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A job and a career are not the same. A job could be a temporary or short-term way to earn money whereas a career is something that takes planning and working towards an end goal.

When talking to young people about to go to university, I often ask them why they’re doing a particular course, diploma or degree – and what they want to do with it. Many end up looking a little confused, and say they have no clue what they want to do – but that any qualification is better than none.

That’s partly true; however, even graduates are not guaranteed employment in today’s tough job market. Moreover, finding the right career is about more than just securing a job that pays the bills, or that even pays the most; it’s about working out what drives you.

Imagine if you study or gain experience (through internships, learnerships or apprenticeships) in an area that blows your hair back. Think about what gets you excited about the working world (as hard as that may be) and where you want to be in 10 years time.

To figure out if you’re simply looking for your next job or are embarking on a long-term career path, ask yourself these questions:

What am I working for?

  • Is it purely for money and a means to an end, or do you want a sense of fulfilment at the end of each day, month and year?
  • What did you dream of doing when you were growing up? Is there still time to redeem that goal or dream and find a way to make an income from your passions and interests?
  • Working in a position that’s not too challenging
  • Working nine to five with a steady income
  • Learning new things each and every day on the job
  • Happy to work long hours or for myself doing something I love

Where do I want to be in 10 years time?

Understanding what and where you want to be in the future will help you better align your current choices to your future goals. Not everyone will want a challenging career or to manage an entire team of people – and that’s okay.

But, if you want to build a career that’s more than just the job you do, it’s about plotting a long-term course for yourself – starting today. Begin by researching the career you’d like to pursue. This will help you eliminate careers that seem great on the surface but don’t actually align with your interests or talents. Career research will also allow you to identify various jobs that can help get your started or get ahead on your chosen career path – as careers are frequently made up of a collection of jobs and positions that help you gain more experience.

See what successful people in that career have done to get ahead. You may have to do a little ‘gap analysis’: compare what they had or did to what you have or can do. Not everyone’s career paths would be identical, and at the end of the day, you will have to plot your course to your own circumstances.

For example, if you cannot afford university fees, apply for loans, bursaries or research alternative places of learning that align with your career choice. If full-time studying is off the cards, try taking night classes or enrol in distance learning, whilst holding down a current or part-time job on the side.

Most importantly, don’t be scared to start at the bottom. Too many people come out of university or college and expect to be near the top of the chain just because they have a qualification. It takes a lot more than theory to get to the top. Building a career is a process that takes time, commitment and constant action to find job satisfaction.

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About the author:

Bev Morrison is a development coach based in Johannesburg. She opened her coaching practice in 2008 after an 18-year corporate career. For more information or to contact Bev Morrison visit www.developmentcoach.co.za or www.facebook.com/DevelopmentCoaching

For more career development advice, visit the FAQ section at www.careerplanet.co.za

‘The biggest mistake that you can make is to believe that you are working for somebody else. Job security is gone. The driving force of a career must come from the individual. Remember: Jobs are owned by the company, you own your career!’ – Earl Nightingale 

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