It’s interesting to observe how many folks who are not career counsellors or practitioners are talking, quite definitively, about careers. Many of them have their own unique definitions of “career,” quite separate from the international field of career specialists grappling with definitions, developing theories, and supporting individuals and organizations with career development and career engagement challenges.
For example, a friend recently shared this interesting video where Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) distinguishes between hobbies, jobs, careers, and vocation. Within this context, her distinctions make sense but these definitions are not universally accepted.
Jordan Peterson, an oft-cited Canadian psychologist, also distinguishes between job and career, suggesting that careers are only accessible to very few people (and that they aren’t even all that desirable for those who achieve them – “careers are exceptionally demanding”). In contrast to striving for career success, he expounds on the importance of family – and yet most career specialists that I know include caring for family as part of one’s overall “career.”
When training counsellors and career development practitioners, we emphasize not letting our own biases get in the way of our work. By defining “career” narrowly, I believe there is a danger of perpetuating the belief that a “career” is reserved for the privileged and, consequently, only the privileged would benefit from career guidance and/or counselling. By opening up the definition of career as an umbrella term that includes work done in a variety of life roles (including as a volunteer, employee, entrepreneur, “gig” worker, student, and/or caregiver within one’s family), it becomes clear that every adult has a career and may, at times, benefit from some support in further developing it.
May your career take the form that fits for you – now and as your life changes in the future. Regardless of what term you use to describe it, your career will need tune-ups along the way. Minor adjustments may be easily managed on your own – for more major changes, considering working with a career counsellor, career coach, or career development practitioner to help you identify next steps on your life-career journey.