How to Know When It's More Than a Summer Job

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Although it's always nice to have a job, employees should never force their summer jobs to be something they're not. Some work simply doesn't translate to a career.

"The difference between a job and a career revolves around passion for what the work entails. Jobs are done to satisfy low-level needs like providing shelter and food and paying bills. Careers or vocations focus on doing work because we love it," says Angelo Kinicki, management professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. "So if you find that you aren't excited to go to work, and it all seems like drudgery, then it's probably time to realize that you need to be doing something else."

People often take jobs just for the sake of having a paycheck, says Tom Gimbel, CEO and President of LaSalle Network, a Chicago-based staffing firm.

"Just for the sake of having a job, someone takes a position without doing sufficient research on the company or the role," Gimbel says. "Keep in mind, hopping from position to position in a short period of time is never a good idea, however it is important to identify if a position is the right long-term fit. "

It's not always easy to determine the difference between a long-term prospect and a short-term moneymaker, but experts say there are a few telltale signs that your summer job shouldn't follow you into fall.

1. Ask yourself if this is an opportunity you could see yourself working in two, five or even 10 years from now, says Russ Hovendick, founder of career consultancy Directional Motivation.

"In answering these questions you will be better suited to address the question of whether this is a future career opportunity, or just a job that will provide a source of references on your work habits and put money in your wallet for the short term," Hovendick says.

Sometimes your professionalism and work habits will capture the attention of the employer, resulting in them considering you for full time employment. If this hits your career target, great! But if this is just that "money for the wallet" position, it's best to walk away, Hovendick says.

With that said, today's job market can be tough, and until you have another solid job prospect, it may be best to stay in your current position, says David DeLong, author of the book Graduate to a Great Job: Make Your College Degree Pay Off in Today's Market.

"Only give up a job with long-term prospects if you're learning nothing useful, making no good contacts and working with people you hate," he says. "Otherwise, it's best to hang in there until you can develop enough momentum in a new job search that you know you'll land something soon."

2. Assess whether you are really enjoying your work, says Michelle Benjamin, CEO and founder of recruiting firm TalentReady.

"Employees are expecting to enjoy their place of work," Benjamin says. "If they aren't feeling engaged and challenged, they will move on."

This can be seen especially in younger workers who frequently look for new and better opportunities, Benjamin says.

"If you aren't finding enjoyment in the work or the work is not within your range of skills, you should look elsewhere for your career."

The surest sign not to try to convert your summer job to something permanent is if you hate it, or hate the people you're working with, DeLong says. But even if you do, make sure you leave with a smile on your face.

"Don't ever burn bridges, if possible. Potential employers will be suspicious if you can't use managers from your summer job as a reference," DeLong says.

3. Make note of whether you have a real job description, says Stefanie Smith, executive coach and founder of Stratex Coaching in New York.

"It's definitely a warning sign if you don't have a clear job description with clearly defined strategic and performance objectives," Smith says. "Indistinct reporting structure or dotted line reporting to multiple leaders is fine for a summer job, not for a permanent job."

Overall, if you notice a lack of training and development potential, it's probably time to move on, Smith says.

Just keep in mind that before you walk away from a summer job that feels like a dead end, you'll have to explain in your next set of endless interviews what you accomplished in this job and why you left it, he says.

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