Career vs. Job

I’ve been alone with my family for the entire weekend. No friends around, no one to talk to on a peer-to-peer level to get advice from…it’s thrown lots of stuff into my head and now I feel like I’m going to explode if I can’t get some of it out. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read my latest entry. As stupid as it sounds, sometimes I wish I had the Pensieve thing from Harry Potter so I could filter them one by one and go through and deal with them as I can.

Anyway. After a very disconcerting weekend of chatting via gchat with PJ….with whom I don’t know if he sees a future (which is a story for another entry)…he kept saying “Find a job you want, and can make into a career.” And honestly I don’t really know the difference between a “career” and a “job.” says:



  1. an occupation or profession, esp. one requiring special training, followed as one’s lifework: He sought a career as alawyer.
  2.  a person’s progress or general course of action through life orthrough a phase of life, as in some profession or undertaking:His career as a soldier ended with the armistice.
  3.  success in a profession, occupation, etc.
  1. having or following a career; professional: a career diplomat.


—Synonyms: vocation, calling, work, lifework, livelihood. 



  1. a piece of work, esp. a specific task done as part of theroutine of one’s occupation or for an agreed price: She gavehim the job of mowing the lawn.
  2.  a post of employment; full-time or part-time position: She was seeking a job as an editor.
  3.  anything a person is expected or obliged to do; duty; responsibility: It is your job to be on time.
  4. an affair, matter, occurrence, or state of affairs: to make the best of a bad job.
  5. the material, project, assignment, etc., being worked upon: The housing project was a long and costly job.
  6. the process or requirements, details, etc., of working: It was a tedious job.
  7. the execution or performance of a task: She did a good job.

And furthermore. I know the general gist of it. A career is something you can enjoy and also make a living off of. And a job is….what? Isn’t a job the same thing? What about “Career Waitresses?” Isn’t that just a length of time thing? What if you are at a job for 10 years…does that make it a career? When is that switchover? And furthermore, if a job is only something you do temporarily, couldn’t you make job-hopping into a career?

Martin Luther King Jr. said: “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. But be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

When I read this speech in…maybe 6th grade, I took it to heart. I tried to be the best student, the best friend, the best daughter and sister…everything I could be. Because if you have pride in yourself, and in your work, and in your person, then it wouldn’t matter if you were a garbage man or a king. As long as you are always doing your best, no one can look down on you.

The other half of it is that I have never been someone to let an occupation define who I am, or validate my skills and who I am. An occupation is simply that: something to occupy my time and earn income, so that I can do the things I really want to do, like race, and golf, and snowboard. So where PJ said that being a secretary made me look like I was lazy, and didn’t apply myself, I don’t see it that way. I saw it as a boring, easy, but pleasant and well paying job with good people and a good company culture. And if you’re going to be a secretary, you might as well be good at your job, and be proud of the work you do. Which, I am.

The rest of this comes with a dilemma: I don’t know what I want to do, or what I like, or what will make me happy. I think I would like to be a math teacher, or would like to be an engineer. But it will take at least 2 or 3 years to receive the required credentials for that, and who knows if I’ll even like it. And then what, I’m without a career again, or in a job I hate?

Like I said. I’m lost and alone. 



  1. First of all, I have my phone with me all the time, you can ALWAYS call me. What were you going to go back to school for? When you were looking at grad school?  I think you should be happy in your job and if you cant be happy, it’s not the job for you…therefore job and career are one in the same for me (career is just an extended version of a job)

  2. Here’s how I see the differences between a career and job:A career is a series of job that are related by some field or profession.  The things you learn and incorporate in each job help you become more of a “professional” in something and allow you build on that and make more money. A job is just what you stated… something to tie you over, make money but have little chance of moving up higher in pay/title. Your example of a “career waitress” is to me just a job… a waitress will RARELY make as much as a Professional Engineer (IE career job).  If they could, sign me up.  fuck my job as an engineer if being a waiter at a restaurant could net me as much in 10 years as my job as a technical engineer.  I”m hoping that by the time or before i’m 30 i’ll be making atleast 80k if not 6 figures.  If i could make that kind of money, i can sacrifice some (and by some i mean very little) personal day to day happiness in order to attain another level of happiness in financial security for my family.  I think you should do what you want though J.  If you do end up going through getting your credentials as an engineer, even if you don’t like it, it’ll help you secure a better, more stable job, even if it’s not in the engineering field.

  3. ” if you have pride in yourself, and in your work, and in your person, then it wouldn’t matter if you were a garbage man or a king. As long as you are always doing your best, no one can look down on you.”—Very very sound logic.”who knows if I’ll even like it. And then what, I’m without a career again, or in a job I hate?” — Ugh. I’ll admit I skimmed the definitions, but from memory, a job fills the space of what you were describing when you mentioned something that would (for however long) occupy your time, but that a career falls under something that not only pays, but also provides one the chance to do something they love (or at least moderately enjoy) doing. “I don’t know what I want to do, or what I like, or what will make me happy” –…if at all possible, take a small bit of time and see if you can’t nail down what it is you do (or would like to) enjoy doing, and would want to pursue.”Like I said. I’m lost and alone. ” – Lost you may be, but this PJ (…that reads really badly, and I hope it doesn’t come off wrong… i mean to reference him, but not negatively. . . T_T;) sounds like someone that’s important. Hopefully the feeling of being ‘alone’ passes soon, and you find a way to end the ‘lost.’Maybe this comment was good.. hopefully not too lengthy!

