Teen practices using a blood pressure cuff.

A job and a career are quite different. Knowing the differences is important because your first few jobs will likely be outside your desired career field. Let’s look at the differences between the two and discuss how jobs are one way to prepare for a career. 

Jobs vs. Careers 

Jobs are often short-term positions, usually acquired with the goal of earning money and gaining work experience which can transfer to almost any other job. You may or may not have an interest in the job you’re doing. That’s okay. Think of jobs as stepping stones to a career, not the destination.

Conversely, careers are often long-term; however, most people will have several careers in their lifetime. One generally desires to pursue a specific career, is often passionate about it, and undergoes education and/or substantial training to obtain it. 

Work Experience 

Students with blindness or low vision can prepare for a career by gaining paid work experience while still in high school. The National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC) notes that paid work experience while in high school is one of the leading predictors of success in post-high school employment, education, and independent living for individuals with disabilities. High school employment helps workers learn about the world of work, gain transferrable job skills, and often opens doors for future employment. 

Though a job may not be related to an individual’s chosen career field, much is still gained. Benefits of work experience include developing a work ethic, learning codes of conduct related to a particular job, gaining knowledge of career-related technology, interacting with coworkers, learning about the given industry, and acquiring knowledge about work in general. 

Career Preparation 

Gaining your first job and getting some work experience under your belt is an important step in preparing for a career. Developing a long-term goal relating to your chosen career is equally important. This is a learning experience because it can involve a lot of research, career exploration, and self-exploration. You can begin by exploring career fields of interest. 

Exploring career fields and clusters, which are groups of careers with common features, is one of the best ways to learn about careers of interest. For example, in education, there are many occupations, such as teacher, para-educator, principal, curriculum developer, consultant, etc. The various occupations within a career cluster are sometimes called “career pathways.” You can browse professions within various career clusters; visit O*NET Online and Career Pathways | NC Career Clusters Guide (nccareers.org). Likewise, visiting various work sites and conversing with workers in interested careers can be extremely valuable in helping you determine which career clusters and pathways interest you.  

You can also work with a transition teacher or guidance counselor to learn about career pathways that match your interests and values. Most technical colleges and university websites, too, have great information about various careers. Taking a career interest inventory may be a good start, but for students who have little work experience, the results may be less helpful.  

APH ConnectCenter and Other Resources 

The APH ConnectCenter offers resources that can be used independently or within a transition class. The Job Seeker’s Toolkit can help you with self-exploration. Additionally, you can watch Career Conversations, a series of interviews with various blind or low-vision professionals, archived on YouTube. They are a tremendous resource for learning about how individuals choose their given career, what education and training are required, what technology they use, and what they wish they would have known before entering a given career or job. 

Lastly, all students with disabilities should work with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. The agency may go by different names in various states, including the Department of Rehabilitation Services or State Services for the Blind, often called VR or Vocational Rehabilitation. If determined eligible for VR services, they can assist you with job exploration and help you develop an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE), and they can assist with training, accommodations, and job placement. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation often provides several 90-day work experiences in a variety of different jobs with the purpose of evaluating one’s job skills. 

Once a career goal has been chosen, one can develop a step-by-step action plan to get there. Plans often change, and there is nothing wrong with this. For many, the only way to learn what type of job or career you like is by gaining some work experience.