Career Advice

Jobs versus Careers

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Jobs and Careers Are Like Trees And A Forest… A Lot Of People Mistake Them For The Same Thing

By David Oxley and Helmut Schuster

Have you ever considered using a screwdriver to help you eat healthier? No? How about a new power tool to help reduce your fear of flying? No again… strange… thought that might get at least one or two. OK, surely some of you have chased a promotion, pay raise, or goal at work in the belief it would make you feel validated, fulfilled, and happy? Yes… finally!

Did it work?

Knowing the right tool for the right task

It’s very easy to get swept along in our early careers. There is a frenzy of anxiety, competition, social and family pressure, to get a ‘great’ job, to make good money, to afford nice things. It can feel like a large family holiday dinner, where if you’re not careful, your brothers & sisters have grabbed all the good stuff, and you are left with a soggy carrot and a half-eaten potato.

So, it’s only understandable that our survival instincts kick in… we get very focused, set ourselves a singular goal, and chase it. In some ways, it’s like sports all the great coaches talk about playing one point at a time, focusing on just hitting the next serve, and pushing yourself just a bit faster.

Ever wonder what truly sets a job apart from a career? A career fuels your passion and sets you on a growth path, while a job just pays the bills. Knowing the difference can be a game-changer for how you approach your work life. #JobVsCareer #CareerAdviceClick To Tweet

Short term tactics can become behaviorally hardwired

The trouble with this approach towards jobs is that we lose sight of when these short-term tactics start to lose their utility. You learn to think of approaching your job navigation as the proverbial nail, and the hammer just sounds great when you hit it hard.

Becoming consumed with the superficial, quantitative aspects of jobs, is a behavioral trap. But we slowly, inextricably, move beyond the primordial fight for sustenance and safety, and what lays beyond cannot be solved with just more of the same.

Jobs versus Careers

There is a distinction between job and career. Jobs are more of a commodity, more transitory. We think of them as something people trade and maximize. We use tools to allow us to do this. We use networks, learn how to interview, how to study and leverage the unwritten rules of how a company works. And we target our efforts to get a return. We can tangibly keep score of our performance through salary, benefits, and titles.

Careers, well they often span over 40 years, and are rarely measured quantitatively. When you meet someone at the end of their career, they don’t talk about money or titles. They measure their success initially in terms of people and relationships. However, when you dig deeper, it’s about whether they found fulfillment, whether they fought for a cause they believed in, and how they were able to navigate the inevitable knock-backs that happened along the way.

Setbacks and Breakdowns

The single biggest piece of advice we have for people just starting out in their careers is not to get sucked into the vortex of materialism. While it’s perhaps necessary to be single-minded and focused when you first start out on your career, it is also very easy to become caught up in the misconception that purely quantitative rewards will fulfill you. It’s very easy to live the first 10-20 years of your professional lives believing that the next promotion, the next pay raise, will be more impactful than the last. It won’t.

Instead, the most successful careers are built on the dual challenge of navigating a job market while also learning about who you are as an individual, what really makes you happy, what you are prepared to fight for, to make sacrifices for, and aligning those two dimensions as closely as you can. These are not separate isolated dimensions. The latter complements the former.

When you have setbacks in your job, what helps you prevail is the mental strength, a deep conviction about who you are, what you stand for, and what you are good at. Too often in our experience, when really talented people are faced with an unexpected setback, they are unprepared and consequently face far more of an existential crisis.

If all you do is develop your ability to use job tools, when the time comes to navigate the inevitable bumps in the road, you don’t want to find out too late that none of your favorite tools are very effective.

About the Authors

Dr Helmut Schuster, co-author of A CAREER CAROL: A Tale Of Professional Nightmares And How To Navigate Them with David Oxley, is a dual Austrian/British citizen who lives in London UK. He is the former Group HR Director of BP PLC. Schuster is currently Chairman of the Board of Ivoclar Group, a world leader in aesthetic dentistry, an active entrepreneur, investor, and frequent contributor to leadership and AFS Intercultural Programs. He completed his PhD in Economics from the University of Vienna.

Dr David Oxley co-author of A CAREER CAROL: A Tale Of Professional Nightmares And How To Navigate Them with Helmut Schuster, is a dual UK/US citizen based in Austin, Texas. He started his career as a management consultant before leading major people and corporate restructuring projects for BP PLC across Europe, USA, India, and the Middle East. Oxley worked closely with Reliance Industries in India, one of BP’s partners, as they embarked on their big corporate restructuring. He was awarded his doctorate in Organizational Change at Cranfield University and his MBA from the University of Notre Dame.

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A Career Carol is an irreverent take on the classic Christmas Carol, graduation commencement speakers, and Generation Z expectations. A wry and insightful take on how to successfully navigate a 30-to-40-year professional career.

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04/24/2024 03:16 am GMT

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