by Denise Felder
What’s the difference between job searching and career development?
The two pursuits often include the same activities—polishing a resume, networking, and finding opportunities (paid or unpaid) to use your skills. It’s the motivation behind these actions that makes them different.
Job searching has short-term goals, and produces concrete results: a job offer. Career development is ongoing, and doesn’t have to have immediate results to be extremely beneficial. Most people who have thought about career development have a clear idea of where they want to be in 5, 10, or 20 years. They’ve considered what role work plays in their lives, and know what activities make them feel fulfilled.
Another important difference between job searching and career development is a person’s attitude toward his or her employment, and the choices she or he makes. A person interested in career development looks at every job prospect or volunteer activity and asks how that position fits into his or her long-term career goals.
Career development can mean making sacrifices, such as choosing between a high-paying job not in a chosen field, and a lower-paying, part-time, or contract position that is related to the field. A short-sighted job seeker, on the other hand, is more likely to take a job based only on the pay, a convenient schedule, or the location. This job seeker may not be concerned about the skills he or she could gain on the job, a potential new network, or how the job will add to his or her resume.
Is career development realistic in times like these when any job is hard to come by? How can you make career development a priority when the financial reality is that you need to find a well-paying job in any field as soon as possible?
- Find a job that allows you the time to continue activities in your preferred field. If you are working regular weekday hours, for example, dedicate one or two evenings or the weekends to your career development. Set a timeline for how long you are willing to work in a job not related to your career and adjust your career plan accordingly.
- Seek out volunteer positions, internships, job shadows, and other activities, sometimes called work-based learning, which will increase your skills and help you learn about your preferred career field as you earn money with a non-related job.
- Continue to build your network in your chosen career field. Stay active in professional organizations. Set up informational interviews on a regular basis. Participate in online communities by asking and answering industry-related questions and posting useful information.
- Examine your career development plan on a regular basis. Monitor your progress on your short- and long-term goals. Remind yourself of your professional and personal priorities, and assess what you are doing to support these priorities.
A successful job search will lead to a job. That’s what a job search is for. But is that job part of your career plans? Will it help you achieve your long-term goals? Paying attention to your own career development will allow you to look at your work history, and your life, and see how the choices you make today will improve and shape your future career success.
That’s what career development does that a job search can’t.