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.

11 thoughts on “What Career Development Can Do That a Job Search Can’t

  1. What a great post. The difference between a job and a career can be subtle to many folks, but this post helps to really differentiate the two by comparing job searching and career development. Speaking of informational interviews, I have started a blog that has examples of informational interviews, which I agree are a vital part of building a network.


  2. As someone who has recently made a change in my career development, I found this posting incredibly helpful. It’s important to remember that a career path is one that you have the power to change.


  3. Because career development is gradual, and ideally continuous, the benefits may take time before they are realized. It seems that career development takes place in several stages and in many forms. As a grad student, I have found that career development is a deliberate process that is essential to my growth as a professional, as well as an individual.


  4. I think this article is very helpful. It is important to note that looking for a job is a short term endeavor while looking for a career is a lifetime endeavor. Job hunts focus only on the surface level characteristics of a person. Searching for a job seems like the destination while a career is a journey that gets you to the destination.
    I also think it is important to continue to explore your interests and hobbies.


  5. This is a very informative blog entry for anyone who is asking themselves the question of whether or not to develop thier skills or find a new job. In an economy like this where jobs are hard to come by it is important to research all of your options. This blog gives you a good base to start from.


  6. I should have paid more attention to the jobs I was working at well before I decided on a career. Fortunately, the jobs that I had gravitated towards and worked in the past related to the career field I am currently pursuing. It’s never too late to plan out the career you want to be in 5, 10, 20 years from now.


  7. While I feel I have always understood the importance of career development, I am learning first hand just how important it is to maintain career development at all stages of a career, not just when considering making a career change. Just because a career choice might be ‘set’ and the employee may be very happy, growth and development does not stop, or should not stop for that matter. Having worked in my industry for 14 years, I am seeing how the business world has changed and how as an employee I have changed. Reinforcing the important fact: constant career development is essential.


  8. Learning the difference between career development and job seeking has been influential in my life as it has helped me to realize not only where I want my career to take me, but how I can contribute to my chosen career in such a way that empowers me and helps me to achieve success as I define it.

    Career development is important in all of our lives as ultimately our chosen careers will have a direct impact on the happiness and sense of fulfillment we feel in our lives outside of our careers.


  9. Many people now days are faced with the situation where they are in a spot with trying to find a job, none the less a job that falls into their planned career path. I like that this article has such a positive tone to it. That though people may be put in the position to take on a job that may not be on their intended path, that there are still ways to make your career path shine through. Sacrificing by taking a better paying job, or any job for that matter while you are still working hard in other areas such as networking and volunteering. sometimes we may have to make career decisions that don’t fit so well, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make these situations work to our benefit. Great ideas in this article.


  10. I think that this is an important point to make – you may not have a particular job forever, but you can always benefit from continually exploring who you are as a person and what your long term goals and desires are. I am glad to see that many colleges are beginning to focus on a person’s continuing development (with tools such as Strengths Quest) and not just helping them get a job when they graduate.


  11. This is a very informative blog entry for anyone who is asking themselves the question of whether or not to develop thier skills or find a new job. In an economy like this where jobs are hard to come by it is important to research all of your options. This blog gives you a good base to start from.


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