Do You Have a Job or a Career?

As older kids, we were told that if we wanted something, we’d have to pay for it ourselves. That meant (ugh) actually doing something in order to get paid to buy it. This new foreign word, ‘work’ was seen by us as the loss of our childhood, our first peek into the beginning of adulthood and something only old people did.

Those that were paid to do chores around the house (allowance), or anything revolving around the family and the cash that came out of it really weren’t the first hints of a ‘job’. The kids that had the early neighborhood jobs (mowing lawns, babysitting, etc.) got paid right then and there received instant (cash) gratification. This was their first inkling that if they did their job to completion, there was money waiting for them at the end. Compare that to the other kids who eventually got the ‘real’ jobs (paper routes, fast food, busboy, box boy, etc.). They only got paid every couple of weeks but quickly learned that the financial fulfillment was delayed. However, they also got to look forward to a ‘big’ check; (we restaurant busboys were smart; we got tips every night!).

We always knew that these were just jobs that we could leave anytime; and routinely did.

We all want to have careers but sometimes things happen and all we end up with is just a job. Now, that isn’t always a bad thing. Everyone needs experience and that’s how we learn and grow more valuable to prospective employers. At a younger age, if someone has 2-3 ‘jobs’ in the same industry that can quickly turn into a career.

College or trade schools got us prepared and put us on the right track to a career. Those who never went (or never had the opportunity) to go to (or finish) college quite possibly were on a similar track; if they knew what they wanted to do in the first place. Let’s take two different people. One goes directly to college and the other goes right into the work force. (The military is not forgotten, it’s just not used for this example.) They both have dreams and higher aspirations for their lives and future families. The college person possibly is working their way through college, gaining valuable job training while the work force person tries to find the right opportunity that is the right fit. Who has the advantage? If the college person is plucked right out of college starting with a great company with many opportunities for growth within the company (assuming he likes it), it is the first step in his career. Initially it is probably just a ‘job’, but this real-world experience is invaluable as the new employee will be able to determine if this new venture will turn into a career. The workforce person will have four or five years on the college person with full-time employment and (hopefully) various opportunities to check out their particular career interest.

Neither has the complete advantage but the college degree clearly opens more doors than without one. Look at the various management trainee programs in our industry. Over 90%+ that are accepted into these programs are degreed individuals. Those without a degree repeatedly are forced to take a back seat and work their way up; and many times they will never be given the same opportunities as the grads. Are they less capable? No. Are they less motivated? Probably not. Do they have similar end-game expectancies? Entirely possible.

Once you have a good gig, it probably only takes a few months to determine if it is ‘right’. But it probably takes years to decide if the current path is the perfect fit for one’s abilities and passions. If you have a ‘career’, you are: excited to get up in the morning (most days) and go to work, you have a sense of accomplishment when a task or project is completed, you see a clear path for moving up within the company AND you see yourself on that course and lastly the thought of leaving your current company has no interest to you.

If you have a ‘job’, you have identified that it is clearly a dead-end position with no growth potential, you are always on the search for another opportunity, you would jump ship for a small $$ increase, the thought of doing the same tasks for the next 20-30 years is completely unappealing and lastly you would consider leaving the industry for something totally different.

How do you turn a job into a career? By simply looking deep within yourself and really, truly, determining what you want to do (and are good at) and what will ‘get you out of bed in the morning’. You never want to get to that point when you’re sitting in the rocking chair, with your grandchildren around you, thinking, ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’. Make sure you have no regrets at the end.

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