Anyone looking for a job right now knows that there are thousands of job titles available – even in the same profession. What used to be called customer “service” is now known as support, success, or other weird names like “guru” or “ninja.” The same trend applies across almost all career paths and job progressions.

Studies show that the average person will have 5-7 career changes in their lifetimes, amounting to around 10-15 jobs. However, the reality is that as a job-seeker (or job-hopper, according to studies about career change), every job falls into one of only five categories. In this article, we’re diving into the five categories, what kinds of jobs fall into the category, and what you should do in your career depending on which category you find yourself in.

1 – The ends-meet job

At some point, you’ve probably worked this kind of job – the one that makes sure the rent is paid and food is on the table. This kind of work is less likely to teach you something more than the company needed a human to complete a task, and that’s about it. If you’re lucky, these environments can still be fun and you gain a lot of camaraderie with your coworkers. However, that’s not really a guarantee – at the end of the day, the company is paying you to accomplish something (usually manual labor) and you make money to do it.

These can be great for people who have other goals beyond their careers, and simply want money to make sure they can survive. There’s a common misconception that all ends-meet jobs are also dead-end jobs, which isn’t true. While many can be, there are also jobs that pay decently but offer little else in the way of social life or advancement opportunities. The true hallmark of an ends-meet job is that it’s transactional: do something, get paid, move on.

Jobs in this category tend to be:

  • Retail, fast food, or other manual labor jobs.
  • Data entry.
  • Front-line customer service.
  • Jobs that don’t require formal education in industries that prize formal education for advancement.

2 – The stepping stone job

The stepping stone job is the one you take because it will help you get to the one you want. It’s about paying your dues. When you talk to people in powerful positions, chances are they had stepping stone jobs along the way. These can take the form of stretch assignments, secondments, or entire pivots into new industries. There are often horror stories of horrible bosses, long hours, and annoying or tedious work – but it’s all in service of paying your dues or building up a network so you can get the job you really want.

The key with stepping stone jobs, if you want to take them, is to always focus on the big picture and see them for what they are: a step on your path. Stepping stone jobs can be incredibly difficult at times, so if you focus too much on the day to day you are definitely risking burning yourself out. Whenever the going gets tough, focus on the big picture (and maybe try some mental health first aid for the really bad days). That said, you don’t have to stay in this job if it’s crushing your mental health – it’s not worth it most of the time.

Jobs in this category tend to be:

  • Junior level consulting or researcher positions.
  • Assistant / EA roles (though this can also be its own career path).
  • Some data entry jobs.
  • Many analyst positions.

3 – The high-learning job

The high-learning job is like the cousin of the stepping stone job. It’s a role you take on because you need it to get to where you really want, but it’s not about paying your dues. Instead, it’s about learning a specific skill so you can “slingshot” into a different, accelerated career path (“Slingshotting” is when you purposefully take a small step back in order to fling forward even faster – like how you have to pull a slingshot back in order to get maximum speed and force).

When you take a high-learning job, messing up is part of the job description since you’re learning. This is a key difference to a stepping stone job, where you pay your dues by doing menial tasks perfectly. In a high-learning job, expect to take risks, learn new things, and fail a lot.

Jobs in this category:

  • Entry-level roles in knowledge companies (like consulting firms).
  • Any apprentice style role (for example, a junior customer success manager that works with lower-value clients to gain experience before working with major clients).
  • Apprenticeships in trades, fashion, or other job-shadow roles.

4 – The money job

As the title suggests, the money job is the one you take because you’re good at every task on the list and it pays well. These jobs tend to be annoying and tedious, very much like an ends-meet job or a stepping stone job, but have the wonderful perk of making far more money. Typically, these jobs come for people who have a niche skillset that can’t be easily automated but is very profitable, so they make a lot of money even though the work can be repetitive and boring.

The challenge with money jobs is the idea of “golden handcuffs” – you’re paid so well that you’re scared to leave, particularly since the chances of you earning your same salary elsewhere are low. However, the work is boring or the company culture sucks, so you want to get out. The result is feeling stuck, which can be a difficult spot to be in. If you’re in this kind of role, the best way out is to save up enough money so you can last 6-12 months without a job, then jump ship to figure out what you truly want.

Jobs in this category:

  • Bankers and consultants.
  • Junior executives in niche roles.
  • Some technologist and coding roles.

5 – The passion job

This job is the one you love. It’s the one that feeds your soul as well as your wallet – and is the one that most people strive for when they talk about finding a job they love. A passion job might pay well – or not – since the reality is far more about what it provides outside of pay.

Usually, people love passion jobs because they provide intrinsic motivation, the opportunity to work on problems or challenges they deeply care about, or because it provides the opportunity to give back. When those things come together, the job can be incredibly alluring. If it does pay well, all the better.

Jobs in this category:

  • Working in the nonprofit or charity sector.
  • Starting an impact business or social enterprise.
  • Any job where you’re individually passionate about the work being done.