Career, Job, or What You Do. What’s the Difference?

Back in the 50’s, when my parents were entering the workforce, choices were different. Many people dropped out of high school in Grade 10 or 11 and got a JOB.  JOBs were things like working in a factory or working for your Dad in his hardware store. Or selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. If you didn’t want to do any of those things, you could join the Army. If you were a woman, you had even fewer choices: you were either a housewife or you went to business school and became a secretary.

Getting a JOB in those days offered a few extremely important things. Benefits. A steady paycheque. Bonuses. Security. The makings of a happy life.

These days, we teach our young people to stay in school. Go to college. Get a CAREER.  I used to have a CAREER. I was a high-tech worker. It had benefits. It had a steady paycheque. It had bonuses. I falsely believed it had security. I gave it up.

Now, I believe that what I do for a living is not a JOB or a CAREER. These labels don’t fit anymore. Now, my work is what I DO. It’s how I survive, not just financially, but spiritually, and emotionally too. I knew I didn’t fit in to the corporate world. Oh, sure, I did a good job. I got just as many pats on the back as the next guy. But at the end of the day it meant nothing to me. I was doing it for someone else, and that left me wholly unfulfilled.

Perhaps we should be teaching our young people that it’s okay if they don’t want to fit into the mold of a CAREER. But more importantly we should be teaching them HOW to make it on their own if they want to. I certainly didn’t learn anything about owning a business in high school or even college. And that’s not right.

I’m not saying that everyone has to be an entrepreneur. Of course there is room for more than just the self employed. Otherwise, nobody would have any employees! But we need to be giving our young people options. We need to make them aware of all of the possibilities.

On the flip side, there’s nothing wrong with having a CAREER if that’s what you want. Case in point:

A good friend of mine has made a CAREER out of what many would consider a regular JOB. He started many years ago working at a convenience store. In fact, that’s how we met. I lived in the neighbourhood and was a regular customer. I loved watching my friend work, he was so happy in it. He loved helping customers, would strike up conversations with anyone. As a result, the store he worked at was like the social hub of the neighbourhood.  After about 10 years as a convenience store clerk, he moved on to work for a large retail chain – a job that pays more but is still, what some would consider, just a JOB. There isn’t anything else he’d rather be doing than working in retail, serving customers. He will absolutely be doing it until he retires.

I bet if you were to ask him, he’d tell you that his work isn’t just a job. It is what he DOES.

Hard Work Should Be Easy

I’m inspired this morning by Mitch Joel of Twist Image. In his latest blog post, “How Hard Do You Really Work?”, he mentions a line he uses when he does his public speaking events. “…most people I know are trying to make it to the weekend. I’m trying to make it.”

Wow. That is a great line, don’t you think? It pretty much sums up how I’ve felt most of my working life. I’ve had a lot of jobs over 18 years or so, some great, some not so great. But I always found a way to be passionate about what I’m doing, and to put everything I had into the work. Even if it sucked.

Here is a brief summary of the types of work I’ve done over the past 18 years:

  • Produced television shows
  • Coordinated, designed and taught adult education programs
  • Technical Writing for optical data networks
  • Waited tables at a popular neighbourhood pub
  • Presented technical training to rooms of 400 people
  • Designed user help systems and interactive web portals
  • Receptionist/Administrative assistant at a Seniors’ Recreation Centre
  • Traveled the U.S. teaching specialized training development software
  • Wrote 2000 page proposals for federal government contracts
  • Graphic Design for corporate marketing projects
  • Designed and deployed communications strategies for large corporations

It’s a pretty wide range of stuff. Some of the jobs were tedious and long, (proposal writing) but rewarding when the proposal was successful. Some were exhilarating (I love teaching because of this). Some I’m just not well-suited for (the admin assistant job was the only job I ever got “disciplined” for because I was trying to take too much initiative – ACK!). I’m a really lousy waitress. I mean I suck at it, bigtime (but, I made a lot of friends at that pub). And some jobs I’ve loved because I’m truly passionate about it (TV production, web design/development and communications).

But what I have in common with all of these jobs is I always brought everything I could to them. Even though, at times I was just doing it for the paycheque, I still showed up with the attitude that I was going to work hard and give my all to what I was doing. Not because I owed it to the company I was working for, but because I owed it to myself to not be just another cog in the wheel trying to “make it to the weekend”.

Successful work means hard work, but hard work doesn’t have to burn you out or take away from your quality of life. What Mitch Joel is referring to is the dedication and commitment one should have when they set out to do a job, no matter what it is.

I’ve been a full time entrepreneur for almost a year now. It’s been a crazy ride so far, with lots of ups and downs and twists and turns. We have totally exceeded our expectations so far and continue to do so. I’ve learned more in this past year about myself and what I’m capable of than ever. And me and my partner have worked really really hard. Not 100-hour-weeks-burn-yourself-into-the-ground-just-to-get-ahead-hard, but we’ve had the passion, dedication and commitment to get the job done and get it done well. Sure, we’ve worked till 3am on occasion. Sure, weekends haven’t always been free of emails and phone calls. But we still take most weekends off. Easter is coming and we have no intention of working our way through it.

Hard work is easy if you have passion. If you have passion, you don’t see the time passing. It doesn’t mean you aren’t going to have crappy days, challenges and scary moments. That comes with the territory in any job – heck, in any life! It does mean you can have it all, no matter what you do for a living, and it’s simple. Just have passion. And if you can’t have passion, then do something else.

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