What's the difference between a job and a career?

Ever wondered what the difference is between a job and a career? Today, we're diving deeper into how to find a career path that will help you thrive.

Written by

Sigrid Kenmuir

One of the main things we hear from students, both at the high school and college level, is, “I want to get a great job”. And while that seems to be a fine aspiration – a great one even – we would argue that you should pursue something bigger than that. You should aim to get yourself a great career.

So, what’s the difference between a job and a career?

I’m so glad you asked. Primarily, a job is something you do that earns you the money you need to live. A career is similar – it should still earn you money – but it should be something larger that you work towards, building skills, experience, and a network, to create a path that allows you to thrive.

This is a job

As an example, let’s take the field of accounting. An accounting job might be as a bookkeeper in a small accounting firm. The bookkeeper is paid to maintain the ledgers of a couple of small businesses and does that for 30 years before retiring. There’s nothing to be ashamed of there – it’s honest, hard work. And yet, it doesn’t take into account that most professionals in the workplace today will change careers several times during the course of their working life.

This is a career

In another scenario, we have a Chartered Accountant. They enter the workforce as an auditing clerk in a big accounting firm. After their training contract is over, they move into a role as a Tax Accountant at a national clothing retailer, where they are given a team of clerks to lead. After leading the team and making several impactful changes to the internal systems, they transfer to another company to the role of Financial Manager heading up the Finance Department. After a few years, they decide to leave their big corporate job to start their own company. 

Our Chartered Accountant has built the skills, experience, and network to choose their own path. Having started out their career with a simple finance degree, by the time they retire, they have worked in several roles, in a couple of different businesses, even switching between industries. They have built a body of work that is bigger than simply showing up each day and getting paid – it is something that has allowed them to explore many aspects of their skills and choose the ones they wanted to concentrate on.

How do you find the career that will light you up?

It’s a complicated question, with a relatively simple answer. Each one of us is so unique, with different strengths, passions, and innate skills. How is each one of us meant to find the specific career that will give us lasting fulfilment? The simple answer is to explore. Explore career paths early and often, wandering down paths that seem interesting, and dipping your toes into anything that holds your attention.

So many high school students are bracketed into streams early on in their high school journey and think that their lives will be sewn up from there. We would argue that it is most important for those students to explore careers outside of their stream in order to make sure that they are where they are meant to be. 

Focus on acquiring skills & experiences

What you should be looking for are the skills and experiences that will guide you towards the career you’ll thrive in while also being widely applicable to a variety of jobs and careers. There are quite a few skills you can learn in high school that will be useful no matter what you study and which career you end up in. Skills like communication, leadership, and empathy are some soft skills you’ll use in every career. Data analysis, problem-solving, and even marketing can be extremely useful across industries.

How do you get experience in high school?

It’s one of the most circular problems: so many entry-level jobs – even service-level, such as waitstaff – require applicants to have experience to get experience. One way to get that initial experience is through programmes like iX LaunchPad. Each course combines practical skills training in future-focused careers with a real-world micro-internship project. This allows you to learn some useful tips and tricks, gain insight into a career, and get some hands-on experience working on a real business problem. All you have to do is leverage that experience in your university application.
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