Career vs. Job – Does It Matter?

If you’re in your 30s or 40s, your parents’ expectations of your adulthood may have resembled this: Graduate from a four-year college with a job offer and work toward a gold watch after 25 years of service. But then reality set in: The economy bottomed out, people were laid off in droves, and college graduates found themselves in limbo.

Many of us grew up with the notion that if we earned a diploma, we’d be guaranteed a career in the field in which we studied. But with the United States’ unemployment rate at 10.2 percent, people these days are looking outside their career paths for jobs – something that is not their No. 1 choice but at least might pay the bills. But is it possible to be satisfied that way?

A lot of the members of Generation X and Y have been programmed to have a sense of entitlement – if we work hard enough, we’ll achieve our career goals. But the recession has been quite a blow, and many of us have been forced to learn to expand our job search. How many former colleagues do you know who are now working in grocery stores? As administrative assistants? At temp jobs? Is it such a bad thing to accept a job instead of a career? Can you afford to wait around for a satisfying career opportunity, or is it time to branch out and take on a job?

Matt Cheuvront on the Brazen Careerist declares that loving your job is overrated – love is a word that shouldn’t even be used for work.

Attitude is an extremely powerful thing – some would say it’s everything. If you keep telling yourself that you’re stuck in a rut with no way out, you’ll ultimately always hold yourself back. But if your attitude is that you aren’t putting anything off – that you’re working your way toward achieving your goals and dreams, then you WILL get there.

I’ve come to believe that theory, too. The present is not the be-all, end-all of your career. Also, as long as you find fulfillment in other places – yourself, your family, your friends, your hobbies – then you don’t need to place as much emphasis on your career.

When I’ve gone through a spurt of unemployment, I’ve always marveled at the beaming attitude of the clerks at Trader Joe’s – the people who get to wear Hawaiian shirts and interact with people all day. Hmmm … maybe it’s me who chose the wrong career path! Just maybe there’s something to be said for taking on a job for a while rather than a career – especially one that offers a discount on groceries.

  • Chris

    This is the dilemma that plagues me every waking moment of every unemployed day of my life. As a 40-year old person who has already accomplished “what I want to be when I grow up” quite successfully, in a field where my personal and professional life was essentially defined by my job (in the end, that was by choice – I loved my job!), I find myself wondering if/how/when I will manage fighting for a Hawaiian shirt at my local TJ’s. Thanks for this thoughtful post on a topic affecting so many in the creative fields right now!

  • http://www.eireads.com John

    As you say, finding fullfilment seems to be the most important thing, and then the dicotomy of career and job comes after. I wouldn’t worry too much about such contradiction but about making the most out of things somehow.

  • Heather

    get a job while going to college…this job is not going to be the one you have the rest of your life…college is a good n wise decision…starting your career is what matters..jobs are short term, and your only doing it to get a paycheck..a career is long term forever and it is very much just more than a paycheck…i encourage everybody to go to college and find what they are good at or love to do.