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Career Prospecting: the difference between a job and a career

You've graduated (or are about to) and the world is at your feet. The years of struggle are behind you and all the hard work is over. Or is it? In fact, the challenges of student life are just being replaced by the challenges of the working world.

Chances are that your first priority is to get a job. That's probably what most graduates think. But wouldn't it be better to launch your career than just get a job? So I can hear you asking, "What's the difference? Don't they both result in the same thing -- me becoming employed?" Yes and no. The Concise Oxford Dictionary describes job as "a paid position of regular employment," but career as "an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life, usually with opportunities for progress." The two sound different to me.

Yes, you have a diploma that says you have specialized education in your field. You'd like to use it to its best advantage -- that's why you spent all those years getting it -- but you need to start bringing in a pay cheque as soon as possible. Student loans and credit card balances loom. You need "a paid position of regular employment" right away. You can't afford to spend months waiting for the perfect position.

But can you launch a career in the same time it takes to find a job? In the same time it takes to mail out dozens of resumes and search the hundreds of job sites on the Internet, you can do a directed search of employers that offer challenging positions to graduates in your field: opportunities to use your knowledge and skills with possibilities for advancement.

In his book Job Hunting On the Internet, Richard Nelson Bolles (author of one of the most popular career strategy books, What Colour is Your Parachute?) quoted experiences of actual Internet job hunters. The consensus was that large job sites were a waste of time, with little or no response from resume postings and that even "entry-level" positions required previous experience. One job hunter cited receiving offers from "strange companies or... pyramid schemes (p. 176)."

Statistics show that more than 80% of job openings are never advertised (and that means anywhere -- not even on the World Wide Web), and that unsolicited resumes are seldom read by the person doing the hiring.

A focused search for employers that have a policy of recruiting graduating students is a much more assured way of finding the right job to launch your career than indiscriminate mailing campaigns or Internet searches. Richard Bolles advocated this in his first edition of What Colour is Your Parachute? and the more than 6 million copies published since have all given the same advice. In the end the best way to find a good job is through a directed search beginning with research on prospective employers.

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