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Is It a Career, A Job, or Does It Even Matter?

I caught the headline of this article about a Careebuilder survey that says half of employees view their current situation as “just a job”, and my immediate reaction was that I didn’t see a problem with that.

TechRepublic obviously doesn’t agree with me, since the rest of that article talks about the risk of turnover to companies and how to get employees engaged.

But, let me lay out my case for why I don’t see the problem.

Because, it’s reality. This is not the 50’s anymore. If I work at Walmart, my career ambitions may be to have a great career in retail management, but my current position at Walmart? Just a job. My career is retail, not Walmart.

If I can create a retail management career there that meets my desires, great, but if not, there are lots of other retail jobs out there. Anything else is giving Walmart too much power over you.

Do we really believe Walmart would keep me around if I didn’t exactly meet their needs any longer, because that’s my career?

Let’s take this from the hypothetical to reality. I’ve made a career out of the eDiscovery industry since 2007. In those 12 years, I’ve worked in 4 “jobs”. I’ve gone from law firm, to software companies teaching people how to use tools, back to a law firm doing the actual work, and I’ll soon be doing something else. I tend to think being on a couple of different sides of the industry has improved my career in ways that far outpace what would have occurred in any of those jobs.

Frankly, I think more people would do well to remember that this is “just a job”. Not because they should disengage, or not care about their work, (quite the contrary, be willing to do excellent work regardless, because as you move from job to job, you’ll run into these people again), but because we’d be better off if more people were willing to leave.

I have always been a proponent of evaluating your current situation based on what you want from your workplace. Yes, the money, but also the work-life balance, the flexibility, the opportunities for growth and learning, the people you work with, even the location. All of these need to be a fit for the life and career you want to have. If they aren’t a fit, then go do something that is.

Because, again, if your employer doesn’t see you as a fit for the role they want going forward, they won’t hesitate to make that change, will they?

Why do so many people value loyalty above all else, when the thing they are being loyal to, doesn’t? If you lived through the manufacturing bust, the dot-com bubble, or any number of mass layoffs in your own industry, why do you just assume it won’t happen to you?

What you have right now, is a job. You and your employer have agreed upon the role, the pay, the benefits, etc. Your career, though, belongs to you, and goes where you go. Your current situation either falls in line with that, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, I guess you might be more likely to view what you do as “just a job”, but even if it does, never let yourself think of it as anything more than a job either.

That only leads to complacency, and that’s not way to grow a career.



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