What Is a Career?

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Establishing a career can bring consistent increases in pay, provide valuable experiences for growth and a feeling of fulfillment and success. Individuals often use their interests as guiding beacons to follow their career paths and develop long-term goals. Discover what a career is and why it’s important, explore the differences between a career and a job and learn how to turn a job into a rewarding career.

What is a career?

A career is an occupation that you take on for the majority of your working life that has opportunities for progression. It often involves multiple jobs or roles as long as they’re within the same field or career cluster. Following a string of progression within the same field is referred to as a career path, including necessary education, training and experience. Moving forward within the same field of roles generally leads to higher pay as well.

Example of a career path

The following example outlines the average progression of a career path:

Jose found a job prepping food at a restaurant. Due to his excellent performance, management promoted him to line cook. Within this position, Jose found a real passion for cooking, encouraging him to enroll in culinary school. Upon graduation, Jose secured a position at a high-end restaurant as a sous chef. With the help of his combined education and experience, he quickly assumed the position of head chef, taking on several kitchen management responsibilities.

Why is a career important?

A career gives you the tools and experience you need to progress. Staying within the same field allows you to network with individuals who share your same interests. Once on a steady career path, you should also experience consistent salary growth along with personal achievements. You can take your education, experience, salary expectations and achievements wherever you go and find value in them when seeking new positions.

Careers can also add meaning and purpose to life. While a job might simply be defined a series of daily tasks, a career can be defined as a series of jobs doing something you enjoy for the long-term. As you move higher in a career, you can anticipate earning more money and retirement options to allow for future goals.

What is the difference between a job and a career?

When you have a career, you are focusing your education and experience within the same field or career path. The experience you earn in each position builds, creating higher professional value and earning you better jobs. When you don’t have a career, you might often take jobs in unrelated areas. You might earn good experience, but it usually doesn’t carry over or help you with the next position. You also rarely advance in pay or responsibilities from role-to-role.

A job is often something you do for a paycheck while a career sets goals for the long-term. Those within a career path consider what they do now and how it helps them achieve their goals. However, personal attitude makes a significant impact in both scenarios. If you do well in your job and strive for greatness, you may find interesting opportunities within the same area. Alternatively, if you dislike your career, it feels more like a job you’re doing for a paycheck.

How to turn a job into a career

Here are some steps you can follow to turn a job into a career: 

1. First, research your available options based on your skills and interests

If you’re unsure what you might enjoy, research openings in your local area. An in-depth search may reveal something unique that grabs your interest. Take a moment to assess your own skills and interests as well. Find out if any of those skills and interests relate to a particular job. For example, if you’re an outgoing person who enjoys talking with people, a customer service role might be a good fit.

2. Second, apply to a job that interests you

After researching current openings and assessing your skills, the next step is to apply. This earns you valuable interview experience you’ll need for later positions. Once you obtain the job, you have the opportunity to learn, grow and develop your interests.

3. Third, focus on the positive aspects of the job

If you found a general interest in a certain role, focus on the positive aspects of the position. For example, if you’re working as an associate at a garden center because you enjoy taking care of flowers, consider that a positive aspect of the role. You’re around flowers all day and you’re getting paid to do something you love. Even if there are somewhat negative aspects of the job, you can still enjoy working in a garden environment.

4. Fourth, be mindful while you work

Be sure to complete your assigned tasks thoroughly. Arrive at work a few minutes early so that you can prepare yourself to get started on the day’s objectives. Treat every customer with the utmost respect and give them a warm smile and memorable experience. Don’t let any of your mistakes weigh too heavily on you. Instead, remedy the issue efficiently and move forward with your next task.

5. Then, show interest in advancement

Do whatever it takes to show interest in advancement. Whenever there is talk of promotion or further responsibilities, be the first to take them on. Talk about your job with management and express your interests. Let them know you enjoy what you’re doing and want to progress further. Speaking with management and informing them of your goals and aspirations can only benefit you. When a higher position becomes available, management might look to you as one of their top candidates. 

6. Finally, consider any new opportunities that become available

When an opportunity for advancement appears, even if it’s not exactly what you had hoped for, take some time to consider it. As long as you’re progressing, earning higher paychecks and adding to your responsibilities within the same area, you’re creating a career for yourself. Your career path may not always include the roles you want, but if you deny a new position, you might be missing out on the next step to advance in your career.