American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Associates Insights - 225Do You Have a Job or a Career?

by Steve Ritch

"I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life'."

—Maya Angelou

Everyone has to make a living (or live off of the income from their investments) and pay for the necessities of life. However, the passion we have about what we do may be just as important as the work that we do. For some people, their work is merely the means to getting a paycheck; for others the vocation they have chosen is what defines part of their psychological make-up. What determines how we feel about what we have chosen to do to earn a living? What is the difference between a job and a career?

Most people have probably had a job at one point in life. Jobs help us keep food on the table and the lights turned on. However, jobs are usually a means to an end and not the ultimate destination chosen in a successful occupation. For example, most people do not envision a life-long dream of making the fries at a fast food joint, but many of us have worked at a local restaurant while attending college or while waiting for our big break into our fabulous movie career. (I am ready, Hollywood!)

But what does having a career as opposed to just a job look like? What are the characteristics of someone who has a career? Everybody probably has a mental image of what a career person looks like. They may have special equipment (such as an otoscope or stethoscope), or they may wear a suit or lab coat, or they may just have a demeanor that reflects how much they are invested in the job that they are performing.

For some people, their career is part of their life's mission. The passion that they feel for the work that they do inspires them to be the best at their vocation. They want to join a professional association to further the research, educational, and governmental goals of their profession. They want to partake in professional development opportunities specific to their trade. They want to write articles, attend pertinent conferences and meetings, read professional journals that pertain to their field, and form a community with their colleagues. They are individuals who have achieved the educational and regulatory requirements to practice their vocation, but they are also striving to stay informed and stay connected to the latest developments in their profession. These individuals know the difference between a job and a career.

Jobs come and go and are often impacted by the current economic climate of a given area. Jobs may or may not be short term. Careers, on the other hand, are meant to be a long-term investment in a calling, belief, or personal value. So, I ask again, "Do you have a job or do you have a career?"

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