At what point does a job shift to become a career?
A little over 10 years ago, I joined my current employer’s ranks. I was in my late-twenties, and had just escaped from a 5-year stint working at Chapters. Escaped may be a harsh term, but I’ve never hidden the fact that I was not happy for the last 2-3 years of my time there. I had been part of the store’s management team, working under a string of seemingly increasingly inept General Managers (I think we went through 6 GM’s in the span of my 5 years there, including a good 6-months with no GM at all). We started off as a leadership team of 7-8 people and then got down to 3 for an extended period of time. Needless to say, I was burned out when I left.
Until this point, I had gone from job to job since the age of 16. Some lasted a summer, some lasted a couple of years, but the simple fact remained that they were just jobs; a means to an end. I worked the job, they paid me. Upon leaving Chapters, I then took a job at my current employer – a health insurance company. I was a seasonal hire in their contact centre and eventually ended up being hired full-time. I didn’t like the job in the call centre, but it was a job. There it is again… job.
Over the next couple of years, I moved around a few times within the company. After being made a permanent employee, I moved to the Claims team for the better part of a year. Then an opportunity opened up in the Training team to cover a maternity leave; this later turned into a permanent job opportunity. I spent the next 3-4 years as a Trainer. Looking back, I think this is where I shifted from having a job to having a career.
I had come into the company because it was a paying job. I didn’t really enjoy the contact centre world (having had done this for a few years in my earlier life), so I jumped at any opportunity to get out of that department. The move to Claims wasn’t a planned, strategic move, rather it was an escape route. But the move from Claims to Training was plotted out. After having gone through a number of training sessions over my first two years, I got to know my trainer, Colin, and thought, “I’d like to do this.” I continued to improve myself, and to become as skilled at my job as I could so that I could somehow, some day, make my way into the Training team.
Once there, I established myself as a knowledgeable and well-respected trainer. I continued to excel for the next few years. Once I’d reached a plateau of sorts, I started to look for other challenges, other opportunities. That’s when a leadership role came into view. Since leaving the Training team, I’ve worked in two different leadership roles within the company. The first was leading my former Claims team (which, again, started off as a maternity leave before being offered a permanence). And most recently, I’ve spent the past 5 years leading a Quality Assurance and Training team.
I’m now having a bit of a crisis of conscience. When did I become a career man? Careers are for adults. (You’re turning 40 this year, Chris.) Careers are for people who care about their jobs. (You’ve taken great pride in your work and your teams for the last 8 years, Chris.) Who am I?! Is this why I’m finding myself feeling lost and unmotivated? Or maybe I’m just having a mid-life crisis. Time for some meditation and a reality check.
Tell me, dear readers, what do you consider to be the difference between a job and a career? Do you have any advice for someone going through a rough spot in their career?