A Job vs. A Career

I was watching Chris Rock’s “Kill the Messenger” and he had a bit about jobs versus careers.  His general feeling was that people with careers “need to learn how to shut the f— up when you’re around people with jobs”.  I think that this is generally a correct statement. I have friends that absolutely love their work and it’s all they talk about, but I am not one of those people (although, I generally don’t talk very much so maybe I would if I was more outgoing?).  Chris Rock goes on to tell his tale of working a “job” at Red Lobster scraping shrimp off of plates, and how he is now blessed with a career and wishes everyone could be blessed with a career that they enjoy.

I’m not sure whether I would classify my current work as a job or a career. I’ve been working for the same company and in the same position since I got out of university six years ago.  I think that the work I do makes a difference, which adds to the enjoyment I get out of going to the office.  Yet the bottom line is I noticed when I was on vacation that if my job/career was taken away from me tomorrow, I don’t really think I’d miss it that much.  I would find something else to do that I found interesting and hopefully provide enough money to live on.

When people ask me if I like what I do, my general reply is: “On a Monday morning, other than waking up to an alarm, work is not something I dread going to.”  I guess that is not exactly a positive statement, but it’s true.  Yet I’m not sure if my mindset really allows me to look at any work as a “career”.  My paycheque allows me to do things I want to do when I’m not at work.  I don’t dislike going to the office, but I’m not the kind of person that would put in extra hours for free because I love my position so much.

Someday, when I have the savings to allow it, I will leave the workforce.  I have read stories about how people run out of things to do in retirement, but I don’t think I’ll be one of those people.  I think that my future career as a capitalist/retiree will bring me much greater enjoyment than working for eight hours a day (no matter how rewarding the my current work is). After I retire, I might just be one of those people that need to shut up when I’m around people with jobs and will never have enough time in the day to get done what needs to be done but  I am looking forward to my future career.

So do you work at a “job”, or do you have a “career”?  If you have a career, how did you come to find it?  Did you stumble into it, or aspire towards it?

9 thoughts on “A Job vs. A Career”

  1. For me, it started as a career as long as I had good chances of getting promoted and above-average raises, and the downside of the commute was outweighed by the enjoyment of the work. This lasted for about the first 14 years of working. I did actuarial work but it was mostly writing mainframe computer programs, the stuff I really liked.

    But when my company announced it was moving from lower Manhattan to Jersey City, New Jersey, making a barely tolerable commute into a worse one, I began to become depressed. I knew I had no more promotions left, and the work was becoming less satisfying. Furthermore, my growing wealth had me thinking more and more about quitting. I had just paid off my mortgage so one biweekly paycheck was more than covering my monthly expenses.

    So began my journey towards an early retirement, starting with a semi-retirement in 2001 which lasted 7 years. My career was only a job in these years, but I made some of the lousy commute go away. I rarely went the extra mile, especially after a 27-month telecommute gig was taken away, forcing me back to the despised commute even 3 days a week.

    Focusing on finding a way to generate enough investment income to cover my non-work-related expenses, I reached that point in 2008 so I was finally able to quit and lose that awful commute.

    No more career and no more job. No regrets, either.

  2. I suspect that the difference between a career and a job depends on the way a person defines him- or herself. For example, a teacher has a career when, no matter where she goes, she is a teacher (that’s how she sees herself). A tutor (or substitute teacher or teaching aid), while doing the same work, has a job. Since he doesn’t define himself by his job, he could just as easily move to a job that is either similar or dissimilar.

    That’s why I don’t have a career. I refuse to define myself by my work. I have family, I have hobbies and I have a variety of interests. I have experiences, abilities, and preferences. Those are how I define myself.

  3. I know this isn’t the question you asked, but it’s to your comment about reading stories about people that run out of things to do in retirement. I read a lot of blogs, many of them by retirees. I have never read about a retiree running out of things to do. I have read tons of accounts about how people, not yet retired, are worried about running out of things to do. (Or about their “uncle” or “brother-in-law” or someone they “knew” that hated retirement because he was bored.) I just think this concern is WAY overhyped.

    I don’t think you’ll be one of those people either. Maybe it’s the kind of people that write blogs, that tend to be introspective in order to write, that have what it takes to design their lives in retirement, not just let life happen to them.

  4. It’s a job. At one time, it may have been a career, but that died over a decade ago. Too many times where good hard work was rewarded with more work and the coworkers who didn’t work hard were rewarded by having to work less.

  5. Uh, can I have both? I would say my main work is drifting towards a job, while my writing and board work is drifting towards a career.

  6. “So do you work at a “job”, or do you have a “career”? If you have a career, how did you come to find it? Did you stumble into it, or aspire towards it?”

    Great question! Way to start a discussion! I went to college for a few years for kinesiology and now i am a personal trainer. I love my career! I also give tips for post secondary students . Great blog here!

  7. @ Deegee – Would a change in company have altered your perspective do you think? Doing the same type of work for another company without the terrible commute (although by the sounds of where you live, most things would have been a bad commute).

    @Robert – I agree, I don’t think I’ll ever define myself by my job. Most of my family and friends don’t even know what I do for work because I rarely talk about it.

    @Retired Syd – Thanks for the vote of confidence regarding my retirement (which is still considerably far away).

    @ George – I find a lot of businesses have coworkers that get rewarded like that 🙂

    @ Canadian Dream – Hopefully at some point in the near future you’ll be able to quit the job and move all-in to the career.

    @ Anne – Congratulations on finding something you love to do!

  8. Dave, I considered switching to another company which had a less annoying commute. I looked around a few times in the 1990s but could not find anything because of the type of work I did. Also, by the late 1990s I did not want to work F/T any more.

    I was doing actuarial (and non-actuarial) work even though I was not taking the actuarial exams any more. I had given up on them in the 1980s. However, in the 1980s companies in the insurance industry I worked in often hired people who had not passed any of those exams because there was a shortage in that field. In the 1990s that was not the case, so it put me at a disadvantage because I was competing more and more with exam-passers for advancement.

    So my best move was to stay with my company but work less often. They still needed me and my experience and knowledge, and I still needed a paycheck, even a reduced one, at least for a while. Once my company began its ESOP in 1997 and that value grew very quickly, it still paid for me to remain there.

    Once I stopped needing a paycheck from them, I cashed out the ESOP and retired.

  9. I thought I was in my career of choice…after 10 years I had worked my way towards general manager of a $12M/year operation (at 29 years old). However after a 3 month interim role as GM, I was passed over for someone who had more than 29 years of experience in the industry. Ok, that’s fine…but I was left to go back to my former role (marketing & sales) without any direction on where my “career” would take me now.

    So I found another job in my field, with better pay, way less stress, less hours, and a lot more interesting for me (sports related). I’m loving the change, but I also have a dream of retiring early and can’t see myself staying at this job for the next 20 years. I’ll shoot for another even 10.

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