These two terms are often used interchangeably and seen as sort of synonyms. But if you’re careful with your words, you’ll soon realize they have totally different meanings. Let’s review the Oxford definitions of the 2 words:
Job: A paid position of regular employment.
Career: An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress
Let’s take an example of my friend Andy who is changing jobs. He’s a software engineer with Yahoo and soon he’ll be taking up a new position at Intel. I use the word ‘job’ here as he is changing his employer but not his field of expertise. He will still be working as a software engineer. On the other hand, my colleague Mini has decided to change careers. She used to work with me as a Marketing Manager and now she’s planning to take up an MA and become a teacher. That’s a totally different occupation – a different career choice!
A job is a regular activity through which an individual earns money. It is a short term commitment. Whereas a career is a long term commitment in which one pursues a lifelong ambition. Education or special training might not be required for a job but are absolutely paramount for a career.
A career is a series of connected employment opportunities which build a ladder to more lucrative employment opportunities. Someone looking for a job would just be looking for a good paycheck but someone who’s looking to build a career would have specific goals in mind to fulfill a list of skills they wish to acquire. A career would give you the opportunity to meet with people who you would like to add to your network for business opportunities.
Jobs provide stability, something to fall back on. Careers may involve more risk and also more frequent change. Most people tend to be less emotionally invested in their jobs as all they want to do is stay out of trouble from the boss and bring home the bacon. In careers, the goal is not just to get the task done but to learn the best possible way to be efficient and gain experiences and build connections that would help you advance.
Many people identify themselves with their careers. They like saying “I am marketing professional” or “I am a baker” but you’ll find most job-oriented people saying “I work at XYZ” There’s a sense of belongingness that comes with a career that cannot be compared to that of a job.
The bottom line is to know going in whether your current employment opportunity is a job or a career opportunity. Ask yourself whether you’re in it for the paycheck or if you hope to have a business just like this someday. And there’s nothing wrong with doing it for the money. In this case do not get too involved. Invest your emotional and mental energy in other things that matter to you, like your family or your book club. If you’re hoping to build a career, put your all into it and turn up the passion.