If you’re recently out of school and took the first job you could get (to get out of your parents’ house) you’re probably asking yourself if you made the right career choice. The little angel on your right shoulder said, "in this economy you’re lucky to be gainfully employed" and gave you an attaboy. But the angel on your left shoulder said "you caved and settled for another McJob and you should have held out for something more than a paycheck—something with a real career path." And there you are in the middle, asking yourself, what’s the real difference between a job and a career?
Okay, some basics. A job is what you had when you were going to school. You know, pizza delivery, folding jeans at Target, selling earthquake insurance to seniors in a boiler room. Not exactly a high point on your resume. There’s no career path. No passion. No desire to advance to the next level. Because the next level is out the door, as far as you’re concerned.
Looking at it another way, your goal in a job is to get the work done in a perfunctory manner. You do just enough to keep the boss happy, fill out your timesheet and go home. You’re not interested in improving your skills or abilities to do the job any better than when you first started. If there’s a shortcut to getting things done faster and leaving sooner, you’ll take it. When the boss isn’t around, you get on the phone, check your email, and start texting your friends, probably telling them how bored you are at work.
A career is gainful employment that builds on your skills, talents and passion. It’s a ladder of jobs with each rung moving you up closer to where you dreamed of being when you declared your major, or when you saw that person on TV and told yourself, that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life, that’s who I want to be when I grow up. A career may not be a straight line to where you want to be, but it lets you at least answer the question of where you want to be in 5 years or 10. Granted, there may be a lot of daylight between your dream and your present situation, but the goal is always there in the back of your mind.
Still another test for a career is something you proudly put on a resume or job application. It’s something you’ll talk about during interviews. A career also offers networking and mentoring opportunities because you want and need to connect with people who can help you advance to the next level. You’re constantly looking for ways to add new skills or enhance those you already have. You go the extra mile, do more than the job description, compete for work and assignments that will get the attention of your boss.
We’ve all had a series of McJobs. But lately more of us seem to be taking these jobs because the economy is so bad. Time to listen to that angel on your left shoulder, who asks, "is this really your passion?"
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