Job vs. Career: What’s the Difference?

The Career Project is reader-supported. We may earn a commission on products purchased through links on this page. Learn more here.

The terms ‘job’ and ‘career’, as well as many other work-related terms, are often used interchangeably.

Sure, they all refer to the same sort of things… How much money you’re earning, your hours, where you’re working, or your purpose. However, they actually mean different things, and understanding this can help you decide what you want to do for a living.

What is a career?

In short, a career is a series of connected employment opportunities that offer you skills, experience, and development and networking opportunities.

In general, careers tend to be more long-term focused. More often than not, careers are life-long goals that take years of dedication and commitment to reach.

Careers are also typically connected within one industry or vertical.  For example, someone who works several different jobs within the financial sector has held different ‘jobs’ or ‘positions’, but we’d typically say they were all part of one ‘career’ given the common theme. Different jobs that make up a career will help you build skills that in turn increase your value, and enable you to become more effective over time as a result of your larger and sharper skill set.

You will learn a lot during your career, and you will have a lot of opportunity for progression. A career will typically lead you to higher positions or a higher salary – which I’m sure none of us will complain about!

Often, individuals pursuing careers will have set salaries and benefits such as retirement plans, pensions and healthcare; careers can offer us a lot stability and security.

Also, in a career you’ll want to go the extra mile (and if you don’t feel that you want to, you might be in the wrong career). You’ll want to stay an hour late or be in the office an hour early. You’ll be willing to help others out or sacrifice things in order to reach your goals. You’ll find yourself spending Saturdays on training courses, opposed to in the pub.

It is important to remember that you might have multiple different careers throughout your life, with a recent survey finding that on average we have five to seven different careers in our lifetime! As we get older, our priorities change. In our 20’s a career may be money and status driven. Whereas, in our 50’s our careers may be more focused towards helping others.

What is a job?

Different to a career, a job is something you do to earn money, or to fill gaps and voids in your life. Unless you are fortunate enough to have your career mapped out step by step from a young age, then you will probably find yourself in a lot of jobs, simply to fill time or to save some money.

In general, a ‘job’ can have minimal impact on your future work life. They typically provide very little networking opportunities or development opportunities. If you have a ‘job’ you are most likely paid an hourly wage, with little to no benefits package, and you focus solely on getting the job done so you can leave on time!

However, just because a job doesn’t necessarily lead to anything, it’s not to say that jobs do not influence your career.

Jobs demonstrate your work ethic and show your ability to work as a team, which is important to all employers! Also, having good ‘jobs’ on your resume shows you’re willing to put in some hard graft and work for what you receive.

Any job will also provide you with transferable skills, even if it doesn’t seem apparent at the time. Working at the McDonalds counter will teach you invaluable patience, how to work well under pressure, how to work as part of a team and most importantly, how to put up with rude customers!

Working as a ski instructor will teach you dedication, health and safety, organization and how to have fun! No job is wasted if it’s not part of your decided career, because you can still learn, grow and develop from it.

While in the above examples we cite jobs that might not be tied to your career, the term ‘job’ can also be used to identify just one particular position within the span of your career.

And that’s why, you should always remember that hard work pays off. Your current job can affect your career in unexpected ways. Always go beyond bare minimum, have a positive outlook and always do high quality work. We can only suggest thinking of jobs as short-term duties that can help you achieve long-term goals.

So a job can certainly be part of your career, but the job itself is one position at one company whereas the career is a longer connected string of positions and the combined skills, knowledge and competency you earn within a given subject area. 

How to turn a job into a career

Always aim to enhance your skills and knowledge.
Once you figure out what career path you want to pursue and figure out what experience you need to get there. Sometimes, you might find you need more university education, or it might be that you need to find a fancy internship. Regardless of what you need, always try to learn continuously – a passion for education and further development is attractive to employers.

Know yourself.
Jobs are often situation dependent; you find yourself somewhere, so you get a job and if you don’t like it, you leave and find another job. Careers aren’t situation dependent in the same way, often we try and push through the negatives in careers for the greater goal. Learning your personality traits can help you pick careers which you will feel happier and settled in as research has found that some personality traits are happier in certain types of careers.

Expand your network.
LinkedIn is a great way to do this. Reach out to people who are high up in the career you want to get into. Ask them about how they got there, their experience and if they have and opportunities. When career hunting, it’s really important to get your name out there

Learn to be resilient.
The Oxford Dictionary refers to resilience as the ‘capacity to quickly recover from difficulties’. This is so important to have when trying to get from having a job to fulfilling a career. We all will get knocked back and have difficult times, but don’t quit… Learn from your mistakes and keep pushing for your dream career.

Never stop working hard for what you want.
Hard work really does pay off. Always perform to the best you possibly can, you never know who’s watching you.

And hey, don’t stress – as Bazz Luhrmann once said in his famous song ‘Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen)’, “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t”.

Part of life is the unknown, it is perfectly ok to be sitting in jobs whilst you figure out exactly what career you’d like to do.

What about vocation, trade, calling or profession?

A vocation refers to our main employment or occupation. In our vocation, we will have a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation. For example, you might be a HR admin currently. For now, you feel right doing that as your career goal is HR manager, and working in admin is a step to meeting that career goal.

A trade is a job that requires manual or special training. You can work in a trade as a job. For example, many of the boys that come over to Australia for a year work as ‘tradies’, they have no intention of pursuing this job when they return home, but it fills a void for now. However, others work in ‘trade’ as a career, for instance to become a site manager or a building firm owner.

A calling is a strong urge towards a particular way of life or career. A calling represents something you have a strong feeling that you want to do and should be doing. I suppose, a calling is anything that leaves you feeling satisfied, whether it offers development, experience and progression or not.

A profession is a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and formal qualifications. Classic examples include teachers or doctors. A profession would normally be considered a career, but you can be doing jobs in a profession and know its not what you want to do forever.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Job vs. Career

Table of Contents

Share this post: