20 Apr 2015 19:34 IST

Build a career, don't just be in a job

Think long-term, not just about instant gains

Everyone talks about a career. They are supposedly studying towards a career, want to build a career and so on. But, in reality, most people are actually working in a series of jobs, which is very different from a career. It is essential to understand the difference as it would significantly alter your perception and maybe even lead to a paradigm shift in your plans and efforts.

Here, I would like to quote from my book Out Of Syllabus, which deals extensively with the topic of career success.

Career, as defined by the Oxford dictionary in the noun form, is “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress”. Whereas, when used in a verb form. It means “move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way”. So, when career is used as a noun to describe anyone’s occupation, it is positive and relates to the person’s life and progress. However, the same word when used as a verb denotes lack of control and therefore chaos.

Jobs are short-term and an alternative term to the verb form of the word career. Jobs may not may not fulfill one’s aspirations and in many cases not help in any progress at all. At best jobs help a person to earn some money.

The question that you should answer in all honesty is whether earning money is really so difficult and whether you need to really spend so many years studying and preparing yourself to only do jobs. At the heart of the difference between a career and a job is the fact that the locus of control is very different between these two.

In case of a career the locus of control remains firmly with you. As you are doing what you wish and aspire for and more importantly what gives you happiness, the motivation to keep going always remains with you. Whereas in the case of a job orientation, one is largely forced to be motivated by external factors like the boss’s approval, promotions, pay hikes, friends and relatives opinions.

The fact of life is that it is not fair and the world does not owe you anything. If you think that the people around you are obliged to motivate you and guide you all the time, it is self deception of the highest order. Only you can motivate yourself to keep going and for that a long term career orientation is crucial as that is grounded in your happiness.

Nobel Laureate Albert Schweitzer said; “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.” A simple but profound statement. This is echoed in another saying which goes like this – “Do what you like and you will never have to work a single day of your life.”

This sums up the difference between a career and a job.

Having said that career is long term, the next doubt will be whether one should stick to the same path they chose when they are in the 20s. My input to this question is that nothing is static and unchangeable. The environment changes, we change, our expectations change. In this ever evolving scenario, your plan should also be flexible to adapt itself to these changes to be a lasting success. This is the most difficult part because we are very afraid to let go of something which seems to be successful. By the time it stops being effective and we realize that change is needed, it is usually late.

That is the core difference between a job and a career. In the case of a career you will be constantly evolving and growing, keeping in mind a long-term goal. But in the case of a job orientation, you will tend to be focused on the next job change and suddenly you realise that no one is ready to give you a new job because you don’t have anything significant to offer in return.

The choice is with you today and for every day of your life. Will you work towards building a career that gives you fulfillment and success or a series of jobs which may or may not work?

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