When Does a Job Become a Career?

For those who are employed now, along with those who are searching for a job, employment at its basis represents a need. For many people that need is related to a source of income and for those who are unemployed it becomes a necessity that reduces the amount of perceived selectiveness when weighing possible options. In other words, the first job (or any job) that comes along may be accepted whether or not it is the best possible choice. If it wasn’t the best option, the process of searching for a better job begins or continues. That is often the reason why many of the resumes I’ve seen as a resume writer include a list of jobs that are short-term in nature.

This is also directly related to a trend I’ve observed, where many of my resume clients place more of an emphasis on the jobs they’ve held or are searching for now, rather than looking at development of an entire career. There seems to be an uncertainty about when a job becomes a career. I have coached my clients to develop a different viewpoint and look at jobs from the perspective of how those employment opportunities are contributing to a career plan. When someone is able to change how they view their career, along with the jobs they have held, they are able to transform their attitude and self-belief, becoming a much stronger job candidate regardless of the number of available opportunities.

What is a Job?

Because employment is related to a personal need first and foremost, it is easy to focus only on that job and the conditions experienced. A job may be something a person takes out of necessity and hopes will get better over time, which can result in feeling trapped if the conditions are intolerable or the work requires a skill level far below what has already been developed. As a career coach I’ve seen some people develop a sense of helpless and self-resignation when time in a job like that continues and it seems there is no way out of it. Some of my clients have worked in the same job for many years and their self-belief has become so limited that it is conveyed in the tone of their communication and their disposition.

What has to be done first is to change the perception that a current or previous job represents who that person is as a potential candidate. That is also related to the problem with chronologically written resumes, there is an emphasis placed on what the person is doing right now rather than take a long view of his or her career. Everyone is a summary of all of the jobs they’ve had, even if they have only had one long-term job. A job, or series of jobs, is all part of a bigger picture and that is a person’s career plan.

What is a Career?

A person has a career that they are developing with every position held and through those jobs they have acquired knowledge, skills, and abilities. This is why I take a different approach to resume writing and emphasize first the skills that a person has and is transferable to the next job they hope to acquire. It takes the emphasis off of the current job, which helps encourage recruiters and hiring managers to look closer at their resume. With a chronological resume, it requires someone to look at each job and try to ascertain or guess what skills a person has and in a competitive job market that type of extensive review may not be conducted. In order to change the format of a person’s resume I have to help them first see their jobs in relation to their overall career, career goals, and career plan.

A career is often related to and defined as an occupation, which a person can have one of during their lifetime, more than one of at a time, or change as their interests change. I have multiple occupations that include work as an educator, writer, resume writer, career coach, and the list continues. While I have had different job titles the work itself is all related to my occupations in some form. A career involves developing a long-term focus and viewing each job from a perspective of what has been learned and the skills that have been developed or acquired. Every job contributes to that career in some manner, even if the job offers nothing new or challenging and confirms that a person is ready to find new employment or a new occupation.

As an example, my career occupation has always involved teaching and leading others – regardless of a job title. I went from a corporate environment as a manager of training and development to an academic environment with responsibility for leading and developing faculty, along with teaching students instead of corporate employees. With every job held I have viewed it from a perspective of how it contributes to my career, whether or not each job was perfect, imperfect, beneficial, or short-term. This means that I do not have to ever dwell on a job that was unsatisfying as I am focused on the bigger picture and what I can do to continue to develop my career and occupation(s).

Larry

Larry has successfully completed fourteen years of college and has earned seven degrees. He teaches Special Education in Connecticut's largest inner-city high school. In addition, Larry is a Teacher Consultant for the University of Connecticut's Connecticut Writing Project.

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