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Written by Charlotte GraingerCharlotte Grainger

Career vs job: understanding the differences

10 min read
Career vs job: understanding the differences
Artwork by:Alexandra Shevchenko
Do you want just any job or are you thinking bigger? If you’re looking toward the future, it’s smart to have a career plan. In the following guide, we will take a look at the difference between a career and a job to help you start planning yours.

Let’s kick things off with some ‘90s nostalgia:

“Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life,” says Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen. “The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives; some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.”

That memorable advice highlights one difference between a career and a job. The latter simply pays the bills, while the former is about knowing what you want to do with your life. Of course, it doesn’t end there. Careers and jobs are intricately different beasts. 

Want to know more? Here at Resume.io, we have everything you need to create a fulfilling career for yourself from resume and cover letter guides to expert-backed advice. In the following guide, we will take a look at these core topics: 

  • Clear definitions for both jobs and careers
  • The main differences between careers and jobs
  • Whether you can turn your job into a meaningful career
  • Tips on how to find the right career path for you

Job vs career definitions

Grab your notebook, and we will get started with today’s lesson. Before we get down to looking at some of the key differences, you need to know the basics. Let's start with a couple of snappy definitions. Here’s what you need to know about jobs vs careers.

What is a career?

Careers are long-term professional ambitions that people hold and work toward. Often, that means choosing a path to pursue, getting an education to that end, gaining industry experience, and then working within that field for a matter of years. Of course, that may mean that you hold a range of different jobs throughout the course of your career. 

Unlike jobs, careers are not simply about earning money. People tend to find fulfillment by following a meaningful career. For example, you may decide to enter a third-sector or charity industry that is close to your heart. On the other hand, you could choose a profession that brings you joy and suits your natural-given talents. 

What is a job?

Jobs can be broadly defined as any activity that you do on a regular basis in exchange for money. Getting a job can provide you with a steady income. It may be part of a long-term career plan, or it may simply be a way to cover your expenses. There are many different types of jobs out there — including full-time, part-time, and ad-hoc. In simple terms, a job consists of a contract between an employer and an employee for any given period. 

The difference between a career and a job

If you’re reading this guide, chances are that you want to understand the difference between a career and a job. Sure, there is overlap between these two things but they are not the same. Let’s take a look at the broadly-defined differences between a job vs a career.

  • Careers have longevity. You pick an industry that aligns with your passions or talents and pursue it.
  • Often, you will need specialized training to gain a career. That could be a degree, an apprenticeship, or other forms of certification.
  • You may hold multiple different “jobs” during your career.
  • Embarking on a career means mapping out where your work life is headed. You can answer “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
  • Landing your dream career can be hard. You may have to take certain risks before you find your way.
  • Careers are fulfilling, especially if you choose a path that suits your personal vision and values.
  • Jobs are a means to an end. You take on a full or part-time position to give you a regular income.
  • For many jobs, you don’t need a specific level of education. Instead, you may find that you gain on-site training when you start the role.
  • Jobs can often be temporary contracts or shift work.
  • Many people choose to get a job as an interim solution — to give them an income — while they are figuring out what career path to take.
  • Gaining a job is comparatively straightforward. You pick a role that aligns with your skills and apply.
  • While many people enjoy their day-to-day work, jobs are rarely as fulfilling as careers.

Can you turn your job into a career?

Yes, of course, you can. Contrary to popular belief, there’s not one single way to scope out a career. You don’t have to know what you want to do from a young age to turn something into a career. Don’t believe us? Okay, fine. Let’s take a look at a straightforward example. 

Say that you work in a bar while you’re at college to pay the bills. That’s a job. However, over the years, you may learn the dark arts of hospitality and decide to climb that career ladder. With the right training, you could become a manager, a mixologist, a sommelier, or even a publican yourself. Those are all careers and have the potential for real longevity. 

The same can be said about many jobs. If you love your work, there may be ways that you can develop and delve into new areas of the sector. That could involve upskilling, doing on-the-job training, or even taking an evening class to get more qualifications. It’s about looking for the opportunities that may have been staring you in the face from the start.

Notebook page with the difference between a career and a job
Notebook page with the difference between a career and a job

5 Tips on how to find your career path  

If you’re dissatisfied with your day job and want to find something more meaningful, the first step is planning. Chances are, you aren’t sure which path to take. Luckily, we have you covered. Here are some simple tips that will help you find a solid career path: 

1. Take a career aptitude test

First things first, you can take a career aptitude test. While these tests won’t tell you exactly which career you should have, the results will give you an idea of the paths that may suit you. There’s a wide range of options out there — take a look at some of the best.

2. Think back to your childhood hobbies 

What did you enjoy doing when you were younger? Was there a special hobby or interest that brought you joy? When you’re trying to figure out what career will suit you, it’s worth going back to basics. The things that you loved when you were small may be the answer. 

3. Consider your personal ethics and values 

Is there a cause that you care about intensely? Are you interested in driving positive change in the world? If you are ethically driven, there are plenty of careers that will suit you. Take the time to research roles that align closely with your personal values. 

4. Ask your friends and family for advice

The people closest to you may know you better than you know yourself. When you’re trying to decide what career path to follow, don’t be afraid to speak to them. Ask them what careers they think would suit you and why. Their answers may surprise you. 

5. Do some research first

Perhaps you already have a dream career in mind. If that’s the case, it’s time to get moving and do some research. Look into routes into that specific industry. There’s a world of information online that you can access at the touch of a button. Quickly assess how much time, energy, and money it will take to pursue a career before making a move. 

Key takeaways

  • Careers and jobs overlap. However, a career is about creating a long-term plan while a job is simply about making money.
  • You have the power to turn your day job into a career. Consider whether there are any training opportunities available to you.
  • Finding a career path can be tough. Use some of our tips to help you get started.

Looking to switch things up professionally? Check out our career changer guide.

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