A job can be just going to work to earn a paycheck. A career is a journey that includes all your jobs, experiences, and training in the same field or career cluster. A career cluster is a group of jobs and industries that are related by skills or products. Within each cluster, there are cluster “pathways” that correspond to a collection of courses and training opportunities to prepare you for a given career.

Did you know that some Americans have 10 different jobs in their lifetime? These could all be in one career, or they could be in different careers. A career can include many jobs, experiences and education in the same field or career cluster. This means that your career is a journey of many steps.

What’s a job vs. a career?

Think of it this way: If life were a video game, a job would be just one level. Having a career means that you are committed to playing the game to get better over time and advance to higher levels.

The real difference between a job and a career is your attitude:

  • People who want a career are always thinking about their long-term goals. They are thinking about what they can do now to make those goals happen in the future.
  • Beginning job seekers often must work hard for little money. It might take a few years to earn bigger paychecks and have more interesting job duties, but these lower-level jobs can lead to great opportunities.

How do you advance on your journey?

Think of your career journey as climbing a ladder. Each step of the ladder could be a job that gives you valuable experiences.

  • At one job, you might pick up new skills.
  • At another, you might gain a new interest.
  • As you climb the ladder, your jobs might increase in responsibility or pay.

How do you manage your career?

The choices you make now will affect your future. All of your activities, volunteer work, and part-time jobs are steps on your career ladder. Keep these things in mind:

  • Lifelong learning is important. As you progress in your career, it may be beneficial to consider short-term training opportunities.
  • Balance the time you spend at work with your personal life.
  • Develop values, a sense of purpose and life/career goals.
  • People naturally change over time, so assess your career goals frequently.