Working or Building a Career? -Steve Obiakor


In this part of Africa where the rate of job loss is menacingly high, it is important for young people to understand what defines a job and differentiates it from a career. Many young people have lost jobs, and have been unable to secure another due to lack of proper career thoughts and approaches in the previous job. Almost everybody who earns money is involved in one job or the other. People who commit crimes such as armed robbery, smuggling, trafficking, thuggery are all working! They are all euphemistically referred to as jobs. The motorcycle operators, tricycle drivers, commercial bus drivers and their conductors etc are all working. In a nutshell, everybody is working but very few are building careers.

Now you’ll agree with me that you’d like to see your job differently, you’d like not to be classified alongside such other workers especially in the crime industry.
Inability to differentiate between career development and working has caused a lot of people to remain in one job, in the same position for a very long time if not for a life time. Many of them acquire all the academic qualifications required to develop a career in that industry yet they never moved an inch. The fact that one has done a job for a very long time does not mean he has built a career in it. Let us at this juncture juxtapose doing a job and building a career.

  • A job is basically what you do to earn some cash. The only thing that matters to the person who is doing a job is basically the cash. Therefore, he does only those things that can only ensure his/her cash is earned; those things that guarantee that he’s not owed. Such workers only put in their best effort when their pay is threatened.
  •  The person developing a career considers what he learns more important than what he earns. He learns a lot of skills in that job; he develops himself for higher assignments, he goes beyond whatever academic qualification he has obtained and engages in personalized trainings that equips him for higher tasks.
  • An individual who is just doing a job can move from one organization to another in the same position, doing the same job simply because the pay is higher
  •  A career builder would preferably move for a higher position which of course has a higher pay. What it means is that he sees growth, he sees value first and he believes that when he creates values, money comes in search of values.
  • Trent Hamm wrote, “In a career, however, your goal is to not only get the task done, but it’s also to learn skills, gain experiences, build connections, and put yourself in position for promotions, raises, and possibly similar positions in other organizations. That’s a lot more than just getting the task done, and that means putting your ear to the grindstone.
  • In other words, you should be investing at least some emotional energy into a career. You should be looking for ways that you can get promotions and raises and bonuses and useful resume-building skills and experience. This means always going the extra mile and doing tasks that are beyond your minimum job description, building positive relationships with people around you, and so on.
  • You should fight hard for a career until you get to the level of success that you want. That doesn’t mean alienating other pieces of your life. It means setting a professional goal, figuring out what you have to do to get there, and getting to work”

In education for instance, I’ve heard the opportunity of interviewing many teachers with Masters degrees for the post of a principal, but could not employ any. The problem was that many of them were professionally and academically qualified but they lacked the managerial and leadership skills to hold the position of a principal. These skills are built over time while one grows as a teacher. That’s why it’s important to note that the number of years of requisite experience matter less than the quality of those years. A teacher retires after working for 25 years and yet cannot head a local adult education center or a skill acquisition center. She turns to selling soup condiments in the local market. Similar thing happens in other industries such as banking and other service related industries.

Those who engage in career advancement create more jobs as they move higher. They see a lot of opportunities in the industry they’re operating, they harness some of these opportunities and create an organization thereby providing employment for others. Those who build careers in education may likely provide school support services if they’re unable to establish and run a school due to funds. Those who build career in banking can create an avenue for people to learn cash management and investment skills thereby creating more employment opportunities. In a society where many young people are only interested in “working” or “doing a job” , unemployment spreads like epidemic.
One of the major banes of career advancement in Nigeria is casualisation of workers. Many organizations practice modern day slavery by employing workers on casual basis. Many banks outsource their jobs taking no responsibility for their workers. How can i be working in a bank, carrying the identity card of such a bank as a staff, yet another company pays me and determines how I grow or not in my job? This situation has actually limited so many young people from promotions and raises. However, I see a reason to actually do a lot of individual training and learning in this. It’s a kind of push that should spurn you into believing more in yourself, your industry than believing in that organization.
Career advancement, does not just help us grow as individuals, it helps the society to develop, it builds the economy and strengthens institutions. If your job does not allow room for career growth, please change your job.

9 Replies to “Working or Building a Career? -Steve Obiakor”

  1. Quite inspiring.
    Bt my questn: Isn’t it wise to move from one job to another of the same position or even lesser provided the offer is twice higher given the biting economic realities and rising financial responsibilities?

    1. Dandy, there’s always a reason for people to move from one job to another. What matters really is the level of self developmental skills one has acquired in job A and puts them in practice in job B.

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