at the restaurant will serve him well at a new job and his bosses would give him a glowing recommendation - which is much better for his career than if he had done the minimum needed and complained about his crappy job.
  • Jonathan S
    Jonathan S
    I agree somewhat.  We all are condemned by God to work, the gift from God is to enjoy the work.  We won't be compensated according to our wishes, the idea is to have enough.  God intends some sort of mission for each of us, a sort of "niche" to occupy in the scheme of things.  Do what you think God has for you to do, find a way to enjoy it, and in the end the collection of "jobs" you had will be a "career."  Giving that series a title may be a challenge, but so what?
  • Steven L
    Steven L
    I never thought that a job & career could be so closely related to each other & still be separate. It open my eyes.   Thank You.     
  • Carlyse K
    Carlyse K
    Valid point
  • Julie T
    Julie T
    Let's be honest. If you hate your job, get a new one. To me, a job is just something to do to bring home the bacon. A career is doing a job in a particular field for the rest of your life that best fits your personality and your skillset. For your job to be a career, you need to be passionate about it! If you absolutely dread doing more than 50% of the tasks at your job then change jobs and find a career. Do some soul searching, take some personality assessments, and find the job that fits you. Life is too short to spend all your time focusing and working on things you dislike. To me this article talks about ways to temporarily deal with a job you hate while you search for your ideal career. Let's not settle. There is a perfect job fit for everyone. It is just a matter of finding it!
    I agree for most part. However, one can like or love the job they do, but if you are always dumped on, overloaded and drowning in work where putting extra hours on the weekends only serves to keep your nose above water, then you quickly burn out. On top of that, your management shows little appreciation for all your hard efforts and publicly announces all errors, omissions, and mistakes....hard to embrace this as a career....
    I think you are right!
  • Remond N
    Remond N
    This arcticle is very much educative and any one that apply this will never regrete. Thanks
  • Clayton S
    Clayton S
    That is not the difference between a job and a career. A job is unskilled labor that never goes anywhere. A career is a skilled position that you promote and excel in over time. If your still going to be doing the same work 20 years from now and not excel in any way then you have a job.
  • Darla V
    Darla V
    Good article
  • SHAM Sai W
    SHAM Sai W
    Basically I agreed with this article. Anyway, why not people take assessment    tests before picking a job or developing her/his career ? Say, DISC/Enneagram/ Harrison Assessment Test /MBTI/OPQ/SHL etc. It helps you to make a right choice beforehand.
  • Renee S
    Renee S
    Those that complain, wait until they don't have a job..I've been unemployed for two years come April, I been busting my butt to find another job...going on interviews, but still nothing... we have to learn to appreciate what we have....
  • Lorna W
    Lorna W
    Wonderful article about taking personal responsibility - applies not only to the work we do, but every aspect of our lives as well.  Complaining is wasted energy that could be applied to achieving goals  Thank you..
  • Linda B
    Linda B
    In reading this article I was missing the "Real" meat of the link between moving oneself from job to career. Yes, all things begin in our ability to change our attitude. I have personal experience in that. I was just wondering where the author's story of that was as a true link in this article. It would have been great to hear as we do inspire and uplift through personal experience.  
  • Michael S.
    Michael S.
    Here's my opinion, for what it's worth: To me, the word "career" implies forward momentum - i.e., working toward a goal, like a promotion. Most people, like myself, have a "job" - and some of us, like myself, have a very good job, for which I am extremely thankful. However, at a certain point, usually around age 35-40, if a person has not "moved ahead" in his or her chosen profession, he or she is never going to do so. Therefore, it is best to not let your job interfere too much with the rest of your life, unless you are pursuing it as a hobby or something you enjoy. Otherwise, your job is the way you earn your living, nothing more, nothing less. If it becomes too cumbersome for you, you need to seriously consider leaving it for another, similar position.  Furthermore, a job, in essence, is simply the exchange of one's services for money. You owe the company a good day's work. The company owes you your salary, benefits, a safe working environment, and whatever else is required by law.  No promises, such as continued employment with the company, are made.  Therefore, you should not expect them. By all means, do your best at work.  However, at the same time, do not let it overwhelm you.
  • Karen Lorraine S
    Karen Lorraine S
    love the article. correct on every point.
  • Leonard G
    Leonard G
    Thank you for this article. I too found myself complaining about the monotony of my job; so I found ways to make it more interesting for myself. For example, if you have to handwrite account numbers on folders, don't just grudgingly write the numbers; try to improve upon your penmanship by making the numbers or letters attractive. This could make the job less boring for you. If you have to file, use different color markers or folders (providing it doesn't interfere with existing office requirements
  • Manny T
    Manny T
    I agree with some ore even most about the thoughts above. The only one that i'm struggling is in offering new ideas for the change. Example: You mentioned that often we say, "I wish they  would or Somebody ought to " but that depends on the job environment and who you are working with, I have often offered suggestions to our boss or team leader in order to make things easier at the job. He has often shut those ideas down. Pretty much as to say, "It needs to be done this way"at that point, any suggestion would be pointless. you begin to think that your ideas don't matter therefore disliking your job.
  • Kathleen M
    Kathleen M
    I found this article to be very insightful and worth sporting. Thank you.
  • Austin K
    Austin K
    As professional in our modern Technology generation career applicant and candidate in our engineering industry have a potential positive impact in the planning and developing projects for accomplishing successful goals and objectives. Example career candidate have greater advantage to work with ( NASA SPACE PROJECT) than candidate that know any job. Moreover career person is highly dependable with less supervision and less risks.     
  • Fenold A
    Fenold A
    I tend to agree with your comments and findings. That is what i am wrestling with right now.
  • Marta F
    Marta F
    The dictionary defines a career as an occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training that is followed as one's life work.  A job is what you do to pay the bills.  I have done both and was so thrilled to finally stumble upon my career after having a number of jobs.  I have been in research now for over 20 years - as someone else noted, it does not make for better work life balance - I work late hours and have to travel extensively for my position.  But there is a sense of "calling" to what I do.  And there is also a career pathway that allows me to grow in what I do and have new opportunities to follow. Not something I ever had with a job.
  • Warren D
    Warren D
    Hello Melissa very thoughtful but true article. I have always said to others "don't complain about your job if your are not wanting to do something about it." Sometimes this can result in very short conversations with people.
  • Marc W
    Marc W
    Not sure I totally agree.  It is entirely possible (and today rather common) to make a career out of a sequence of "jobs".  Isn't this pretty much what defines consultants and contractors?If someone has been doing (more or less) the same thing or working in the same industry for years... that is a career!  (Again, pretty much by definition, I think).  The fact that someone chooses to hire them for a relatively short period of time or to complete a specific task to project make it a job (at the time).  Added together, this sequence of jobs become a career!  At least that's how I see it.  (Your mileage may vary).
  • Michele K
    Michele K
    Great article and sound advice.  We all must assume responsibility for getting engaged.

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