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What is the difference between a job and a career?

When I take on a new career management or transition client, one of the first questions I ask is whether they are looking for a job or a career. A surprising number of people equate the two, but actually there is a big difference.

A career is a long-term pursuit to achieve a professional goal. A young person fresh out of college wants to run a large corporation.  To achieve that goal, he or she will have to execute on a career strategy that will allow them to gain the necessary experience in operations, finance and marketing, for example. If their goal is to run a global enterprise, then one or two foreign assignments may be required. Every job they accept is measured against their ultimate objective – will this job take me a step closer to my career goal?  There are a limited number of these jobs.  Executives who achieve their objective are typically very focused and avoid career misadventures, a detour away from the goal. After family and faith, the career goal is typically the most important force in their lives.

There are those who are not motivated by the idea of a career.  They see a job as an important function to pay the bills, to live where they want to live, and to pursue their non-work passions like snow skiing or surfing.  

One goal is not superior to the other.  In life we need a healthy mix of both.  The important thing is to follow the path that will make you happy and understand the lifestyle,  relationship, financial and social implications of each.