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What’s the difference between a Job and a Career?

Updated: May 11, 2021

Dr Timothy Hsi

Let’s engage in an experiment. Approach three colleagues or friends and ask them what they think ‘a career’ is. There is a high chance that the response you receive will likely be around the idea of earning enough money to support themselves and their families.

There is nothing wrong about the idea of earning enough to support ourselves! In fact, this is one of the basic blocks of the economy where we earn a wage through work and hopefully we progress over time to earn more due to experience and increases in the skillset that we have.

However, earning enough money is just one of the many components behind the idea of a career. While a job and career both enable us with the opportunity to make a living, they are very different in terms of meaning!

For this career day article, I will explain the difference between a job and a career and hope to increase the public’s understanding about what career development is and what it means for you as part of the labour force in Singapore.

A Job

A job is work that you do for an employer where you utilise your knowledge and skill in exchange for money (a salary) or as we usually say ‘to earn a living’. Jobs may be permanent or contract, full-time or part-time. Jobs provide us with a means to support ourselves and our family.

A Career

A career is about a longer term perspective where we consider our interests, experiences, learning and how all these elements factor into the bigger picture of what we want to ultimately achieve in terms of our passions, hopes and vision for ourselves.

The Difference

The main difference between how we perceive a job and a career is our perception of the end goal as well as our level of engagement and effort put in towards the two.

In a job, we view it as a means to an end (getting a salary, putting food on the table) whereas a career is an end goal in itself. A career encompasses us putting in the effort to build our expertise, skills and experiences which enables us to have a deep sense of satisfaction, fulfilment and even self-worth. A career, being long term, will include a series of jobs that we embark on throughout our working life.

Why is this important for me?

Understanding the difference between having a job and a career is important for us in Singapore. With disruptions such as digitalisation of work and the emergence of pandemics, the nature of work and the relationship between the employer and employee has forever changed. No longer do people expect to stay in one job/organisation all their working life. There is an increasing expectation that employees are to continually upgrade their skillsets to keep themselves relevant in this rapidly changing work environment (e.g. adoption of digital technologies, project-based gig/contract work and acceptance of continual flexibility towards rapidly changing job demands).

Just like how we are now used to having regular health checks and conversations with our medical practitioners, the time has come for Singaporeans to accept the idea that more and more, we require regular career conversations with career coaches in order for us to manage our own career pathways.

Of course, there will still be individuals who require the assistance of job placements and matching due to redundancies (currently offered by the public career service centres such as the ones offered by WSG’s career connect & E2i’s centres), but increasingly, I foresee a growing maturity in the workforce where more and more Singaporeans will seek to make appointments to speak with trained and certified career coaches recognised by the Career Development Association of Singapore (CDAS) to discover how they can find fulfilment in their career journey.

If you would like to find out more about Career Coaching and the Career Development Association of Singapore (CDAS), you are welcome to register for the upcoming free talk on “Future Proofing yourself through Career Coaching” on 19 May 2021, 5pm, in celebration of International Coaching Day.

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