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Is it crass to talk about a Career when all you really need is a Job?

by Tahira Majothi on April 13, 2012

This must be my sixth attempt at writing this post, sometimes the most challenging part of knowing that you have something to say or recognising that something needs to change, is how to make a start.

As a Careers Adviser I’d say that I am pretty well versed in helping students, graduates and postgraduates explore their career ideas and action plan their next steps. However increasingly I’m seeing a number of graduates and postgraduates all at very low points in their lives. All of them in one way or another have said that it would be wonderful to have a career, but right now “I need a job to pay the bills, feed my family and/or pay off my loans”.

There’s no denying the impact the current economic climate and various Government policies have had on most people in one way or another, so does that mean we should consider a ‘Career’ to be much like the proverbial white elephant in the room, i.e. we know it’s there, we  just don’t talk about it?

This then led me to revisit Amy Wrzesniewski’s collaborative research studyJobs, Careers, and Callings: People’s Relations to Their Work’. This paper centred on how people’s attitudes to work, split into these three categories:

A Job: In the main seen as a means to an end, a financial necessity, working to live if you like.

A Career: A lot more personal investment, a chance for not only career and salary advancement, but also affecting your happiness and social mobility status in a positive way, more often than not.

A Calling: A focus on ‘fulfilling, socially useful work’.

So which of the above best describes your attitude? Or would you say that a job, career or calling were fluid terms depending on the time and place you are in your life right now? Well this seems the most logical place to start in terms of answering the question I posed in the title of this post.

1.       What matters to you?

Where do you stand in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Naeema Pasha covers our concept of Career Happiness in this post. Naeema talks with great honesty about her experiences of turning careers adviser to job seeker and how that led to a shift in how she viewed the process. She looked at understanding her motivations be it seeking fulfilment, or just considering the essentials such as the commute, the people, the salary and the career progression. Ultimately Naeema concluded that in this economic climate; happiness and security can be at odds with each other”.

2.       Is the grass really greener or an optical illusion?

Perhaps it’s the fault of reality TV shows or the advances in technology, smart phones and tablets that we have come to expect information and opportunities to come our way in an instant. The reality is, the role models we look up to, have in most cases been working hard for a number of years, experiencing job and career highs and lows, we just happen to know about them when they reach ‘success’.  John Lees in his post ‘To get the Job of your Dreams, Stop Dreaming’  in the Harvard Business Review points out that making the first step is the toughest part of career planning. John advocates two strategies, the first; think long and hard about opportunities, don’t snatch at early opportunities to dismiss new ideas and opportunities before any proper investigation”. His second suggestion is to try to reframe your mindset, look at career planning and exploration as if you were doing this on behalf of someone else.

3.       In pursuit of happiness

Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer, and Paul B. Brown, also wrote an interesting post in the Harvard Business Review, Choosing Between Making Money and Doing What You Love they argued that making a change or facing the ‘unknown’ then desire is all important. Desire will “make you more creative and more resourceful, and will help you get further faster”. The article acknowledges that you should attend to your basic ‘Maslow’ needs but the key thing is to make time for things you are passionate about, even if that’s only 15 minutes a day! The key point being that of course the future is unknown, rather than thinking about every eventuality, act, and do so by taking small steps. Who knows this may not only bring you future happiness but also aid your career?

4.       Step-by-step (No, not the New Kids on the Block song!)

So whether you are in need of a job for now, or actively pursuing your career, the key points are to consider, what are your immediate needs, what will make you happy and what next steps do you need to take? So if you are mulling over making a change, remember these wise words from Comedian Chris Rock “…There ain’t enough time when you have a career, when you got a job, there’s too much time!”

Here are some suggestions to get the ball rolling:

·         Personality Questionnaires – help to clarify your ideas

·         Research career options

·         Download our guides on Job Seeking

·         Register on our jobs pages, we have part-time, placements and graduate work opportunities

·         Update your CV

·         Attend the Summer Careers Fairs including PG Futures 2012, see our events pages

·         Come along to our one of our Enterprise and Skills Enrichment workshops

·         Considering further study? Take a look at the Graduate Prospects website or the free courses available online from MIT

·         Work on your network! Take a look at the Vitae website on networking

·         Using social media for job search tips via Mashable.  Also see LinkedIn tips for students and job seekers

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