Know the difference between a career and a job

“How many of you have a career?”

It’s one of my favorite questions to ask a group of employees. A career is a job with time-based context, having both a sense of history and direction. Good careers have depth, meaning and purpose. There’s a compelling future built from growth and development. A successful career personifies not just the way you make your living, but also who you really are.

Know the difference career and job

I watched an HBO special once that featured comedian Chris Rock. “With a career,” he said, “there is never enough time. With a job, there is always too much time.” How true. And how unfortunate for those stuck in what they consider jobs.

Ho hum jobs and tasks usually make up the majority of the work an organization needs done. It’s not glamorous and doesn’t appear to have any obvious rewards for an employee aside from getting a paycheck. It may involve repetition, menial labor, and can even be dirty and grimy. I think it’s possible, however, to elevate almost any conversation about job to one focused on career.

Make sure the work you do somehow fits in context of a larger life plan. How do you make sure your career doesn’t dead end in a job? Here are a few actions you can take:

1) Do a happiness check. Are you happy? Growing? Becoming? Or are you just treading water as you focus on paying the rent? Is someone who works for you doing the same? If the answer is affirmative to either of the last two questions, it’s time to make a change. 

2) Get a career coach. If your organization doesn’t employ a career-focused counseling system, or if you can’t safely confide in your reporting manager, consider hiring an executive coach.

3) Begin with the end in mind. Force yourself to look in the mirror, think deeply and answer truthfully some fundamental destination questions, like: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

4) Find your special purpose. Search for work that is centered on the intersection between your unique talents and activities that inspire you. Marcus Buckingham’s StandOut assessment and the Gallup organization’s CliftonStrengths are two excellent tools that might help.

5) Strategize. If your current job is no longer contributing to the meaningful advancement of your career, construct a plan to get you moving again. Take half-steps, if necessary. If you’re currently an accountant for a manufacturing company and your dream is to be the PR Manager for a professional baseball team, consider moving to PR in your current company or taking a job in accounting for the ball club. After you’ve proven yourself, you can take step number two. 

6) Execute! Get to work and make it so. Remember that any job that fails to move you forward on your ultimate career path is just a form of procrastination. 

Gary Markle is speaker, consultant, author and CEO of Catalytic Coaching, Inc., and is an investor and business partner at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s partner for Top Workplaces.

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