Do You Want A Job or a Career?

I was recently giving a career pep talk to my colleagues when one ambitious fellow pulled me aside to ask for the difference between a job and a career. In my usual sarcastic way (I swear, I’m gonna get beaten up one of these days), I wanted to remind him that Google isn’t connected to PHCN (if you ain’t a Nigerian, that’s probably lost on you).

But then I thought deeply about it and found that I didn’t have a ready answer. So that evening, while nursing a tumbler of Vedka, ice and Coke, I sat to dimension it from my own perspective.

The internet is chuck full of different meanings but since jobs and especially careers are deeply personal things, maybe it would be better to look at it from that intimate angle. My definitions are definitely mine and I ain’t making any attempt to be politically correct.

A job is something you do to stay alive while a career is something you stay alive to do.
I’m already having a headache digesting that.

The Job
A job is what you do to earn money for its own sake. You don’t, necessarily, have to like it or even want to stay longer than required. As far as you are concerned, a job puts bread on the table and shirt on your back. You may or may not like your boss. You could even be like some people I know, when bored, you fantasize about beating your supervisor up. Trust me, while it’s a bad thought, it can be satisfying.

You get into a job out of necessity unless you are greedy lass where the perks and the money is what drives you. Jobs can be stressful as you do it for survival; you practically have to drag yourself out of bed each morning just to be there.
If you find someone who is cranky, hardly smiling, drives like a maniac and it’s evening – he’s coming back from a job.

Most jobs are dead-end; but if, and I mean a big if, you can find a light at the end of that job’s tunnel and which isn’t a train, it could become a career.

A Career
If you’ve dated a very cute girl before, you would understand what a career is. You just want to do it. It may or may not pay as much but it makes you satisfied and happy. It’s usually a lifelong obsession.

You make a lot of stupid and irrational decisions about a career – get certifications or additional degrees with the hope that it gets better. You spend long hours toiling away and most often than not a career turns into something successful because when you put in that much passion and energy, you are almost guaranteed to succeed. I know people who have taken pay cuts to drive a career. Careerists and entrepreneurs are cousins – they devote their lives, savings, relationships and everything to something they truly believe in.

How did I find myself in a job?
It’s never a fair world and the fight between job and career isn’t fair either. We all usually start with a job.

You get out of school with a good degree, exaggerated view of yourself and a taller-than-life rosy picture of a career in investment banking or petroleum. In this pictured life, you have a Ferrari at 27 and a private island by 35.

The first thing life does to you is make sure you comb the whole streets of Lagos until you are better than the latest version of Google Maps and can do better traffic update than Tsaboin Traffic talk. A thousand iterations of your résumé (CV) later you land your first job, usually a lowly contact center agent at a telco.
That’s a job.

I know a lot of people who marry people they don’t like but because of the goodness of their hearts, end up loving them. It happens with a job too.
You could start with a job but you make something good out of it. You become good at it and as you progress, people realize you are an expert and treat you as one.
A career is born.

What to do in a job/Upgrading to a career
Having a job isn’t bad. I mean, what’s the alternative? Even pimping is a job; it’s also a career for some… but that’s by the way.
Instead of fretting about how dreadful your job is, you could do the following to move from being in a job to having a satisfying career:

  • Be grateful for that job. No matter how terrible you think a job is, as long as it puts money on the table, it’s something to be happy about. Remember, it could be worse if you find your backside on the curb without any means of livelihood. While being grateful though, remember what it is, it’s just a job, don’t sell your soul, whatever it’s worth, for it.
  • Go for a very long walk to meditate and ask yourself what you want to do with your life. Don’t do less than 5 kilometers. It’s so simple to know what your career should be – if a genie assured you of success in whatever you do, what would you rather do?
  • Be reasonable in your expectations before your wife kicks you out of the house. Or how do you think she will react if you suddenly came up with the idea of a career in medicine when you lately spent N1M doing your 40th birthday?
  • If you think you can get joy out of your current job, then ask what you need to turn it into a career. You could have anchor role models and find out what they did to get to where they are or what set them apart in their fields.
  • Once you’ve decided on that career then act! Nothing kills a career faster than procrastination. The best time to start a good career was yesterday but the next best time is right now. Do you need some certifications to be able to practice? Go for it now. How much do you know about these career field? Read like a mad man! Does anyone know you and your capabilities? Go to industry events, network, play, mingle!
  • The journey to a career nirvana is narrow and full of blistering thorns but you can’t pull back. Long after the enthusiasm of being a CFA has died, you must have enough resolve in your reservoir to pull you to the next level.
  • A career is like a mahogany tree, it takes years and lorry loads of attention, affection and money for it to grow and blossom into something beautiful. Don’t play with fire while at it.
  • A career is a demanding mistress, it will take all of you. It can also be a bitch, it doesn’t care how much effort you have put in previously, if you don’t keep at it, you could lose it on a whim.

A Nice Job vs. Career, who wins?
I have discussed the easy part, here’s something to drive you crazy: You are sometimes unfortunate to be faced with a superbly paying job and just a career, which would you choose?

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