  4. at this point, we can’t dilly around, searching for that elusive “career”.  for me, I’d define a career at the end of one’s working lifetime, not at the beginning.  most of us don’t have the luxury of trying out everything before deciding on one thing, so we just do what gets the bills paid while working our way through (hopefully) better and better jobs.  for me, I’m just doing what I need to so I can move forward, otherwise I’ll just be stuck spinning my wheels and not really getting anywhere.  I’d love to start something different, but I’m not keen on starting from square one, so I’ll just keep plugging away until one day I can look back and call it a career, whether I liked it or not.  if I like it, good, if not, it’s no big deal because I don’t derive all of my life’s enjoyment from work anyway.

  5. To me a job is something tangible… something temporary and right now. A career is the field that I ultimately want to work in, where my passion lies. I won’t tell you that I’m sorry or ask how you are. I know that unemployment sucks, and I know how hard you worked to find this job. You will find another. I don’t say that to be falsely encouraging. I say it because you’re smart and driven and because I believe that it will work itself out. Maybe in the next few days you can make solidify contact with the people who are staying so that you know you’ll receive a good reference. Maybe one of them will even know of an opening in another company.Keep your chin up, girlfriend!

  6. If you want to be best at something, u first have to like it. I think the luckiest people are those who do what they love, and just happen to earn money from it. 

  7. @youngsm – Unni, you bought me a GRE prep book! 🙂 I took the GRE last Halloween, did abysmally, and have switched my thinking from MS in Econ to MS in Math. I’d have to take it again, apply now, and then go in the fall of next year. I dunno what I want to do though, so we will see. @LiQuIdCrAzN – Tuna tuna , you are the best. I know career waitresses and career engineers are different on terms of respect, pay scale, probably education….but it’s really hard if you love to wait tables. I think that’s where I’m getting stuck…I know I’ll like whatever I do, but perhaps I won’t find something I love. @theacematt2 – Thanks for reading and commenting…it wasn’t too long at all! I don’t mind doing lots of different things though, so it’s hard for me to nail down what I think I’d derive the most enjoyment from, long term.@whotakethmycoke – I think you and I are on the same wavelength with this one…but I didn’t realize it till I read your comment….I think you’re right, your job turns into a career after a while. And I totally don’t derive my self worth or life’s enjoyment from it anyway. @MakinzyKrysteen – Thank you 🙂 I am not really sure where my passions lie at the moment, but I’m hoping I get some sort of direction, or push in a general direction, sometime soon.@jai_ko – I think being the best at something kind of happens just due to my competitive nature anyway. Even if I’m not in love with it. I think you’re right too, the luckiest people in the world love what they do.

  8. I wish I had his Firebolt haha :).For me, a career is comprised of a job or several jobs. For example, I want to have a career in education. Right now, my very first job is being a guidance counselor for a federal program for high school students. Its not where I want to end up–I eventually want to teach at a university, be a professor–but this is great starting out experience. Maybe a career in education will consists of stints as being a counselor, then high school teacher, then a university professor and maybe, who knows, going into education administration as a principal or something. I guess what I’m trying to say is that different (but related) jobs are the subset of a career. You can definitely have different paths in a career. I still want to be involved in education. I have a history degree and a certificate to teach English as a second language, but my work with students as a counselor has made me reconsider what I really want. I’m not so sure now if I actually want to be a teacher but maybe work on shaping educational policy, or research, or work on a more one on one level with students like being a counselor. I thought I wanted to be in front teaching, but as I move along, I find out I like being behind the scenes more. I like working with students on an intimate level, one on one. Even within my “history” career, instead of ending up as a professor, I kind of want to go into curating now. Granted, it will require more schooling (museum studies) but you know, if you’re sticking with your career or job just because you’ve come this far and are afraid to go back, but you are not truly happy with it, then its not really worth it to continue on the same path. For example, my friend from Cal was on his way to getting his engineering degree but he was so unhappy with it that he stopped and went into education instead. I’m sure it was difficult for him to make that decision (self and parental pressure to succeed), but he did it and now he is happy. MLK Jr. not only spoke about trying your best at your job, but being passionate about it. If we have passion in what we do, then we will be happy with what we do. But if we don’t find passion or meaning in our job or career, then we won’t be happy. And if we’re unhappy, we show up everyday miserable and not try hard enough to do well…I hope you find something you truly love and go for it. Even if its scary at first. :)Great MLK quote, btw. I love it!

  9. PS. I feel lost and alone too…but it helps to think of the overall picture rather than just what’s in front of us now. There’s meaning to this madness, and we will figure it out eventually :).

  10. i’ve always felt a career was something more than a job – something you put your heart into not because of money or a living but because it was your calling or a long term position. a job is just something you get done for money or some kind of short term incentive. 

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