Understanding your sector
Understanding your sector

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2 What are the differences between these terms?

In the last section, you were introduced to several terms – job, profession, business/industry and sector. You also discovered that sometimes people use these terms in different ways, so perhaps a good place to start is with some definitions from Oxford Dictionaries.

Firstly, a job is defined as ‘a paid position of regular employment’ (Oxford Dictionaries, 2021). The important factors are that it is paid and regular, meaning that it can range from a very unskilled role, such as a building labourer, to one requiring lengthy training, such as a surgeon.

A profession, however, is defined as ‘a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification’ (Oxford Dictionaries, 2021), which immediately discounts many jobs from being professions. Based on this definition, ‘building labourer’ would probably be described as a job but not a profession, whereas a surgeon would be both. Similar expressions such as ‘role’ and ‘career’ can also be used, which have certain connotations.

An industry is defined as ‘a particular form or branch of economic or commercial activity’ (Oxford Dictionaries, 2016), which means that it must have a specific identity. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a traditional industry − it could be a service or a public sector area, such as a hospital or a secondary school.

Compare this with a sector, defined as ‘a distinct part or branch of a nation’s economy or society or of a sphere of activity such as education’ (Oxford Dictionaries, 2021), encompassing several businesses or industries. For example, the engineering sector in the UK will include the car, aircraft, rail and nuclear power industries, among others.

Activity 2 Categorising jobs

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Look at the examples given in the table below and see if you can fill the gaps for the final two examples before reading the comment.

Table 2 Filling the gaps
Job Profession Business/industry Sector
Primary school teaching assistant Teaching Primary school Education
Credit controller in a car factory Accountancy Car manufacture Finance
Electrical goods section manager in a department store Retail management Sale of electrical goods Retail
Mental health nurse in a special hospital
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Motor mechanic in a garage
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Words: 0
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Comment

The table below shows the responses you might have given, although your wording might be slightly different.

Table 3 Filling the gaps example
Job Profession Business/industry Sector
Primary school teaching assistant Teaching Primary school Education
Credit controller in a car factory Accountancy Car manufacture Finance
Electrical goods section manager in a department store Retail management Sale of electrical goods Retail
Mental health nurse in a special hospital Nursing Hospital Health
Motor mechanic in a garage Mechanic Automobile repair Engineering

If you came up with different answers, that is fine – people use terms in a variety of ways – but have a think about why this was the case. Does this tell you anything about you and how you think about your job and its wider context?

If your answers to this activity were markedly different from ours, think about why this might be the case and write your thoughts in your notebook or the Notes tool in the Toolkit [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Now let’s transfer this to your own situation. In Activity 1 you were asked to think about your job, or one you have had or aspire to, and to imagine its wider context in terms of profession, business/industry and sector. You will be revisiting this in Activity 3.

Activity 3 My job context part 2

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Go back to Activity 1 and think again about the answers you gave to the questions. In the light of these new definitions, do you still think the same or would you like to make any changes?

Table 4 Where does my job fit in?
Joe’s response Your response
Job title Software engineer
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Profession IT professional
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Business/industry Fashion
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Sector Retail
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Words: 0
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Comment

Did these new definitions help you see your situation in a different light? Did they enable you to be more precise in the answers you gave? Have they prompted you to think about how people can view things in different ways?

You have now started to look at the bigger picture surrounding your job, or the job that you would like to have, and to think about the meaning of important terms such as job, profession, business/industry and sector. Understanding these terms and how they interrelate will provide a richer picture of the world of work and help you to appreciate the career possibilities within it. This is a key step towards achieving your full career potential.

You will look at this in more detail in Section 3.

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