I recently read a remark that individuals who work at fast food restaurants or deliver newspapers do not have careers. The author of the remark said they have jobs. It made me wonder exactly what the difference is between a job and a career. So I looked up the words in the dictionary.
Job: a paid position of regular employment.
Career: an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.
So time is a key differentiator between jobs and careers. Using these definitions, a person who works for a couple of months in a restaurant has a “job.” A person who spends a decade working at a restaurant could have a “career.”
The opportunity for progress component is a bit more complex. It sounds like jobs do not have opportunities for progress but careers do. (Side note: This also means the term “dead end job” is a redundancy.)
In addition, when we think of opportunities, it could be very subjective. We don’t always know what opportunities exist. It’s possible we can’t see the opportunity. Or maybe we don’t consider it an opportunity. When I first read the definition, my immediate thought was opportunity means promotional opportunities. But, I can see where training could be defined as an opportunity for progress. Learning is progress.
What really came to mind as I was reading these definitions was employee engagement. It could be said that jobs are for the disengaged or unengaged. Careers are for the engaged. Organizations have the opportunity to give people jobs or careers. Employees have the ability to look for a job or a career. It’s not up to an outsider to make that determination. What seems like a job to one person, could be a career to someone else. Employers and employees decide if they have a “job” relationship or a “career” relationship based upon levels of engagement.
I believe in today’s working environment we first have to understand the literal definitions of jobs and careers. Then, we may have to expand their working definitions. They are not defined by how much money a person makes, what kind of organization a person works for, or even the type of work a person does. Nor are they defined by the opinions of others. Jobs and careers are created and defined by the relationship between the organization and the individual.
Image courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby1