What is the Difference Between a Career and a Job?

March 28, 2014 Spencer Thompson

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

That is the legendary question that so many of us (especially those of us in high school and university) are asked constantly. From the time we were little, grandparents, parents, cousins and other adults have been asking us what we want to do when we grow up. What they don’t realize is that very often they are asking a 14 year old this question. Also, more often than not, deep down, those people asking the question have no clue what they want to do when they grow up. 

Why this pressure on kids from an early age? Why are we prepped from an early age to get good grades, participate in after-school activities, score well on the SAT (in the US) and get into a good college? Why is any other path deemed “weird?” Society as a whole sets a “normal” path for people to follow. 

The issue with that “normal” path is that it often leads to unhappiness. Many people go through the system, listening to advice from their elders, doing the same things as their friends, and eventually ending up with a job at a company. The result of that job is simply to provide an income. While we all need money to survive, we also must remember that question from early on in our lives, what do you want to be when you grow up? 

By always remembering this question, we can distinguish between what a career is and what a job is. 

A job is something in which you trade your time for money.

A career is something in which you trade your time for something you love to do. (the money comes with that)

Now, the ultimate achievement is if you can combine a career with that childhood dream. Doing something you love that you have always dreamed about doing is the best thing that can happen to you. There are also a plethora of careers relating to a specific industry. Here’s an example:

There are tons of people in Canada who dream of playing in the NHL one day, yet the reality is that almost all of them will end up not making it. However, there are thousands of jobs relating to hockey, whether it be business management in the NHL, coach of a local team, a radio sports commentator or an online blogging analyst. Even though the childhood dream is to play in the NHL, the career that is created relates directly to the original idea. 

Remember, when your work feels like fun rather than a boring old job, you are in the right career for you.

About the Author

Spencer Thompson

Spencer Thompson is the founder and ceo of Sokanu. His mission is to help every person on the planet understand what makes them tick. He has spoken at Microsoft, SAP, and TiE, and sits on the board of VEF Momentum and other education startups. He is deeply interested in neuroscience, economics, culture, and design.

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