The Difference Between a Job and Career: HR Experts Weigh In

difference between job and career

We sometimes use the words “career” and “job” to mean the same thing. Yet, other times a “job” refers to working for a financial reward, while “career” holds a larger meaning of a lifelong, fulfilling occupation. Someone may dream of a career in tech, for example, while commuting to a job in customer service.

Ultimately, the words mean different things to different people. So, we asked various HR leaders and career experts representing diverse industries for their advice.

Here is what they had to say about the debate between a job vs career:

What is the difference between a job and career, according to your professional experience and industry?

Careers Grow, Jobs Meet Today’s Needs

spear education logo

Jobs and careers are two very different things. A career is something that builds and grows over a lifetime, a job really is intended to meet the needs of today. Alignment with one’s personal values and goals are important components to a full and satisfying career but isn’t as important a consideration in a job. While a job is typically a daily set of tasks that are easily completed with your existing skill set, a career fully utilizes and even pushes the boundaries of your personal and professional toolbox. A job is working to live, a career is a life’s work! 

– Beth Gross, Talent Acquisition Manager, Spear Education

Careers Mean a More Purposeful Vision

usaa logoIn my opinion, a job is a means to a paycheck. An employee can learn critical skills in a job and meet some important short term goals related to their development and financial gain. However, a career is the opportunity for an employee to plan their work journey. Additionally, they can be more thoughtful about how they develop capabilities that will carry them into the future. While careers can take multiple paths along the journey, there should be a more purposeful vision of work success and ultimately the creation of a work legacy.

 Gay Meyer, AVP HR Operations, USAA

A Difference in Exchange

yscouts logo

Simple: a job supports your lifestyle, a career enriches your life. If one has a job, one is simply committing their time and energy in exchange for a financial reward. In a career, one still exchanges their time and energy for a paycheck, however the real reward is far beyond that. In a career, we care, we commit, we grow and we strive to create more value than we capture.

– Daniel Cheetham, Practice Director, Y Scouts

Jobs Build a Career

farmers logoWhat I have discovered in my work experience on job vs career is a job is a short-term means to an end. The accumulation of experience through different jobs is what builds a career. Your career helps fulfill your “why” – it’s what drives you to have energetic days and helps give your life meaning. Jobs are stops along the road of life, where your career is the actual journey itself. People ask me how I got where I am and I tell them I got where I am by taking on jobs no one else wanted to do. Those experiences enabled me to get where I am today.

– Sean Reeves, Claims Contact Center Site Lead, Farmers Insurance

Passion and Excitement Ignite Careers

ring logoWhenever I think about my career and the jobs I’ve had, it is clear to me which one I am more passionate and excited about. Everyone has jobs; something to tide you over, pay the bills, test the waters to help you decide what you really want to do when you “grow up,” and help build the stepping stones of your career. Personally, every job I’ve had helped determine my interests, develop my strengths, and create a vision for my future. When all of these things come together and you truly invest in yourself and the company, this is when your career takes flight.

– Lauren Chavet, Recruiting Operations Lead, Ring

Necessity Versus Choice

recruiterie logoIn my opinion, a job is something you usually have to do to make money, whether you have a personal connection to it or not.  A career is something you choose to do because you have gained specific experience and you love it. Oftentimes, we need to complete several jobs in life to help us determine a career path.  Careers typically draw upon an individual’s personal strengths and directs them towards long-term professional experiences and goals.

– Jon Schneider, Founder, Recruiterie

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

trupath logoThe terms job and career are often interchanged with the word “work” in the professional environment. However, I hear individuals refer to their job as a means of payment, security or obligation. In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy, it fulfills the person’s basic needs. On the other hand, those that specifically refer to their career generally demonstrate a higher level of satisfaction – such as commitment, development, accomplishment, or fulfillment.

– Megan McQuade Wadsworth, Community Relations Director SHRM-SCP, TruPath

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