A lot of English learners confuse the words job, work, and career. Today, I’m going to teach you how to use each one correctly – as well as various collocations (typical phrases) in which you can use these words. To learn practical English for your job and career, check out the Business English Course.
A job is a regular and official activity that you do, and receive money (a salary) for your activity. It is also called a profession or an occupation. You can have a full-time job (40 hours per week) or a part-time job (around 25 hours per week).
When someone is looking for a job, this is sometimes called the “job hunt” or “job search.” If you have a friend who’s looking for a job, you can ask them, “How’s the job hunt going?”
To find a job, you can check the job listings online or in the newspaper – these are small advertisements about job openings (job opportunities). The process of trying to get a specific job – when you send your resume or CV to a company – is called applying for a job.
If the company offers you the job and you say “yes,” then you have gotten the job!
To describe a person’s job, you can say it is:
- a demanding job (requires a lot of effort)
“Being an emergency surgeon is a demanding job – you have to be on call 24 hours a day.”
- a fulfilling / rewarding job (it makes you feel good)
“Working with refugee children was one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve had.”
- an entry-level job (a job that can be done by someone who is just beginning their career, which doesn’t require much experience or many skills)
“Daniel got an entry-level job as an administrative assistant.”
- a dead-end job (a job that has no opportunities for advancement or promotions)
“Being a truck driver is a dead-end job.”
- a high-powered job (a dynamic and important job)
“After she published her book, she got a high-powered job as director of a national newspaper.”
- a lucrative job (a job where you earn a lot of money)
“My mother wants me to marry a guy with a lucrative job – like a doctor or lawyer.”
The word job is a countable noun:
- Right after graduating from college, I worked two jobs so that I could pay off my student loans faster.
- Terry has had seven jobs in the past five years.
WORK (noun AND verb)
The word work is more general than “job” – whereas “job” is a specific occupation/profession, “work” refers to general efforts and activities done to accomplish a goal. “Work” can be done both inside an official job and outside a job!
- You can say you work at / for (a company): “I work at General Motors.”
- You can say you’re working on (a project / task): “I’m working on a market analysis” or “I’m working on improving customer satisfaction.”
- You can say you work with (people / objects): “I work with special needs children” or “I work with hazardous chemicals.”
The word work also refers to the context of your place of employment – so we can say:
“I start work at 7 AM.” (not “I start my job at 7 AM”)
“I finish / leave work at 4:30.” (not “I finish my job at 4:30”)
– An informal way to say “leave work” is “get off work”
“We go to work by car.” (not “We go to our job by car”)
“I went to the bar with some friends from work.”
“I can’t access Facebook when I’m at work.” (not “at my job”)
“Work” is an uncountable noun, so it is not used in the plural:
- I have three works to do this week.
- I have three projects to do this week.
- I have three things / tasks to do this week.
- I have three assignments to do this week.
Exception: when talking about works of art / literature.
Your career is the total progression of your professional life. It can include many different jobs over the years.
You can have a career in (a field) – for example, a career in politics / journalism / teaching / finance
Here are a few more collocations with career:
- embark on a career = begin a career
- pursue a career = make an effort to have a career
- a promising career = a career with good future potential
- a varied career = a career with jobs in many different areas
- career prospects = career opportunities
- switch your career = change your career
- career takes off = when someone’s career starts to become very successful
- at the height / peak of your career = at the most successful point in your career
- ruin your career = when your career is destroyed
Now try the quiz on the difference between job, work, and career!