Jobs vs Careers
— career — 3 min read
Careers are long journeys, 40 years considering that an average person starts hustling around the age of 20 and works until 60. But careers have transitioned a lot between the previous generation and what we're witnessing right now. We have seen grandparents and parents stick to a job and retire at the same organization, working there for 35+ years. This is not how careers look like today. A typical person starting their career today will spend time at 10-12 companies before they retire.
With this shift, we need to evaluate how to assess risk and revisit the definition of a job vs a career.
A job is trading time and a set of skills for benefits with an organization.
A career is building leverage and professional identity.
Leverage is built by acquiring skills. Leverage is what allows you to negotiate better benefits at jobs. Benefits can mean lot of things to an individual like money, a comfortable life, working at a preferred location, a remote job or anything that makes you happy to trade time with the company.
Optimize for skills at the beginning of your career. This is because acquiring skills will lead to specialization and expertise. As you have relevant experience to back your skills, companies will pay a premium to utilize them. Early in your career you also have the time outside of job to work on acquiring either extra skills or build a niche in the current skillset.
As you move ahead in life your non-career responsibilities may increase. It may not be possible to allocate time outside of the job to gain new skills or re-skill. If you had optimized for skills early in the career, you will be at a comfortable place in terms of benefits and can reap off for the years to come. Although some effort will be required order to keep those skills are a baseline level lest you fall behind the latest developments in your domain.
If you are optimizing for benefits in the early run but not necessarily focusing on skills, you will find that the benefits plateau after a certain time because there is a fresh talent in the market available with a lesser skill gap that is willing to work for much less and you'll be facing a career death. Career death is when you can no longer exercise the leverage to gain benefits in exchange.
When making decisions in everyday lives about what jobs to accept, we usually think that what would happen if this job doesn't work out. But getting a new job these days is easy if you have the relevant skills that are required in the market. Life is unpredictable and there maybe times when a job change is necessary for your well-being. You may need more money, need to move to a different city, have a bad boss that is making your life miserable - and at that point, if you do not have the skills that the market needs, you will continue to have a miserable life.
By shifting your perspective from what is in front of you to what really lies ahead, one can take an accurate perception of risk and avoid career death in the long run.