A career > a job

What do we expect from work? Fulfillment? Joy? Growth? Security? Status? Providing for those we love? This question (among others) drives this blog. And, despite some serious effort, I still can’t answer it very well.  But a recent episode of the popular James Altucher show convinced me that I definitely want a career and not a job.

James was interviewing comic Paul Mecurio, whose credits include The Daily Show, The Stephen Colbert Show, and other television. Paul is also a law grad – and I’m a sucker for a good recovering or transitioning lawyer story. Most of the episode is Paul recounting his amazing career journey. He went from Wall Street, where he worked as both a lawyer and banker, to comedy, then briefly back to Wall Street and then, finally, back to comedy for good.

During his first run at comedy he had made a modest name for himself and recorded a TV comedy spot with a number of other up-and-coming comics. The spot was to air some months into the future. While he was waiting for the spot to air, Paul became disheartened with comedy and returned to Wall Street, keeping his former life as a comic a secret from his banking colleagues for fear they wouldn’t respect him. He was sitting in a deal meeting in Phoenix, Arizona when the CEO of the company that was being acquired recognized Paul from the previously recorded TV spot (which had recently aired) and asked Paul if he planned to make a full-time career of comedy. Paul laughed uncomfortably at being “outed” as a comic and said that his comedy days were behind him.

A bit dismayed, the CEO said: “Well, if you do stick with comedy, you’ll have a career and not just a job.”

Paul says that this statement, this elevation of a career over a job, validated what he was doing as a comic and convinced him to return to comedy and ultimately to success.

In another part of the podcast Paul expanded on the difference between a job and a career when he observed that there’s a level of ownership in a career that doesn’t always equate with a job. Paul said that when he was working as both a banker and a lawyer he was whispering in the ear of the guy doing the deal. But the deal wasn’t his deal. Paul went on:

As a lawyer or a banker “you’re invested in the deal insofar as you want to do well and get a big bonus . . . but it ain’t yours. You didn’t create anything, you didn’t build anything from scratch. It ain’t yours.”

He contrasted that with comedy in which he wrote words, he put them together a certain way, he said them, and people reacted. All the money he made and all the prestige he had as a lawyer or banker paled in comparison to bringing his jokes into the world. That, in Paul’s words, was “a whole other planet.”

I can’t define “a career,” at least I don’t know what it looks like for me yet.  I don’t think you have to be self-employed or take some crazy career leap like Paul did but I don’t think you can just go along or take the path of least resistance, either.

What I can tell you is that based off of how Paul Mecurio describes it, it’s what I want. I want something that I own, something that I build, something that I create from scratch. I don’t want to be whispering in someone else’s ear about their deal. I want my own deal. I want to put the words together. I want to own the audience’s reaction, good or bad. I want something that “ain’t yours” because it’s mine.

I’m building a community of legal professionals who want more than a job. I want to find people who want a career. Maybe you don’t have a career now. Maybe it’s in development. Maybe, like me, you can’t define it but Paul Mecurio’s words ring true. Is this you? If so, sign up for the newsletter. Get in touch. Let’s travel this road together. Let’s, like Paul, put the words together ourselves. Let’s own the reaction. Let’s change the world.