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A Career vs. a Job: How to Enhance Your Employability as an International Student in Australia

This article is sponsored by HEX

There are so many things to consider when you’re an international student – visas, having a social life, personal wellbeing and, of course, your studies. Amidst this, you’re also tasked with making pivotal decisions about your future career and immediate job opportunities—decisions that could shape your life for years to come.

Understanding the difference between a job and a career is important for mapping out your life after graduation and determining where best to invest your time and efforts as an international student.

To help you navigate this a little more easily, we’ve put together this handy guide to break down what it means to work in a job or build a career.

What is a job?

While both a job and a career involve employment, in its simplest definition, a job is a role someone takes to earn a wage or income. 

As a student, it’s likely that your first role will not require you to have any formal education or prior training. Jobs can also be short-term and may not always be in areas related to your degree studies.

However, you shouldn’t dismiss jobs as being just a way of earning some money. 

While many students choose to work at a casual or part-time job during their studies as a way to pay for their education, accommodation and living essentials, the skills and experience you can gain from employment can help you build your future career.

But how exactly do these skills translate into a long future career? Well, the interpersonal skills you develop in customer service roles, such as serving or cashiering—like effective communication and problem-solving—are valuable in virtually any future career. Plus, getting good at managing your time, taking responsibility and being part of a team are all bonuses that make you stand out in the job market later.

Entering the workforce as a student can also ease the transition into full-time employment after graduation.

There are numerous jobs available to students, including:

  • Waiter or restaurant server
  • Barista
  • Receptionist
  • Cashier
  • Nanny
  • Call centre representative
  • Uber driver

Remember, as an international student living in Australia, you can work up to 48 hours per fortnight during the semester and unlimited hours during the semester break. 

What is a career?

On the other hand, a career can be made up of a number of jobs spanning many years of experience, and is often underpinned by formal education and training. You’ve probably heard a phrase along the lines of:

“If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

This usually applies to careers – something you’re passionate about and expect to be doing for a long time.

Unlike a job, which might be a short-term way to make money, a career is a long-term commitment that could involve multiple roles within the same field or industry. After graduation, students typically begin their careers by securing positions related to their studies, often starting in entry-level or junior roles. As they gain experience, they may advance to mid-level and then senior positions, though reaching a high-level role is not everyone’s ambition.

It’s important to recognise that careers are dynamic; they evolve as industries adapt to new technologies and societal changes. You might not want to do the same thing forever, and that’s okay—part of a career’s journey involves adapting and growing with the changing landscape. A career allows you to develop and refine your skills continuously, ensuring that your professional life not only contributes to your personal growth but also aligns with broader goals, whether they’re about owning a business, impacting the environment, or something else entirely.

Remember, not all careers are linear. They can twist and turn, offering new challenges and opportunities. This flexibility and the potential for personal development and fulfilment make pursuing a career an exciting journey.

Why does this difference matter?

So, why is it important to know the difference between a job and a career? Understanding the difference helps you align with your personal goals while recognising the reality many face: balancing both at the same time.

A job might be the right choice if you need to earn money quickly. Jobs are usually easier to get and don’t always require specialised skills or a long-term commitment. However, while working these jobs, consider how they can also serve your broader career ambitions.

For example, while you earn from a job, think about how you can use this time to acquire new skills or expand your professional network. These steps are especially important for international graduate students, who might find it tough to land their first job due to limited experience. By adopting a dual focus—earning from a job while actively preparing for a career—you can ensure that your current employment not only provides financial stability but also contributes positively to your professional development.

Think about where you want to be in 30 years. Are your current efforts not only fulfilling your immediate financial needs but also laying the groundwork for your long-term career goals? This approach helps you make meaningful progress toward where you ultimately want to be.

How can international students prepare for a job vs. a career?

It’s no secret that entering the job market as a student can be daunting, especially when you have little or no work experience in your field. To better prepare yourself, you may consider internships, work placements and other programs that are tailored to help students looking to build experience related to their future careers. 

For example, the HEX Degree Accelerator Program is specifically designed for university students and recent graduates who need to balance work and study. This flexible 6-week online course fits perfectly within your current academic schedule, allowing you to continue working part-time while you participate. During the course, you’ll benefit from expert-led innovation workshops and mentoring sessions. You’ll build a work-ready portfolio from real-world experience, partake in the equivalent of a semester’s worth of internship, and connect and network with industry experts from leading companies like Atlassian, UpBank, Telstra, and Google.

The HEX Degree Accelerator Program comes with an Academic Record issued by the University of Sydney which can be used to earn academic credit at participating universities across Australia.

Your education provider’s career support services and job boards are also great resources. Make sure you check out what help is on offer and take advantage of it when you’re looking to land a job or start your career. 

Where should international students invest their time?

So, should you look for a job or a career? As a student, your ultimate goal should always be to invest in your career.

However, if you’re not currently working in your desired industry, don’t stress! Careers can sometimes unexpectedly start from part-time jobs, and the skills you gain in any role, such as time management, communication, organisation and problem-solving, will be valuable to you throughout your entire working life. 

By understanding the difference between a job and a career, you can invest your time more wisely in building skills and finding opportunities that align with your future goals and aspirations.

For whatever’s next, start with HEX.

Time to level-up and become the next “big deal”.

HEX Innovation Programs are the simplest first step to launching your next move.