Career vs. Job: What's the Difference?

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  • 0:05 Career
  • 1:17 Job
  • 2:32 Differences in Planning
  • 5:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Though people often use the terms 'career' and 'job' interchangeably, they aren't the same. In this lesson, we'll look at the difference between a career and a job, and how people should approach them differently.


Edgar is a senior in college, and he's anxious about what he will be doing next year. He knows that he won't have his dream job, which is to be press secretary for the White House, but he's hoping to have a job that's a starting point in that direction, like public relations assistant or something like that. Edgar is hoping to start his career, or occupation that lasts a long time, usually years or even decades.

Let's look at an example of a career. Let's say that Edgar gets the job as a public relations assistant. After a few years, he gets promoted to publicist. A few years after that, he's running his department as a public relations manager. Eventually, he's president of a publicity firm and then perhaps even press secretary for the White House.

All those things together make up Edgar's career. It will take him years to get where he wants to be, but each promotion and new position allows him to move closer to his dream job. And for many people, that's often what a career is about: moving forward towards a goal, which is often a dream job.


But what happens if Edgar doesn't get the public relations assistant position? What happens if he ends up doing temp work for a while or being a waiter, just to pay the bills? Are these positions part of his career?

Many people use the words 'career' and 'job' interchangeably, but they're a little different. As we've already seen, a career involves years and often several positions. On the other hand, a job is any employment that is paid. So Edgar's work as a waiter or a temp is a job but not part of his career.

A career is made up of a job or jobs, but that doesn't mean that every job is part of a person's career. And it doesn't mean that having a job that's not part of a career is any better or worse than having a career; they are just different.

Take Edgar's friend Gabby: she doesn't know what she wants her career to be yet! She's still playing around with some ideas, but in the meantime, she needs to make money. So she can take different jobs to help her pay the bills and also to help her explore different careers and industries. Who knows? She might find that a job becomes a career!

Differences in Planning

So Edgar has a dream job in mind, and he'd ideally like to start on his career by finding a job that will allow him to work towards that dream job. But Gabby is really just looking for a job to pay the bills, not a career.

How will Edgar and Gabby approach job planning and the job application process differently? There are several areas that are different for career seekers versus job applicants. They include:

1. Timing

Someone who is in a career is always keeping an ear out for new opportunities to grow, but someone who is looking for a job won't really look until they need a job, like when they are unemployed and have bills due. For example, let's say that Edgar gets the job as a public relations assistant. That's part of his career, and he's happy with the job.

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