Career vs. Job (Differences and Turning a Job Into a Career)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 2, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Throughout most individuals' professional lives, they experience many jobs and progress in one or more careers. Although careers and jobs both relate to a person's occupation, these two concepts are fundamentally different. Understanding the difference between careers and jobs is key to pursuing opportunities in each by using your jobs to direct your career. In this article, we provide an overview of the comparison of career vs. job, list some differences between the two, and give five steps for turning a job into a career.

Comparing career vs. job

Comparing the career vs. job definitions first requires an understanding of how each relates to your professional occupation. A career is the professional journey an individual follows in a particular field. Careers relate to your lifestyle and aspirations, with goals and ambitions to pursue by combining a variety of elements, such as job positions, professional networks, education, and experience. A career typically begins with an entry-level position and transitions into progressively senior roles.

Jobs are the roles themselves which you perform to earn money. These are positions you hold with a defined set of tasks and responsibilities as part of a formal agreement to perform them in exchange for remuneration. Jobs usually have clearly defined beginnings and ends. In relation to careers, jobs are the positions you hold as stages or components of your career. It's possible to have more than one job or career at a time, and it's common for people to pursue several careers in their lifetime.

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The differences between careers and jobs

While jobs and careers share an intrinsic link, they are essentially different. Below are several elements which relate to the relationship that jobs have with careers, and represent differences between the two:

Order of attainment

Because jobs are the positions you hold as part of a broader career path, it's common to have a job or several jobs which later develop into a career. Some careers you intentionally pursue, while others become careers after you follow a natural progression of increasingly advanced positions in a particular field. For instance, someone working in a job as an entry-level sales professional may gain progressively senior roles to become a sales lead, then enter management and eventually become a head of a department. In this case, the entry-level job initiated the professional's career in sales.

Where you gain skills

While fulfilling a role for your job, you can learn valuable skills which can progress your career. For example, if you work as a bartender, you can learn about different cocktails and spirits. This fundamental knowledge can translate into a variety of careers in different fields, such as retail, marketing, sales, or production.

Education

Careers sometimes require particular education for you to begin them. While a job may require specialized education, certifications, or qualifications to get hired, careers sometimes depend on firstly receiving the necessary education, and secondly, implementing this knowledge in jobs. For instance, to become a nurse, you require the necessary education requirements to get an entry-level job. To develop your career as a nurse, you apply what you've gained in your education to the practice, along with additional training.

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Advancement

Advancement is one of the key factors which differentiate jobs from careers. While you can advance a career, you can't progress a job without it becoming a different job altogether. For instance, a sales representative may progress their career by becoming a sales lead, but this effectively ends one job to begin another.

One without the other

You can have a job that isn't your career, but you can't have a career without ever having a job in that field. For instance, imagine you work part-time in an ice cream shop. This can be your job but not necessarily your career, if you don't intend to pursue this line of work.

Conversely, you can't have a career as a chef without ever having a job as a chef, for example. In this relationship, careers are dependent on an individual pursuing jobs in a field and seeking progression within it. Jobs aren't dependent on a field of work being a career.

Goals

Another key difference between careers and jobs is the scope of the goals you may pursue in relation to them. The goals you have in your job may be task-specific, or objective-related. For instance, if you work for an accountancy firm, your job goals may include achieving 100% error-free reports or completing a task before your deadline. For your career, your goals are likely more overarching, such as earning a particular salary or becoming a department leader.

Multiple jobs and careers

Both jobs and careers share the fact that it's possible to have several in a professional's lifetime. You can pursue multiple careers simultaneously, and you can also hold several jobs at once, although it's not usually possible to do more than one job at a time. For example, you can simultaneously hold jobs as a freelance writer and as a bartender. You can't do these two jobs at the same time, but both of these fields of work can be simultaneous and parallel careers, each with its own progression paths and goals.

How to turn a job into a career

Here are some helpful steps for turning a job into a career:

1. Find an entry-level position

The first step is to find an entry point into the career you wish to pursue. This may require a basis of education or training for you to qualify. You can assess which paths may lead you to the career you desire and consider which sequence of jobs can develop into that career. For instance, if you want a career in sales, consider whether an entry-level job as a sales representative in retail, or as a call-centre customer service representative may develop into your chosen career.

2. Find a mentor

Once you're in an entry-level job in the career you wish to pursue, you can find a mentor to help you plan your career path. A mentor is someone who can provide support and guidance throughout your career. It can be effective to find someone with a job title you desire to have one day. You can ask this person how they progressed their career, and if they have any advice on how to get from your current job to theirs. Mentors can also connect you to further opportunities and help you grow your professional network.

Continuing with the sales career example, you may ask your regional sales lead how they achieved their position and furthered their career in the field of sales. They may tell you that they began as a sales associate, and received a promotion into a territory management position. Then, after attending a leadership course, they may have achieved a sales leadership role before working toward their current position. This can provide valuable information about which jobs can lead to strategic promotions, and what training can help you achieve your career goals.

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3. Request more responsibility

Once you have established a general career plan, you can work toward progressing from one job to the next. If you can prove that you've developed skill, knowledge, and capacity for growth, this may indicate to your employer that you're ready for the next stage of your career. By displaying ambition, you can take on additional challenges and reach the maximum potential of your current job. It's wise to communicate your career goals with your employee during yearly performance reviews. Doing so can help them direct you to levels of progression and support your career development.

4. Progress your education or training

It's common for increasingly senior roles to require additional training or education. In some cases, as with the health care industry, this may mean attending post-graduate programs. Sometimes employers may require staff to take training courses to qualify for a promotion, such as leadership, communication, or technical training programs. Employers may provide the opportunity to upskill, or it may be your responsibility to pursue higher education.

5. Build your network

Developing a career isn't only about gaining the necessary skills and experience. Often, having a broad and reliable professional network can offer opportunities to advance your career. It's wise to put effort into creating connections with other professionals. Networking events are helpful places to make new connections, and exchanging contact information can easily establish new areas of opportunity. The broader your network is, the more chances you have of finding new paths of progression. Maintaining your network by getting coffee or exchanging e-mails can help strengthen these connections.

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