The Differences Between Career vs Job

On the surface, a job and a career look like the same thing. You engage in each of them to get money and a series of jobs can lead into a career. But when we delve deeper, differences start to emerge. Career vs job, which path are you on?

One of the biggest differentiators between the two is that a job tends to be a short term engagement, while a career is for a number of years. Someone might speak of a career in journalism spanning 20 years. Another might have had a job as a photographer for a newspaper for a year before they moved on to something totally different.

Think of a job as a short road trip while a career is a long, planned journey with stops and transport to pick you up from those stops and take you to the next one.


Both job and career involve work and work should be rewarded. When it comes to a career, money isn’t the only reward, sometimes it is not even the most important reward. You can find someone engaging in work that is unpaid simply because it is the right move for their career. At times, this work might be done late into the night or on the weekends after doing their ‘real job’.

With a job, the reward is to get paid.

Another reward which marks a difference between career vs job is fulfilment. People find fulfilment and a sense of purpose in the work that they do in a career. This feeling that they are doing what they are meant to do or are contributing to the world in a meaningful way might outrank the pleasure of a monetary reward.

Reaction to mistakes

Mistakes are part of life and they will show up in our work as well. One of the differences between career vs job is the reaction to mistakes. When a mistake occurs in a job, the response might be to just quit and try something else. In a career, mistakes are viewed as speed bumps. They might slow you down but you will be able to pick up and start again.

Mistakes are also treated as learning opportunities, making the person better. As Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basket ballers said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

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The mistake might be so big that it necessitates a termination from work. Not even this is enough to deter someone on a set career path. They will start over and continue on the path.


A career involves having collated knowledge and experience in a specific area. Jobs don’t have to be related. For instance, today, one can work today as a restaurant manager and be a back-up singer the next day and then move on to being a substitute teacher.

A career might look like this; from waiter, bar tender, restaurant manager, hotel assistant manager to hotel manager.


To embark on a career one needs to steep themselves in as much information as possible about their field. A career often requires mastering an area. This is why in the middle of their careers, some people return to school to learn more before continuing with work.

However education doesn’t need to be formal or at a university for it to contribute to a career. It can mean trainings and workshops and given number of hours of practice.

This rigour doesn’t ordinarily apply to a job. Because there is no continuity required, one just needs to learn what they need for that particular job, before moving on to another job altogether.

The experiences in a career build towards something; that could be increased responsibility or increased pay. A career has a specific direction while a job might seem more haphazard. If you are seeking to build a career vs. a job, here is what you can do.

The Differences Between Career vs Job

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Tips to help you transition from a job into a career

Map out your desired path

Some people benefit from writing down what steps or jobs they need to take to get to their desired career. This document serves as a reminder for why you are making the work choices you are making.

Think long term

To turn your job into a career, take the long view. The choice to take a job isn’t just about the immediate reward, it is about where you hope to be in the future. In this way, your series of jobs turn into stepping stones. This will guide the decisions you make, such as turning down a higher paying job for one that pays less but leads you to the next step on your career path.

Keep learning

To build a successful career, you must keep learning and updating the skills you have in your field of choice. Because you know where you are going, you will know what trainings, classes, certifications or experiences you will need to get you there.

Get a mentor

People have a wealth of real world experience that you might not get from even reading a thousand books. If possible seek out a mentor, someone who is in a similar position to where you want to be. Having climbed that ladder, they will be able to encourage you and guide you out of any challenges you might find yourself facing.

Be open to internships

Switching from a job to a career might require that you do something different from your current job. This might mean taking up internships to get you started off. These opportunities, even though unpaid for, might lead you on the next step in your career.

In Summary

To build a career, one needs to invest time. If one isn’t seeking a long term investment then a job is the right choice However, with careful consideration, a series of jobs can lead to a fulfilling career.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.