Some people stereotype employment and say that slinging burgers at a fast food restaurant, stocking shelves in a retail store, or putting in an 8-hour day on a factory line is just a job; that it’s not a career. A person is often put down if they choose that option, especially if they are a recent high school graduate. While education (but not necessarily traditional college) is beneficial and can still open a few more doors, it is possible to turn a job into a career.
Webster defines a job as “A piece of work… at a stated rate. A specific duty, role, or function. A task.” Other dictionaries define it as “A position of employment, either part-time or full-time.”
A career, on the other hand, is considered “A field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement in pubic, professional, or business life. An occupation or profession, usually with special training for someone’s life work.”
In doing research for this article, I asked people if they considered their positions a job or a career. One woman who was teacher’s aide for many years said she felt it was just a job that had somehow turned into a 20-year habit. It was clear she never considered it that way before as she laughed at how funny that sounded. While she had longevity, her training, pay, and responsibilities were much less than a teachers’. A man who started working in a factory as an 8-5 assembly line worker eventually became one of that company’s executives. He then considered it a career. Another woman who took the typical part-time high school retail store job ended up opening up her own clothing boutique after college but yet she still considered it just a job because she really wanted a writing career.
My dad only finished the 8th grade. He started working the family farm and eventually took it over in his early twenties. He never had any special training except the school of experience and hard knocks. If longevity was the only factor that defined a career, then working his farm/ranch for over 60 years has become his career. But I wanted to get it straight from the horse’s mouth so I asked him if he considered it a career or just a long-term job on the farm. “Definitely a career,” Dad said. He further explained that “A career usually means you put more effort into it. You continue to study as you go along. You’re always learning new ways of doing things, new practices, new products, etc. Having a career doesn’t necessarily have to be a professional career (i.e. doctor, lawyer, etc.) but it usually is your profession.”
I also asked my husband, who is a Sales VP, what he thought. Typical of many guys, he said, “I don’t think about it too much.” Then he added, “Whether you have a job or a career is the mindset of the individual,” which really puts it in perspective.
Maybe it’s not necessary to know how to turn a job into a career. Maybe it’s more important that you choose something you enjoy. As long as you make enough money to be financially secure, can support yourself and/or your family, does it really matter where you work, what you do, or what it’s called if you really love it and are happy?
However, for those who love what they do for a job and would like it to become a career, here are a few tips to remember:
- Get as much training as possible. This does not necessarily mean a college degree. Take classes or attend seminars or whatever is necessary to further your opportunities.
- Take on more responsibilities. Many people go through life and their job living the status quo. Any employer will appreciate employees who are willing to learn more and be more responsible. Go above and beyond what’s expected.
- Create opportunities. Give suggestions when you see things that could be improved. Sometimes employers/managers are too busy to see the simple things. A new opportunity could evolve into a new position which could eventually turn into a career.
- Look for advancement. One aspect of a career is moving up in the company or moving to a higher position in another company in the same field. It shows progressive achievement.
- Enjoy what you do. No one wants to think about a long-term job doing something they don’t enjoy. If you like interacting and talking with people, you probably wouldn’t enjoy a desk job in some cubicle or have any ambition to make it a career.
Job. Career. Both are just words. Both can have opportunities. What you do with them is up to you.
Nancy O’Neill is the Common Sense Consultant. Combining her education and experience, she offers a common sense approach on a variety of topics for entrepreneurs, authors, and speakers of all ages as well a advice on parenting. Life or business does not have to be complicated but many times, people make it that way. Nancy believes the most effective way to help people is by giving them the tools to think for themselves. Through practical, common sense education and coaching, a person can gain the knowledge to become confident in their own abilities and not rely on someone else to spoon-feed them information.