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?
During the peak of an event that I was a part of, some 30 minutes before it started, the organiser stormed into the room and blew her head off at all the seemingly inconsequential matters. She lost her cool and threw unnecessary tantrums to and in front of everyone. My colleague simply commented, “这种人，做不了大事” (direct translation – this kind of person, cannot accomplish big things). I couldn’t help but agree with his harsh and cruel but very accurate assessment!
Looking back at all the different people I’ve worked with, I realise that I can somehow tell how successful a person is and can be simply by observing how he handles his roles and responsibilities, or by how he responds to stress. To an extent, those who cannot undertake major events are usually those who will crumble when the going gets tough. One man whom I really admire is my uncle and former boss, AT. I cannot find a better word other than “Hero” to describe him; his problem-solving and stress-taking abilities are nonpareil and I really look up to him in that aspect.
Assessing a person based on his capacities to manage pressure is not a fatalistic way of evaluation, but it certainly is one way you could analyse him. Of course it’s always easier to just do what you’re comfortable with and prepared for, so naturally it’s the unexpected that truly tests a person’s competence to cope with the bigger things in life. At least for me it indicates the stage that one can operate on and how big it can get.
Don’t misunderstand me – there’s nothing wrong if you’re only able to handle a small platform at this point of your life. The question is, are you even able to handle that platform? I reckon that discontentment, disappointment and disillusionment will set in when a small-platform person desires and covets a big stage that he cannot handle (and vice versa). So, how aware are you of how and what you are built for?
I guess we’ll figure out the answer to this million-dollar question as we progress through life and figure out the answers while we discover how much we can actually manoeuvre. So remember that one sign of your threshold to handle big matters is simply how you complain about small matters. I remember the three key lessons from KK’s excellent lesson during the leaders’ retreat – do not complain (about your situation), do not justify (your actions) and take responsibility (for yourself).
Before I headed for Shanghai, I told my uncle that I was reconsidering his offer because I was actually first considering heading into full-time work with church. He thought I was crazy. “Why you want to become a monk so early in your life!?”, was his candid retort, and his limited understanding of what working in church was like – a monastery. Of course, my mother disapproved my desire to work as a youth minister then, so I reluctantly headed to Shanghai instead.
I didn’t enjoy it at first, but God is good. Within six months, I got the hang of it, overcame the dread of being there unwillingly, made a ton of friends, settled in a cell group and began to excel in my job. When I decided to end my 21-month Shanghai chapter last July, my former colleagues were shocked when they found out that I went to work in church. They thought it was a waste of my talent and that I was too young for a job like this; they basically thought I was crazy to abandon a comfortable lifestyle for something so radical.
Of course, they had no prior knowledge of my journey with the Lord. Not many people know of my promise to God – that I’d give Him the best years of my career (which I think is now). I don’t know how long, far or intense this full-time calling is, but I know it is NOW. And my only response is not to trust and obey but to obey then to trust. Hence, tonight, I felt led to publish my cover letter to Grace Assembly of God. May my journey into full-time ministry inspire and encourage you, as well as to give you a glimpse of my conviction and surrender to God regarding this part and period of my life. Enjoy the read.
And just for the record, my mum didn’t just agree to me heading into full-time work, she actually supported it! Praise the Lord for answering a three-year prayer. The story of how she came to this miraculous decision deserves to be mentioned on a separate entry.