I spent some time deliberating this over the past couple of days. I found some interesting attempts at defining and differentiating the two. These definitions are amongst the first few to appear when I googled the above question:
“Your job is what you are doing today. Your career is what you’ve done over the past years and what you plan to do in the future… Your job feeds you and your family today. Your career will feed you and your family tomorrow and beyond.”
“The job pays your bills, and a career is a path you’ve taken (hopefully because you enjoy it) to attain or keep the ideal job for you.”
“A career is something that you build during your lifetime. Jobs are often times task-oriented positions to help meet the goals of an organisation or business. Jobs are often a means to an end… Sometimes jobs lead to careers.”
“A job is something you do simply to earn money; a career is a series of connected employment opportunities. A job has minimal impact on your future work life, while a career provides experience and learning to fuel your future. A job offers few networking opportunities, but a career is loaded with them. When you work at a job, you should do the minimum without annoying the boss. When you’re in a career, you should go the extra mile, doing tasks beyond your minimum job description.”
There’s an endless list of dichotomous definitions but they are largely synonymous.
I remember learning this from somewhere – maybe in one of KK’s workshop (?) – that in a career, people usually stay for a long time and “climb” up the organisational ladder; the good ones care about the welfare and well-being of the company and its employees. To a certain extent, they live for others. Whereas a job is just something people do from 9am to 5pm and remain indifferent to just about everything except for the accuracy and arrival of their paycheck. To another extent, they live for themselves.
Now, this gets me thinking about my own predicament – is it a job or a career? I know for sure that during my army days, it was a job – I did what I was expected to do; on good days, I go the extra mile and on bad days, I do the bare minimum. When I was in Shanghai, it felt a little different because I treated it like my own company. There wasn’t such a thing called “Official Working Hours” simply because at the management level, you work as hard and as long as you’re required to; my boss did not believe in overtime pay for the managers because it was expected of us to get the job done and the project(s) completed. AT’s an excellent boss, and although sometimes he’s quite a slave-driver, he has successfully imbued in us managers the all-important ownership of the company.
So this brings me back to me today as a youth minister with Grace Assembly of God. Is this my job? Not really, because I’d have been imparting my life into young people anyway even if I was an army officer or a marketing manager – I’m just doing it full-time on a more intensive level. Is this my career then? Not really too, because I do not even know if I will be doing this for the long run. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m committed to what I have signed on to do, but I’m keener to listen to God’s prompting. The last thing I want is to overstay – I think that would be absolutely meaningless. But if God tells me to go, I’d be gone in an instant – I’m not worried about transitions and to start out all over again in any industry because I have confidence in my ability to excel wherever I go.
Hence, my answer to the question above – the difference between a job and a career is to know your calling in life and to pursue that calling wholeheartedly in any given time or space instead of being in an occupation for a season of life. I’ve said this to quite a number of people – in my current “job”, while it’s slightly easier than the previous ones because my gifting and skills-set are tailor-made for it, I’ve also poured in double the work hours and emotional involvement. Yet I feel that since I’ve joined Grace in October 2009, I’ve not worked a single day at all simply because I am pursuing what I believe God has intended for me to pursue for this season of my life.
Have you found your calling? Are you stuck with a job? Or are you caught in a career?
Jesus looked at [the rich young ruler] and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24-25, NIV)
Singapore is a great country to reside in – it truly is. I can say this because I’ve lived in Shanghai for nearly two years. We take pride in our credible and proven governance of meritocracy – where, by dictionary definition, “people [are] selected on the basis of their ability”. In other words, if you do well enough, you’ll probably get by. However, I’d like to think that meritocracy is poisonous, especially for a Christian making an honest attempt to live his life relying on God.
I’ve always lamented about the overly rigourous and demanding education system here. A young student is forced, whether voluntarily by his own will or involuntarily by unhealthy peer pressure, to do well in Singapore. Sadly, sometimes it’s not about doing well for his own good, but about doing better than someone else. We have produced countless outstanding people because of how (insanely) competitive we are. After all, it’s a known fact that Singapore’s greatest resource is her people.
Hence, existing in an environment as such, we have been continuously engineered to believe that we just need to do well enough, and we’ll be able to get what we want – chiefly wealth and status amongst others. Unfortunately for us, we have also allowed this secular mentality to creep into the Church and worse, into our walk with God. More often than not, we’d rather sort ourselves out first before going to God rather than going to God first to get sorted out.
We approach God thinking that if we have ticked the checklist boxes of praying, doing quiet time, worshipping, reading the bible, etc., we’d be accepted and be presentable before God. How scarily distorted that can be! Having a checklist may not be wrong, don’t misunderstand me, but it is severely inadequate.
A classic example is how we typically go to God in prayer only when we take our exams with insufficient preparation or when we commit a major mistake at work. It’s like we consider getting God involved only when matters are completely out of our control and domain of influence. Or sometimes when we ask for good results or work promotion (or even dating success), we use “I promise I’ll spend more time with You, Lord” or “I promise I won’t visit those sites again anymore, Lord” as stakes, thinking that it may actually move God to accede to our “requests”.
How dangerously misconstrued that is!
In a society where meritocracy calls the shots, we start to tattoo in our hearts and minds, “I CAN DO IT“. Great optimism and confidence, don’t get me wrong. But it may lead to one thing – that “GOD CAN DO IT” will slowly and steadily be obliterated from our operating system. We need to be extremely cautious because this swelling pride can mislead us – from trusting in God to trusting in ourselves. We constantly wage war between societal and biblical reality.
Now, may I beseech you to be alert and to quicken your spirit to this, that you do not draw confidence in your flesh but in God. Don’t become complacent when you exit an exam hall after a good paper because it doesn’t mean that you seeking God ends. In the same way, don’t become overly concerned about beefing up your resume just to raise your chances of getting a good job. Place not your confidence in yourself but in our faithful God who never fails to deliver! Be excellent but not wrongly/overly-confident.
For those with average grades, do not be discouraged – our God can operate with Bs and Cs (and even Ds and Fs!) and still give you success and a good future, only if you seek Him wholeheartedly. For those with soaring on societal favour and success, do not get complacent thinking that all these achievements arrived by your own merit – God can give but He can also take away, and what we are constantly challenged to say is, “Blessed be Your name”. Keep your eyes on Jesus, my friends!
Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul declared quite famously in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV),
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‘ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
When we rely on ourselves, we may fail. But when we rely on God, He will deliver! Let us declare that we can’t and that God can!