Even with so many people engaged in academic pursuit, there is still a sizable segment of the population who foregoes postsecondary education and instead jumps headfirst into the world of work. After that giddy, heady feeling of success and affirmation with the first job offer, comes the stark reality for many that you actually have to get up when the alarm clock rings, go in to work when it’s a beautiful, sunny day, and spend four hours on your knees stocking boxes, boxes, and more boxes of Fruit Roll-Ups, even when you don’t want to. Welcome to adulthood. Nothing gets you there quicker than your first job.
That’s a job; what about a career? Doesn’t the very word career sound so much better, so much happier, than just a job? Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary highlights the difference. A job is defined as “a piece of work; especially a small, miscellaneous piece of work undertaken on order at a stated rate.”  A job, then, is a piece of work, small and miscellaneous. Doesn’t sound very impressive, does it?
Career, on the other hand, is something different. Career is defined as “a field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional, or business life.”  Now, that’s more like it. Career even has the word pursuit in its definition. Surely you’re getting closer to happiness when you have a career.
I wish I could agree with the Media and say that a career is a surefire path to happiness. Unfortunately, in my experience, it’s no guarantee. Imagine the difficulty a person faces who, after four years of college, decides their academic path isn’t leading to happiness. Then imagine the difficulty a person faces who, after twenty-five years in a career, decides their career path isn’t leading to happiness. Careers take time, energy, and resources to build, often in greater proportion even to education. the disappointment, then, when a career doesn’t lead to happiness can be devastating. Often it comes at a time when the person has greater obligations and responsibilities than they did while in school.
Jobs, even careers, often come with a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” component. It’s all about what’s happening right now. Supervisors come and go, expectations change, technology changes, and responsibilities change. I have known for too many people who became so comfortable in their job that they chose to derive their happiness from their careers, only to find, after twenty years with the same company, they wound up with a crystal clock with their name on it, a hearty handshake of thanks, and a pink slip during the next round of downsizing.
With all the changes that take place on a job or in a career, the one change I didn’t’ mention above is the fact that often people change. As individuals mature and age, they may one day find they have changed slowly over time so that they no longer “fit” the career they’ve chosen. I heard of one many who spent over twenty years as a social worker, dealing with difficult, troubled, and in-trouble teenagers moving through the criminal justice system. He took up this career right after college and devoted considerable time and energy to it. There came a point, however, when he decided he just couldn’t do it anymore. Criminal justice was his career, but he gave it up because it wasn’t bringing him happiness. Instead, it had become a source of discouragement and despair. The job was the same, but he wasn’t. Careers promise a lot, and when they don’t deliver, the results can be anything but happy.
Take some time and evaluate just how deeply the world and its values have colored your concepts on happiness and how to achieve it. In addition to thinking about your career, how has love shaped your road to happiness? Read here to learn more about Love as the Road to Happiness.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.
 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., s.v. “job.”
 Ibid., s.v. “career.”