Career: Definition, Career Patterns, Career vs Job

Career describes an individual’s journey through learning, work and other aspects of life.

The term career has a number of meanings. It can be viewed from different perspectives. Career is a job or profession that someone does for a long time.

It is a period of time spent in a job or profession. In popular usage, it can mean advancement or upward movement to linear progression.

For example, he is moving up in his career.

This definition suggests that a person is pursuing a career only if he or she exhibits steady or rapid advancement in status, money and the like.

People who have not experienced advancement or other substantial achievements do not really have a career.

Career Definition

Career means a profession (for example, he has chosen a career in medicine). It is a lifelong sequence of jobs. It is a sequence of positions that a person has held over his or her life. It means stable employment within a profession.

For example, physicians and lawyers are thought to have careers, whereas clerks and mechanical are not. This definition suggests that one must achieve a certain occupation or social status of one’s work activities to constitute a career.

The term career has a number of near. In popular usage, it can mean advancement (“He is moving up in his career), a profession (“she has chosen a career in medicine) or stability over time (career military).

For our purposes, we will define career as “the pattern or work related & experiences that span the course of a personas life” Using this definition it’s in apparent that we all have or will have careers. The concept is as relevant to transient, unskilled laborers as it is to engineers and physicians.

For our purposes, therefore any work, paid or unpaid pursued over an extended period of time, can constitute a career. In addition to formal job work, careers can include school work, homemaking or volunteer work.

Super and Hall define career as a sequence of positions occupied by a person during the course of a lifetime. A career is all the jobs that are held during one’s working life. This is an objective career.

Career may be defined as a source of stability within a single occupational field or Closely connected fields. A person’s pursuit of closely connected jobs like teacher, guidance counselor arid private tutor is thought to represent a career.

From another perspective, a career consists of the changes in values, attitudes, and motivation that occur, as a person grows older. This is a subjective career.

So all careers have both subjective and objective elements that together form the basis of an individual’s career.

Both of these perspectives, objective and subjective focus on the individual. Both assume that people have some degree of control over their destinies and that they can manipulate opportunities in order to maximize the success and satisfaction derived from their careers.

Career means advancement, professional status, and stability. Arther, Hall, and Lawrence (1989) consider the career to be an evolving sequence of a person’s work experience over time. A career is defined as the pattern of work-related experiences that span the course of a person’s life.

Work-related experiences include objective events or situations such as job positions, job duties, and work-related decisions; and subjective interpretations of work-related events such as work aspirations, expectations, values and needs, and feelings about particular work experiences.

A career is often composed of the jobs held, titles earned and work accomplished over a long period of time, rather than just referring to one position.

While employees in some cultures and economies stay with one job during their career, there is an increasing trend for employees changing jobs more frequently.

For example, an individual’s career could involve being a lawyer, though the individual could work for several different firms and in several different areas of law over a lifetime.

Career Patterns

It is important to understand career patterns for managers needing access to the best available talent and for individuals seeking the best fit of their skills and aspirations with the shifting patterns of work.

The career patterns concept represents a new model of the current and future workforce that is simple, but powerful.

It clarifies current issues and provides foresight for better decision-making by everyone. This new workforce composed of individuals situated in multiple and changing career patterns will cause organizations and individuals to respond and behave differently as each adjusts to the new reality.

Recently, researchers have advocated multiple career concepts. They make distinctions among these four career patterns. These are discussed below:

A traditional linear career is one that emphasizes upward mobility.

For example, Nadia joins as a lecturer and finally moves to be a professor.

An expert career focuses on stability in a special area. It focuses on building skill and knowledge within an occupation or field (secondary traditional view of career). A doctor has been providing medical services for 20 years and he is becoming an expert in his areas.

The spiral career path allows the employee to make a series of lateral moves between different functional areas within the same organization. It allows people in human resource jobs to retain talent by continuously challenging employees with new tasks and broadening their expertise.

In a spiral career, major career shifts occur periodically, perhaps every 5 to 10 years. One joins as an Assistant Commissioner of tax officer and then shifts to administrative service.

A transitory career is one, which is characterized by changes in career fields as frequently as every one to five years.

On average, employees in the USA experience five to seven employers before they go for retirement.

The four career patterns can be described as follows:

Career PatternPattern DescriptionKey Personal Motivators 
LinearMore or less vertical movement up an organizational hierarchy to positions of greater responsibility (primary traditional view of career)Power, achievement and external rewards
ExpertFocus on building skill and knowledge within an occupation or field (secondary traditional view ofCompetence, status, and stability
SpiralPeriodic moves across related occupations or fields with sufficient time in each (5-10 years) to achieve a high level of competence before progressing onCreativity and personal growth
TransitoryHB Frequent (1-5 years) moves across different occupations or fieldsVariety and independence


Career vs Job

Career vs Job

Career is often confused with the job. A job is something employees do simply to earn money; a career is a series of connected employment opportunities.

A job has minimal impact on an employee’s future work life, while a career provides experience and learning to fuel the employee’s future. A job offers few networking opportunities, but a career is loaded with them.

Experts differentiate between a career and a job. A person usually holds several jobs in their career. It is usually easier to change jobs in the same field of work that defines one’s career.

However, switching careers is more difficult and may require the person to start at the bottom of the ladder in a new career.

According to Greehause, a career is a perceived sequence of attitudes and behaviors associated with work-related experiences and activities over the span of the person’s life.

Whereas a job is what a person does at work to bring home a paycheck, a career is being engaged in a satisfying and productive activity. Thus a career involves a long-term view of a series of jobs and work experiences.

For some people, their jobs are part of a careful plan.

For others, their career is simply a matter of luck. Merely planning a career does not guarantee career success. Superior performance, experience, education, and some occupational luck play an important role.

When people rely largely on luck, however, they seldom are prepared for career opportunities that arise.

Successful people identify their career goals, plan, and then take action. To put it another way, successful careers are managed through proper and careful career planning.

People who fail to plan their careers may do so because they think that their company or their boss will assume that responsibility.

Or perhaps they are unaware of the basic career planning concepts.

Without an understanding of career goals and career paths, planning is unlikely.

A career path is the sequential pattern of jobs that forms one’s career. Career goals are the future positions one strives to reach as part of a career.

Thus, it is clear that some differences exist between a job and a career.

Difference between Career and Job

What is it?A career in the pursuit of a lifelong ambition or the general course of progress towards lifelong goals.Job is an activity through which an individual can earn money. It is a regular activity in exchange for payment.
RequirementsUsually requires special learning that includes individualized components that develop abilities beyond that which training is capable of.Education or Special training may or may not be required
Risk-takingA career may not mean stability of work as it encourages one to take risks. The risks are often internal and therefore planned.A job is “safe”, as stability of work and income is there. However, shifting priorities, especially in resource jobs, can abruptly change the demand and require relocation which is an unstable factor. Risks may be completely external.
TimeLong termShort term
IncomeVaries depending on value to society or to some other entity. Non-monetary benefits may be higher. The salary is more common.Varies with demand. More likely to wage.
Contribution to societyMay have high value as social change/progress may be possible.

May actually have a negative impact when counterproductive social practices are continued in the name of protecting jobs.




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