What is your life plan? What do you hope to be aspiring to in five years? These are some of the dreaded questions which often come up, especially as your university careers are brought to a close. Essentially what is being asked is in five years’ time, what changes or improvements do you want your life to reflect? Your answer to this question will reflect the key difference between a ‘job’ and a ‘career’.
Simply speaking, a job is something you do to earn money. It is short-term oriented, reflecting a role that in five years’ time will be very similar to what it is today. Jobs offer less networking opportunities, often consist of hourly wages, and may not be in the sector where you can see yourself working in five years.
A career by contrast should coincide with your long-term goals – this is a series of connected opportunities leading to an eventual “dream” position. These positions require more emotional investment and often a career consists of several jobs linked together. A career should be aimed at the long term pay off and accomplishing future goals with a potential sacrifice in the short term.
At a typical job, the emphasis is on the “here and now” without the necessary stress of taking the job home with you. The aim is to form well-structured relationships with supervisors and coworkers as you do not know how this job could lead to future career aspects. However, a job also should not require significant out-of-hours emotional energy. When highlighting a job on a resume or CV it is the soft skills gained from this position which are worth emphasizing. These often times include time management, organization, leadership, and customer service skills.
In a career, the goal is not only to do your assigned task and form relationships with coworkers, but to demonstrate growth, learn new skills, and build on reputable networking relationships. The aim is to put yourself in a position to be considered for promotions, raises, and internal transfers. A career requires significantly more emotional energy and stronger goal-setting initiatives, as well as a more well-defined projection of the future (and your five-year plan).
1. Students A and B are both recent graduates from university in the field of broadcasting. Student A decides to take a position at a local restaurant as a waiter/waitress. They are able to save up and go on several weekend trips with friends, spend their weekends out in the city and generally lead a more flexible lifestyle. Student B instead decides to pursue a research internship at a local paper. It is not in line with their career goals and is at 50% of the salary as student A’s service industry job. However, it does allow them to form connections at the company and within six months of working there they are asked to reach out to a local media company for more background information. Three months later, the same local media company is hiring and Student B is able to apply for an entry-level position. Which student has set themselves up for a long-term career?
2. In comparison, consider the position of a store clerk. Student C and D both begin as a clerk at the local convenience store. Student C enters the position seeing it as a job opportunity, they show up on time every day and put in the minimal energy to succeed. After six months in the position, they decide to move on. Being a reliable employee, they get a good letter of recommendation from their boss and part having seen this experience as a successful job. Student D enters the position with an ambitious mindset. They show up 10 minutes early every day, implement a new filing system within their first 3 months on the job, and are always very friendly with coworkers and customers alike. In six months, they are promoted to front lanes supervisor. What is a “job” for one individual, may be a “career” for someone with different career goals.
Ideally speaking, all jobs will link to your career in some fashion, as they help you gain experience, skills, and understand the “working world”. Take advantage of all the opportunities offered to you, as you never know where they will get you!
When deciding between a job and a career, in that moment ask yourself these important questions:
Remember, both a job and a career are what YOU make of them. Taking advantage of any opportunity offered, even when you can’t see the potential returns on that opportunity yet, is a great way to start. Thinking in terms of a career, this can often seem intimidating and too long-term. I recommend breaking it down into smaller pieces and thinking about what you can be doing now, or what are the short-term goals that can help you reach your long-term options.
Careers don’t form overnight but by even considering the options and knowing what you want to be working towards, you are making positive strides in your career!