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Are you looking for a job or a career?

This is not some glib throw away line.  It is the question of a lifetime.  Are you looking for a career or will you be satisfied, will you settle for a job?

From my perch, a career is about achieving a professional career goal —  for example careervjobshutterstock_166195616running a  Fortune 100 company or being a member of the C-suite.   It is about climbing the career ladder and, in the end, being handsomely rewarded for doing a job you have always wanted.   On the job side, you secure employment doing something you enjoy that can be financially rewarding, but at the end of the day it is the means to an end — it is all about paying the rent, supporting the family  and socking some away for retirement.  Or maybe even buying that boat you have always wanted or purchasing the weekend cabin in the woods.  If the job goes away, fine, get another one, hopefully without moving.

There are certainly those who will argue that you can have a career stringing together a series of jobs.  I agree.  But if you are a married executive who is a rising star in a multi-national corporation and whose spouse’s job is geographically specific and is quite happy and  who does not want a move — well, before you know it you are back to the job or career question.

It is amazing how many couples never deal with this question before they marry.   Balancing professional goals is not a serious radar issue.  Then the career trajectory of one half of the relationship begins to take off.  Their work is valued, they are promoted and then one day the dreaded meeting happens:   they are told the corporation wants  to promote them.  The promotion, with a big new shiny title and huge pay increase with a great benefits package and stock, will require a relocation.   The other half of the relationship does not want to move and leave a great job behind, doing work they do exceptionally well.  It is work that is not transferable. 

So that tough career management question comes into play:  will you be satisfied with a job or do you want a career?

People starting their careers, or professionals who are starting over in a relationship, should take the time to have this important conversation.  If you don’t there may some uncomfortable or disappointing consequences down the road.

Yes, you can have a so-called career with a series of jobs that pay the bills and provides for retirement but if, deep down, you aspire to achieve a lofty goal in corporate life then several relocations will probably be part of the formula. 

Dreams are important. For both people.  Talk this out before the big meeting occurs.

Art:  Shutterstock