13 Key Differences between Big Career Breakthrough and Good Job

Distinguishing between a traditional good job and having a big career breakthrough gives you a clarity of vision, which can be liberating. Steve Harvey’s definition of big break remains my favourite: ‘A breakthrough gives you a new quality of life where things which were impossible are possible’. And regardless of any professional realm one chooses, it involves doing ‘what you do absolute best with the least amount of effort.’ Harvey argues.

A good job, on the other hand, improves your life. It gives you the dignity to provide for yourself and loved ones. It is what the vast majority of people do. However, it may not radically change your life.

Having read many biographies of people who broke through in their careers in a big way, I have come up with these 13 points in which a breakthrough is different from landing a good job:

  • It Feels Wonderful

It absolutely feels thrilling, but it also a moment of feeling validated and discovered. It is what an ambitious young entrepreneur feels when he/she successfully pitches to a group of investors and the business idea is greenlit for investment; or how a young talented footballer feels when his gets his maiden senior callup for the national team; or how a talented writer feels after winning the best book prize of his/her writing category; or when an ambitious politician spectacularly wins a key election for the first time; or a young creative gets on to a tough television platform following a prolonged period of struggle.

  • It Mostly Comes after a Rock-bottom Situation

As humans, we have different capacities for handling setbacks and adversaries, and most people who’ve achieved a breakthrough mostly narrate the low point they had reached before they got their big break. So, if your life has just hit rock bottom, you might be closer to a major breakthrough than most people around. Hitting a low point in life on career and personal life can give you an opportunity to figure out a way out, besides you have no more fear as you already hit rock bottom.

  • It is a Transformative Moment

Breaking through is always a turning point in life, a career turnaround. You know that you have said good bye to your old life. It is a new reality of life, a new life style, a new circle of friends and community.

  • It is largely Based on Your Personal Vision

This is like the difference between a newly hired CEO of big corporation or the founder of big billion-dollar tech company. The first sticks to the vision and mission of the company; the latter realises his vision through the company. In other words, you create your future in the way you see fit. ‘A big secret is that you can bend the world to your will a surprising percentage of the time – most people don’t even try.’ Altman, the CEO and founder of Open AI, the  said in an interview. It is no wonder why Elon Musk changed Twitter to X to align with the brand of his other companies that carry the letter X, because he apparently wanted to incorporate Twitter into his vision, an X vision. 

  • Passion Meets Big Money, Further Sparking Creativity

The Ikigai concept sums up this as when the work ticks four boxes: you are good at it, you love it, you will be paid for doing it, and the world needs it. It is when your talent converges with what is commercial at the particular time. It sparks your creativity, which you can monetise. Few people are lucky to be paid well for doing what they love most. They don’t have the struggle with coping with what most people have to cope with – the tug of war and the adversarial relationship between your regular job and your passion project.

  • It Fits Your Ambition

Most people who achieve a big career breakthroughs have already an elite mentality and strong self-belief, even if they have come from the most humbling of backgrounds. They know that they belong to the grand stage and their time will come. They have the willingness to succeed in a particular endeavour and do whatever it takes to achieve it. Michael Laskin once told his acting course students: ‘I can teach you the skills you need, but I can never give a natural talent, or make you ambitious, or instil in you a strong desire to succeed.’. I think he was right as some people are naturally ambitious with fiery passion to succeed. You just can learn how to be ambitious from others.

  • It Makes You a Public Figure

A big career breakthrough turns you into a national or public figure. It can sometimes make you attain global recognition. Whether you achieve this by suddenly bursting upon the scene or after a steady rise, a real breakthrough usually gives you a big-name recognition, and it is the big name that opens the opportunities, as obscurity can also mean inaccessibility to opportunities.

  • It Catapults You to the Elite Circles of That Profession

The very definition of being elite is the smallness of the number and the access to resources that most people don’t have access to. However, you can have a big name in society, but never seen as member of the elite. The newly found fame enables you to intermingle with the elite members of that profession. You are welcomed into high society. It is not uncommon to see a young black American, who grew up in poor ghetto achieving prominence following a professional career in athletics or entertainment industry or any other profession, to be welcomed into the Beverly Hills elite.

  • The Work Aligns with Your Personal Values

If the best paid job does not align with your personal values, it takes away the joy and satisfaction from it. When the work aligns with your values it grounds you and keeps you engaged.

  • Others Also Start Making Money Because of You

Talent agencies, talent managers, lawyers, marketing agencies, close entourage, members of the inner circle, body guards, and host of others start making money because of you. This doesn’t mean that you need all of them at the same time, but the more you gain further financial success, the more your inner circle expands, the more your lifestyle costs, and the more people make money because of you.

  • Most of Your Work Will Be Project-Based Rather than Salary-Based

The contract is always project-based and rarely salary-based. You have significant creative control over the pace and direction of the work. You are under your own clock, not others’.

  • You’ve Either Bypassed Gatekeepers of Industry or Rendered Them Powerless to Stop You

Gatekeepers of industry control access to platforms and resources, just like how the establishment and the media control or influence politicians’ access to campaign finance and the nature of coverage a particular candidate receives. Corporate gatekeepers can block opportunities from people they don’t like. Any person who’ve made a major career breakthrough has either been let through, or bypassed, or taken back control from such gatekeepers.

  • The biggest financial gain comes from diversifying into other sectors, not the initial breakthrough

After the initial breakthrough and the accumulation of more resources and forging more connections, most successful personalities build big personal brands by turning to other lucrative ventures. More opportunities start flooding in. They also keep re-inventing themselves with other roles, which enables them to have their careers deeper into their lives, like an former political leaders making money in paid speeches and book writing; or an ex-player taking up a coaching or sports commentator role; or an young actor playing an older character over time; or a wealthy singer launching a fashion and clothing line. The corporate partnership and advertisements provide further income opportunities outside main original talent, which is massively bigger than the income associated with the original breakthrough.

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