What is a career? Definition and examples

A career is a job, an occupation, that is undertaken for a major period of a person’s life. The occupation also has opportunities for training, progress, advancement, or promotion. Vocations such as medicine, teaching, the clergy/priesthood, and the police force are all careers. People aim to dedicate their lives to these occupations.

The verb to career means to move rapidly and in an uncontrolled way in a certain direction. Here is an example: “The truck careered across the street and smashed into a wall.

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This article focuses on the word when it refers to a job with future prospects.

Career – my journey through education and employment

Some people say the term refers to the part of one’s life that is all about employment. For them it is the sum total of all the jobs they held during their working lives. It also includes the decisions people make regarding their college major as part of a process that lasts a lifetime.

According to an article in the University of Dubuque’s website, when viewed in this way:

“Career can be defined as the sum total of decisions that direct your educational, social, economic, political, and spiritual endeavors and reflect your unique personality characteristics and basic life values.”

“I want a career, not just a job!”

Job vs Career
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A career is more than just a job. When somebody says that they are seeking a career and not just a job, it means that they want an occupation with a future. They want something that will become a major part of their life for a very long time.

A summer spent fruit picking is a job – it is most definitely not a career. Fruit pickers do not see themselves becoming supervisors, managers, and then regional managers or directors one day in the fruit picking sector. Fruit picking is a way to earn money now, and that’s all.

If a school leaver manages to get a junior position in a bank, and sees a future there, that for them is a career. They expect to go on courses and have opportunities for promotion or specialization.

South College in Tennessee says the following regarding jobs versus careers:

“A job is more short-term oriented and tends to focus purely on earning money. On the other hand, a career is a series of related employment in one field that provides experience for your future and helps you earn a better paycheck and living status.”

“Careers are more long-term and are about learning, gaining experience, building connections, and putting yourself in the right position for promotions and raises.”

Career goals

Some people have a well-defined statement that describes the profession they plan to pursue throughout their working lives. They have, what we call a career goal.

Many employers, especially large and established ones, try to encourage their employees to define their career goals. It is not possible to have an effective action plan without one.

The Corporate Finance Institute gives this example of a teenager who wants to become head of a large company one day:

“To illustrate the concept, consider a 17-year old who wants to become the CEO of a large engineering company in the future. He must go through several stages, the first being passing his 12th-grade exams.”

“After passing, the teenager will then enroll in a four-year engineering course before moving to work in, for example, a multinational company for at least two years. Next, he may enroll in a management course from a reputable school. Advancing his studies is a good idea to boost his chances of getting the CEO position.”