The impact that your individual job decisions have on your career
A career is generally defined as the course or path that a person follows with regards to their work life.
A job on the other hand is an individual part of the person's career and might be something that they change several or more times during their career.
In the past it wasn't unusual for a person to hold one job perhaps for their entire career or at least for a significant period of time but these days the thought of someone holding the same job for their entire working life is quite rare even if they're self-employed.
One of the interesting aspects of a career is all the individual decisions that are made by a person as they navigate through their work life. We generally expect a person to have a logical progression of jobs with increasing levels of seniority throughout their career. Typically a person graduates from one job to another and gains more experience and thus more responsibilities and hopefully a better salary to boot.
Often we hear people talking about their career path and how they describe how they expect to move up the corporate ladder and progress from one job to the next and that there is a logical path that they must follow to reach the eventual position that they desire.
Hiring managers tend to look for this sort of career progression too and often a lack of a noticeable path in your resume can prohibit you from attaining the level that you desire.
This "traditional" career path though doesn't seem to be as cut and dried as it used to be as many people often make a decision part way through their career that perhaps the path and career they've chosen simply isn't what they wish to do anymore. Perhaps it's the stress and long hours, maybe it's something else that causes the person to decide that the path they've chosen isn't one that they want to complete anymore.
From a hiring manager's perspective though, they do tend to look for a logical progression of responsibilities and look to see that a person's sequence of jobs seem to flow from one to the next. It can often be difficult for people to convince a hiring manager that they are the right person for the job if that person doesn't seem to have the "ideal" or expected career path. Companies do tend to hire people who have already done something rather than hiring people who they think can do the job.
When switching jobs, it's important to consider a number of things related to the position you're thinking of accepting and the company you're considering joining. Future hiring managers may base their opinion of you - and your suitability to join their firm - on a number of factors including your previous career choices.
The specific companies you've worked for, the industries you've worked in, the size of companies, even the reputation of the firms you've worked for can all impact your ability to join certain companies in the future, some of whom may have biases for or against the previously mentioned attributes.
While a job is something that you hold currently your career represents the longer term and individual job decisions that you make today can impact your career well into the future.