What is a career?

Traditionally the term 'career' referred to paid employment. Today a career is defined as much more than simply a way to pay the bills.

In the past having a career was synonymous with 'earning a living'. It was about performing a service or task for a specified time period in exchange for monetary reward.

However there has been a major shift in our perception and understanding of what a career is.

In fact the word 'career' is now associated with both paid and unpaid work, as well as volunteer experiences, according to education.vic.gov.au.

It is about more than just the money you earn and may be seen as a process that you participate in throughout your life.

Career is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a person's "course or progress through life (or a distinct portion of life)" - Wikipedia. However, even this definition falls short of fully describing all the expectations and desires associated with careers today.

This definition has undergone a drastic change as more people seek to derive meaning, pleasure and satisfaction from their work life.

A career is now more accurately understood as the ongoing process to learn new skills and knowledge, apply this learning, make a unique contribution through work and feel satisfied with this contribution.

The desire to achieve success and satisfaction at work has motivated people to take responsibility for their own learning and personal development. The dynamics have changed and life long learning has become an integral part of working life, according to education.vic.gov.au.

The motivation to perform is no longer derived from a pay check or the fear of workplace discipline. Employees are becoming internally driven to expand their work experience, express their individual abilities and excel in every area.

People are also demanding greater freedoms at work in order to achieve this self actualisation, and as a result there has been a growing emphasis on part time, casual and contract work. It is no longer uncommon for employees to spend an equal amount of time at home and work.

A career is no longer defined as the ability to consistently work in the same job or industry for life. In fact finding fulfillment through work often motivates people to leave their regular jobs in order to start a small business, or pursue an interest in a completely different field of study.

For example, it is not unheard of for an experienced accountant to suddenly discover a passion for acting after years of financial practice.

Alternatively a career could mean pursing more than one interest or profession at the same time. Some people find it more sustainable to maintain a regular job and pursue other interests after hours.

The continuous changes in technology and communication, as well as greater competition and increasing globalisation have also played a role in revolutionizing the world of work.

As a result the nature of careers or employment opportunities have changed. The idea of a 9 to 5 job has been replaced by flexible work hours, remote workforces and online businesses.

This combination of external factors and internal motivations has created both positive and negative outcomes for business.

On the one had employees are eager to contribute their skills and unique talents at work which is a major benefit to organisations. However businesses are finding it difficult to retain staff as employee are now more likely to look for opportunities, outside of work, to learn and grow.

There are now more possibilities and opportunities for professionals to find fulfillment through work and create their own definition of what it means to have a career.

By Cindy Payle - Portal Publishing

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