Well-rounded fulfillment often includes a meaningful career. And this journey starts with finding a job you love.
You’ll probably try several jobs throughout your life until you find something you want to pursue long-term. That’s the crucial difference between a job versus a career.
What’s a job versus a career?
Both jobs and careers contribute to your professional success, but their breadth and the passion you feel about them often differs.
A job is a single post of employment where you offer your skills and services to an employer who pays you, most often hourly or via salary. This might be part-time, full-time, or contract-based.
Most jobs require some sort of skill set, although entry-level positions often expect you’ll learn as you work.
A career is an accumulation of jobs and experience in the same field, and this is something you cultivate over many years. Career building usually involves completing specialized training and undergoing formal education.
An example is pursuing a career in childcare over the course of 10 years. You might start as a babysitter, complete an undergraduate degree in childhood development and education, and work as a childhood educator. All the related jobs you have after completing relevant training and education make up your career, from internships to senior roles.
While money might be a motivating factor of the job you choose, you’ll usually choose to build a career that fulfills your passions, matches your personality type, and helps you achieve long-term professional goals.
5 differences between a job and a career
Although jobs and careers are often used interchangeably, understanding key differences can help you pursue your goals.
Here’s a breakdown of the differences between a job versus a career:
- Required training: Most careers require specialized training and secondary education, and many jobs don’t. For example, professional careers like medicine and law typically require you to complete undergraduate and graduate programs and apprenticeships.
- Time length: Careers can last your whole life, and jobs are often short-term.
- Professional growth opportunities: Throughout your career you’ll likely move from entry-level positions to management, but a single job might be stagnant until you acquire another or earn a promotion.
- Goal span: The goals you focus on when choosing a job are often short term, like the salary you want right now. And the goals you focus on when choosing a career are often long-term, like the work-life balance or seniority you want someday.
- Gained skills: The main difference between career skills versus job skills is that the former are often broader, while the latter are more specific. If you’re pursuing a marketing profession, you might gain career-relevant skills like social media strategizing and job-specific skills like working with your employer’s customer relationship management (CRM) system.
5 ways a job positively impacts your career
A survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on baby boomers found that most people will have an average of 12 jobs in their lifetime. Some of these might reflect your chosen career, and others won’t. Either way, here are five ways every role you take on positively impacts your chosen career.
1. New skills
Every position teaches you valuable transferable skills. If your first entry-level position was as a restaurant server, you’re taking important customer service skills into your chosen career. You will have also practiced on-the-spot problem-solving and critical thinking skills as you handle new situations and troublesome patrons.
If you already know the career you want to pursue, consider jobs that offer you relevant skills. Trying to become a doctor might make part-time hospice admin work valuable while you’re studying.
Employers value experience as it shows them you’re able to execute what’s expected of you. You can showcase these skills to make your resume stand out among other job seekers when applying to career-relevant positions.
2. Networking opportunities
Workplaces are excellent networking environments since you’re interacting with fellow industry professionals and highly accomplished external stakeholders. Leaving a positive impression on these contacts increases the chance the right person thinks of you when a career-relevant job opportunity opens up.
And it’s also more likely you’ll gain excellent letters of recommendation from supervisors, which will help you land positions that support your long-term career goals.
3. A good reputation
You can use previous experience to build your reputation so industry professionals recognize the value of these positions and are more inclined to offer you another one. An internship or externship with a reputable organization helps you stand out from the competition. And each job you have gives you the chance to manage your impression across coworkers to build your reputation throughout your career.
4. A greater understanding of what you want
Every job teaches you more about what you like and dislike regarding specific environments, management styles, and tasks. You might discover you prefer hybrid versus fully remote work, for example, or that you prefer focused and independent task work over collaboration and frequent meetings.
You can use these job experience insights to continue taking roles that build a more fulfilling and satisfying overall career.
5. More direction in life
Pursuing career-relevant jobs gives your life a more thoughtful trajectory. Each role builds on the last to offer a professional roadmap, which means you avoid randomly jumping from job to job without understanding where you’re headed. If you use your jobs to build a satisfying profession you might feel less aimless and dissatisfied with your work.
How to turn your job into a career: 4 tips
1. Find your calling
The best way to turn your job into a career is to figure out what you want to do. Your current position might be irrelevant to your calling — but if you know what you want to pursue, you can choose roles that help you build a rich and satisfying career.
Consider working with a career coach to determine the right profession for you. You could also brainstorm and try out positions you think you might like or bounce ideas off of close friends and family members who know you well.
2. Find a mentor
Once you’re working in a career-relevant job, find a mentor at this organization, like your manager or a more experienced coworker. You might choose a C-suite professional who has your dream role to gain advice on advancing or ask for help when challenges arise. Mentors can also point you toward helpful resources, share their success stories for you to learn from, and provide more role-specific advice.
Plus, after you’ve developed a positive mentor-mentee relationship, your mentor may share their useful contacts and direct you to job openings in their network.
3. Exceed expectations
Work to make a great impression in your current role so people consider you for promotions or outside opportunities that advance your career. Try your best to exceed expectations so you stand out from the competition and build a track record of being reliable, competent, and trustworthy. This hard work also pushes your boundaries and helps you gain new skills faster.
4. Work your way up
A career is something you build over time as you climb your industry-relevant ladder. Don’t feel hesitant about starting from the bottom and working your way up, especially if you know the company you’d like to work for. Companies often promote internally because it saves them onboarding time and increases employee morale. Use this to your advantage by acquiring an entry-level position, finding a mentor, and exceeding expectations to gain promotions.
A career versus job example
A job is a single compensation-providing role, and a career is the accumulation of subject-similar jobs you pursue over the course of your professional life. Here’s an example to drive home the difference.
A job: Arthur currently works as a junior social media manager for a marketing agency. He chose the job because it fit his salary expectations. He also wants to pursue a career in marketing and knows this company prioritizes internal promotions, so he hopes to build his career by working his way up in the company.
A career: Joy dreams of becoming a C-suite sales professional. She needs five years of experience in sales to acquire a management position. She’s worked as a sales consultant for two years and an assistant sales manager for three years. Joy can now apply for sales management positions that leverage her past experiences, fulfill her passion, and advance her career.
Your path to success
Understanding the differences between a job versus a career means you can leverage both to pursue your professional goals. Finding a meaningful occupation is invaluable as it makes your days more enjoyable and your work more purposeful. And you’ll fill this career with various jobs — all of which will hopefully offer financial wellness and contribute toward greater career development.
Start by envisioning your ideal professional journey. Take any educational steps or special training necessary, finding part-time work if needed for financial support. Then, begin your job search for a role that kick-starts your career journey to enjoy more job satisfaction and a sense of purpose as you achieve your long-term goals.