20 Jul 2017 18:40 IST

Choosing between a job and a career

Professionals will do well to remember that their work lives are woven into their personal

As you prepare to knock on corporate doors for employment, there is anticipation, excitement and hope — and, of course, with ample apprehension!

~ What if I do not get selected?

~ What if I do not get paid well?

~ What happens if the work I do does not match my capabilities or aspirations?

~ What if the organisation I work for does not match my values?

Let us pause here and take a hard look at the four questions. Applicants more worried about the first two are looking for a job. Candidates concerned about the last two are, in all probabilities, looking for a career.

Outcome differences

While seeking first employment, it is logical to look for a good organisation, a good position and the best salary. It is, after all, the first step in a long corporate journey and we still have to discover our professional identity.

With time, however, realisation seeps in. Pay and position alone do not seem to complete the ‘happiness at work’ picture. There are other missing pieces that need to be filled. It is at this point that the journey from a job to a career begins.

The question thus arises — how is a job different from a career? The answer lies in the outcomes.

What we do for the short term and get paid for, is a job. What helps us add value and satisfaction to both our personal and professional life over a longer period is most certainly a career.

Choose a career

So, why does choosing a career trump over finding a job? The first reason is that while milestones can be short term, our professional lives needs to have a long-term vision. As we reach different stages, we may tweak our milestones, but a career will certainly give purpose to our vision.

Next is the importance of growth. Existing in the short term, a job provides little or low growth prospects for the long haul ahead. A career, on the other hand, looks at the professional span and provides the roadmap, the learning and the agility to handle the dynamics and velocity of professional growth.

Setting financial goals is important — money and compensation are factors to seriously consider. Yet, a job tends to obsess on the money aspect, at the expense of the more important, experience. In the process, it tends to desensitise us as professionals to the merits of work ethic, teamwork and a culture of belonging. The satisfaction of stretching above and beyond to achieve becomes rare.

Most importantly, a job becomes a grind as against a journey that must co-exist with a professional’s personal life. When we spend more time looking for a job than progressing up the professional ladder, satisfaction is bound to take a back seat.

Telescoping on a career

The objective of choosing a career is to choose a journey that gives fulfilment on reaching a destination, and make us excitedly anticipate the next lap of the journey.

The first step to achieving this goal lies in making a candid self-evaluation of our talents, skills and interests. Some questions we could ask are:

~ What do I do best now? What responsibility will really use the strengths I have?

~ What is the learning I want to gather to reach the next milestone? Will I have fair options to move upward or laterally on reaching this destination?

~ What type of work do I see giving me satisfaction at this stage in my professional journey?

The fact is, we will change jobs a few times in the course of our careers. Taking a milestone approach can be fulfilling. We need to look at jobs that provide both acceleration and the learning needed for the climb.

To gather the learning, it is important to give ourselves the time to understand the organisation we are working for. This provides impetus for career growth.

It also gives the organisation time to understand an individual’s capabilities and competency levels and provide the right growth and development platforms. The traditional advice against frequent job hops is founded on good merit and reason.

Once this clarity is reached, the right steps will follow. The vision will focus on being in an environment that aligns with our core and intrinsic traits, and in working with people who can mentor for learning and growth. Decisions will veer towards apt opportunities for success and towards making important contributions.

Sustained job satisfaction

Studies on employee engagement consistently show that job satisfaction is a scarce element in our work life. Beyond being a finding or statistic, this fact hides a disturbing truth — that lack of job fulfilment can emotionally tire and hurt professionals.

Job satisfaction requires professionals to identify happiness in the day-to-day moments as well as in the goals we hope to achieve in the short, medium and long terms.

Research has shown that people feel energised when they find the same happiness in the journey that they find in actually accomplishing the goal. That is why choosing a career becomes so important — it is more than just finding a job. In doing so, work becomes intrinsically gratifying. New beginnings, newer learning and exciting possibilities continuously unfold for sustained engagement.

Professionals will do well to remember that their work lives are inextricably woven into who they are as individuals. The choice lies between what they want to be and what they want to do.

For people who choose the first, the coin flips heads up on careers.