When Did My Job Become a Career?

When did the job I took because it paid the bills and gave me some cash to blow on books and movies turn into a career with goals and a five (or so) year plan? Is this something that happens to everyone as they age (I prefer the term ‘mature’) or am I the odd one out? Maybe this is just something that happens to you if you hang around the same field of endeavour for a long time. There are several events which could mark this change. One of them may hold the key to the mystery or they all could be warning signs of an impending career which I’ve blithely ignored.

Did it start with certifications? In the IT industry, these are bits of paper which say that you should know enough about a particular product or technology not to screw it up when implementing or maintaining it. Their main purpose is advertising and tie-breaking when someone must choose between you and another bloke for the contract. I got the first in a whole slew of certification in 1998 and I’m about to start on another bunch of them. Does being certified give me an IT career? Definitely not. I know too many people with high-level certifications I wouldn’t trust in front of a keyboard at my company.

Did it start when people you’ve never met know your name? Brisbane is a fairly small IT marketplace by world – or even Australian – standards. For some years now, I’d run into people at IT-related functions who have worked with people I worked with. They’d heard of me and were just wondering whether I might be free to help them out with something. Also, after nearly five years out of the contracting market, I still have IT recruiters phone me asking who I know looking for work with a particular skill set. Does this visibility give me an IT career? I doubt it. This is more likely a recognition that I’ve been around for too long.

I think the change from job to career happened in the instant I started thinking about what comes next. There’s a change in mindset between “I’m sick o’ this. I’ll start looking for a new job.” and “how do I position myself to move into that role.” The first is concerned solely about the present or, to the degree it looks at the future, about removing the discomforts of the current situation. The second is about the future and how to take advantage of it. This change of mindset says “now you have a career.”