As kids we jump puddles. As adults we jump… jobs?
Maybe you’ve seen statistics floating around about the average number of career changes people make. Time and again, the magic number works out to be seven. Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? And while some argue a) where this number came from and b) whether there is credence to the claim, I think it’s time we dug a little deeper…
I’m glad my friend Tamara suggested this topic, as it got me thinking: at what point does a “job” become a “career”? Are we really changing careers or are we simply jumping jobs?
Many of us sink into tens of thousands of dollars of student debt to emerge a specialist in our chosen field – psychology, graphic design, environmental science, and so on. Do we sit through mind-numbing lectures and caffeinate our way through all-nighters for a job… or for a career?
And so I turned to the all-seeing, all-knowing Internet for answers.
Job versus Career
My first stop was Diffen, a website that rather audaciously claims you can “compare anything.” FYI: My search for “Cheese versus Light bulbs” turned up empty-handed, so if you’re looking for something to do this weekend…
Here’s how the Diffen webmasters explain the difference between a job and a career:
A job is “an activity through which an individual can earn money. It is a regular activity in exchange of payment.”
A career, on the other hand, is “the pursuit of a lifelong ambition or the general course of progression towards lifelong goals.”
That’s a pretty lofty difference, no?
I’m getting to the point, I promise.
Have another look at those definitions: which best describes the work you do? Is your work a means to an end or is it the end in and of itself?
I myself have been guilty in the past of responding to questions about the work I do with something along the lines of: “Meh, it pays the bills.” Maybe it’s selective attention, or maybe it’s that I’m getting older (gulp), but it feels a lot like, more and more, this is becoming the default response. Sure, we’re in a tough economy and job security can be difficult – if not impossible – to come by, but I still believe there is something fundamentally wrong with the idea of “Meh.”
We deserve more than “Meh.”
It’s never too late to make a change.
Trust me – I’ve struggled with this idea for a long time. It doesn’t matter if the average person changes careers seven times or seventy times, because you’re not average: you’re you. And no matter who you are, instability and uncertainty is always scary.
My decision to pursue writing – an inherently unstable line of work – full-time has not been without a stockpile of fears: fear of judgment, fear of financial duress, and fear that I’ve knocked myself down the rungs of The Success Ladder, that I’m now sitting cross-legged at the bottom staring incredulously at my friends at they climb at a rapid, steady pace.
But then you have to ask yourself: what makes up a rung? Is it how proud, accomplished, and excited you feel about your work… or is it your net income? We don’t always have to love what we do… but I think we should at least like it.
It’s normal for our tastes, goals, and ambitions to change over time, and as they do, the work that once satiated us may no longer suit our palates. And that’s okay. We are living in an increasingly global marketplace with technology designed to bring us together (and tear us apart, but that’s fodder for another post), so if you’re thinking you’re in a job and not a career… make the switch.
…or go puddle-jumping, because that’s guaranteed to be fun no matter how old you are.