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Understanding your sector
Understanding your sector

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3 Why are these definitions important?

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Figure 3

Understanding the differences between job, profession, business/industry and sector is not purely an academic exercise, but has very practical uses. Put simply, widening your perspective can help you to realise your potential. Take the example of Joe from Section 1, a software engineer with a fashion retailer. How he defines himself and the context within which he does so can have important implications for his future.

When Joe thinks about his future, he could begin from several starting points.

  • Software engineer

    This might lead Joe to look for similar roles at the same level in other organisations.

  • IT professional

    This might lead him to think of progressing to more senior positions where Joe can use his experience and take on greater responsibility, for projects or staff for example.

  • Fashion industry/business

    Joe’s interest in clothes and fashion, and his experience in the fashion industry, might lead him to explore other roles and careers within this field, possibly including those outside IT.

  • Retail sector

    Joe’s experience in retail might encourage him to seek positions in the wider retail sector. These could be outside fashion, as many of his skills might be transferable to other clothing contexts such as sports goods and footwear, or more broadly into electrical goods or food retail, for example.

Activity 4 Main economic sectors

Timing: Allow about 2 minutes

Watch this short video about the way in which the economy is divided into three main sectors: primary, secondary and tertiary.

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Has this helped to place things into perspective and aid your understanding? Knowing how sectors interrelate can help you to understand your particular business or industry better, and to identify some of the factors that might have an impact on it.

Knowledge and understanding of the wider context surrounding your job can help you to think more creatively and productively about your career options. This takes effort and thought, however, and it is sometimes more attractive to retreat into our comfort zones and to think of ourselves as ‘just a sales assistant’ or, in Joe’s case, ‘just a software engineer’.

Before you move on to the next section, take a look at a couple of people and how they could be more creative in thinking through some possible career ideas.

Activity 5 Widening perspectives

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

The following two case studies feature people who feel dissatisfied in their jobs, but who might be helped to think more creatively by widening their perspective. What might you suggest to them based on what you have learned so far?


Rachel has been a pub manager for several years with a well-known pub chain, having worked her way up from serving behind the bar. She enjoys her job but feels that the long and unsocial hours are now taking their toll. She feels that the best parts of the job are managing her staff and providing a service to customers, but feels trapped after so long in this post.

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Kwame has worked as a sports assistant at a leisure centre for several years since leaving college at 18 with a qualification in sports studies. He likes working with the public and advising them on exercise and fitness regimes, but he also feels that his job does not stretch him enough and he would like to take on more responsibility.

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Although there is no single correct response, Rachel and James might perhaps think about the following.


  • More senior posts with her current employer that might be more suitable for her
  • Other careers in the hospitality industry with more social hours that would use her skills and experience
  • Other management careers in other service industries or sectors


  • More senior posts within the leisure industry, possibly including management
  • Other areas of the leisure industry where he could use his understanding of sports and personal fitness
  • Other areas related to the leisure industry where his knowledge and experience might be useful, for example retail

You may have been able to make other suggestions and ideas based on your understanding of jobs, professions, industries and sectors. Well done, if you have!

You have now looked at several important terms – job, profession, business/industry and sector – and how these can help you better understand the world of work. In the next section you will start to think about your own situation and to identify the sector(s) that you want to explore in more detail.