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“Work” a Job vs. “Do” a Job — Here’s the Difference

“Work” a Job vs. “Do” a Job — Here’s the Difference

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The first question we usually ask people when we first meet them is “What do you do?” 

Knowing what a person does for a living allows us an insight into what they spend most of their days doing. It also helps us place them in a social context. 

Work is a necessary constant for most of us. However, even though we work almost every day, there is still a lot of confusion about how to tell people what we work as. 

Do we “work a job” in finance? Or do we “work at a job” in finance? Or, alternatively, do we “do a job” in finance? Or, rather, should we say that we “have a job” in finance? 

As it turns out, there is no straightforward answer. There are several ways to tell someone what your job is and to explain what field you work in. Here is a brief run-through of the correct (and incorrect) usages of the phrases “work a job”, “work at a job”, “have a job”, and “do a job.” 

You can say “I have a job” in finance (or any other field of work), or “I do a job” in finance. However, to “do a job” also means to work on a specific project or one-time assignment. “I work a job” is used in colloquial American English. However, when using the formal register, one should say “I work at a job.” 

Some of the confusion around the correct usage of “doing”, “working”, “working at”, and “having” a job arises because of the different ways the phrases are used in British and American English. 

As English rose and spread as a global language, it became localized. Different English-speaking countries have developed their own usage of certain words and phrases over time. 

This is what happened with the phrase “work a job” in North America. It is not unusual to hear people in the US say that they “work a job in finance,” or that they “work a job at the local brewery.” 

If one was being formal, and when using British English, one would have to say, “I work at a job in finance” instead of “I work a job in finance.” 

That said, because it has entered the popular lexicon, it is now considered colloquially correct in North America to say that you “work a job.”


How to use “work at a job” and “do a job” in context 

Here are a few examples of how best to use these different phrases to describe what it is you do for work. 

You “have a job” if you are employed by a company or other organization. You “work at” your 9 to 5 job in finance. 

You can also use “work at” to refer to the specific company or organization you work for. For example, you might say “I work at the local butcher’s shop, McCauley’s Meats.”

You might also hear someone say, “I have a job at the bank. I work at my job to receive a salary.” 

Alternatively, they might say, “I work for NIB Bank. I have a job as a financial advisor.” 

In this last example, the person is referring to NIB Bank as their employer by using the phrase “work for.” It would also be correct for them to say, “I work at NIB Bank.”

How to use “do a job” correctly is a slightly trickier matter.

“Do a job” can either refer to full-time employment or to a specific task or time-limited project. 

For example, if someone “has a job” at a recycling management company, it means they are employed by that company. 

As an employee of that company, they might be told by their boss, “We are going to ask you to do a job in Arizona over the winter. You will be onboarding the new members of staff at our new branch.” 

In this case, the job that is being “done” is a time-limited project that someone has been assigned to do by their employer at the job they “have”.

Here are a few further examples of this usage of the phrase of “do a job.” 


“I am going to do a job as the manager of a temporary art exhibit in Copenhagen this fall.” 


“I am going to be doing a job in Australia this summer, but I will be back in the autumn.”


“She is doing a job restoring the murals in an 18th century villa at the moment.”


It might be used in conversation like this:  


Jemima: I am just going to quickly do the job I got last night.

Alfred: What job? 

Jemima: Just a freelance job editing a newspaper article.


However, “do a job” can also be used more broadly to mean “have a job.” This usage is far more common in American English than British English.


To “do a job” in this sense, might be used in the following ways:


Adam: I do a job at the mill in town. 

Gerald: Oh, great. How long have you been doing that job for? 

Adam: Going on ten years now. What do you do? 


The phrase “do a job” is also often used when speaking about household maintenance or chores. 

For example, you might hear someone say that they are going to “do a repair job on the leak in the roof,” or hear someone ask, “Have you done that maintenance job on the bathroom yet?” or, “Has he done the paint job on his new car?”

However, be careful when using the phrase “do a job.” 

Most native American English speakers would agree that there is some criminal implication if someone says they have “done a job.” This is a very vague way of discussing work, which often means there is a criminal element involved. 

For example, if someone is hired to assassinate someone, it is called “a hit job” in colloquial North American slang.

If someone robs a bank, it is colloquially referred to as “a bank job.” 

If in doubt, it is better to err on the side of caution and simply say “I work at a job,” or else “I have a job.”