Saturday, January 23, 2016

Job vs Career

Since moving to Tucson and working for Fangamer, I've had a very different outlook on what my job means to me. I find I think about work in a fundamentally different way than I used to, and not just because I'm doing something different. This difference goes beyond a job description: it represents a fundamental change in the relationship between my work and my life.

Before working at Fangamer, I really did most of what I do now at different points throughout my previous jobs: at Planet Graphics I communicated with clients and delivered on their expectations; at Gamestop I performed customer service and practiced conversational persuasion; at Great Southern Computers I solved technical problems and ran errands; at Rouses Supermarket I organized stock and mastered repetitive tasks. In many ways, what I do now is not technically different than what I did before. However, before now most of my work didn't follow me home.

Working at my previous jobs was always a means to get by: work paid my bills and got me through college. When work was over, I was able to get back to the things that were important to me: gaming, friends, reading, and so on. Work was over as soon as I clocked out, usually. I was dedicated to doing my job well and to not abandon my co-workers if I was needed, but when work was done for the day the problems generally became the problems of a future me, the one who would be clocking in the next day or after the weekend or something. It wasn't important enough to my life to warrant anything more than that.

Nowadays, I do have some work/life separation. However, the priority has been switched: work is where I take care of the important things in my life, where I'm doing things that will affect my future. Most of my off-the-clock activities are things I do specifically to improve my job performance, whether I'm taking classes to learn new skills or making a conscious effort to rest well so that I can bring my best to work in the future. Work-related issues are often on my mind, and I have to spend time distracting myself from them in order to return to them later with fresh eyes.

The difference between a job and a career, as far as I can tell, is that a job is working in the moment, while a career is working to the future. Neither is necessarily better than the other. If your passion is something that you probably can't make a living doing, such as raising your children or playing video games, then a job is probably what you want since it's less likely to distract from your passion. On the other hand, if your passion is marketable, like cartooning or teaching or writing, a proper career can reinforce that passion and not only help it grow but also give it meaning.

My career today is my life in a way that none of my previous jobs ever were. Through my work I see branching paths ahead of me, each one a potential future that will come to pass depending on how I spend my time, each one a path to fulfillment. If only everyone could be so lucky.

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