Beyond the Rhetoric

 
 
 

What It Takes to Have Satisfying Work

November 30th, 2010 by

cat@rest after work

Asking any number of different life and career coaches out there, a sizable proportion will likely tell you to unearth your true passions and interests, finding a way that parlay them into careers. Those who enjoy artistic creation, for example, can make a very comfortable living as graphic designers. Those who enjoy throwing parties might get into event planning.

However, that can provide a very incomplete picture. Furthermore, ask some other people and they’ll say that it’s a pipe dream. Even if I love to play football, it’s highly unlikely that I’d be able to turn that into an NFL career. The same can be said about musical inclinations, for instance. You may be able to find a job related to that field, but it may not be enough for you to be truly happy with your career choice. Why is this? It’s because there are so many other factors involved in finding “satisfying” work.

Individual interests and preferences will certainly vary, but there are some common characteristics that you may encounter.

Satisfying Work Needs to Be Challenging

Remember that challenging and difficult are not necessarily the same thing. If something is far too difficult, all it’s going to be is frustrating and a continuous shot to the ego. On the flip side, work that is too easy quickly becomes boring and without meaning.

They say that you should learn something new every day. The concept of having suitable challenges in your work is one form of that. We want to feel like we are pushing ourselves, even if it’s not easy to do so. Some people may say that they want an easy job, but in the long run, a challenging job is the one that is much more satisfying.

Satisfying Work Needs Autonomy

Different people prefer different levels of supervision. Some prefer having more direction from managers, whereas others prefer to lead their own way. However, any satisfying career will likely lend itself to greater autonomy in some form or another.

With greater autonomy, you are more likely to take ownership of your work. This is satisfying, especially when you manage to complete a large project. Maybe you like to choose your own projects, your own schedule, and your own future directions.

Satisfying Work Needs to Connect Effort and Reward

It’s human nature. We’re less likely to work hard if we don’t see any connection to the end result. You want to know that when you put in additional effort, it actually makes a difference. You want to find a greater reward, however you choose to define that reward, be it a better product, more pay, or any number of other possibilities.

The dangling carrot, as it were, is what we can use to push ourselves forward. It’s what convinces us to run faster and jump higher. It’s what leads to a more satisfying career.

Satisfying Work Needs to Have Meaning

It certainly helps when your work is fulfilling in one way or another and this is somewhat connected to the previous point. You want to know that your work matters somehow, even if the relationship is tangential.

A great example of this is a custodian engineer at an elementary school. To some people, this may appear like menial labor, but to the custodian with the right mindset, it’s a truly fulfilling career. Through his efforts, the school remains a clean and safe place for future generations to learn. It is through his efforts that the school stays heated in the winter, powered in the computer lab, and free of potential hazards.

No Such Thing as the Perfect Job

Just as there is no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to clothing and shoes, the same thing can be said about careers. The particulars of your job will vary, but these four common characteristics can lead you toward more satisfying work… or simply finding more satisfaction in your existing career path.

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3 Responses to “What It Takes to Have Satisfying Work”

  1. Ray Ebersole says:

    Right on the head with these Michael. I would add that a job should be enjoyable. I have worked many jobs that I hated, but were satisfying because of a combination of the subgroups above.

    The job I work at now is satisfying because I’m really good at it, it it’s even more satisfying because I also enjoy what I am doing.

  2. It took me forever to find where I truly fit and am happy. I worked at a law firm I loved it but it got a bit stale after awhile you can only handle so many child support and child abuse cases before you want to scream. I worked in clinical research, which was fun but you saw many things and got attached to people you knew would soon fade away. Then I worked in internet radio, while it was fun there is NO money in radio. I am glad I have been able to find my way and make somewhat of a mark on the internet. Happiness can be hard to find. I call myself blessed.

  3. [...] all, satisfying work needs meaning. It needs purpose. Some people assume that you giving to others means that you have to sacrifice [...]

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