Creating Job Satisfaction
Getting the Most From Your Job
Find a job you like and you add five days to every week. – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
For many of us, the idea of having a job that is truly satisfying – the kind where work doesn't feel like work anymore – is pure fantasy. Sure, professional athletes, ski patrollers, and golf pros may have found a way of doing what they love and getting paid for it. But is there actually anyone out there who dreams of sitting at a desk and processing paper, or watching products fly by them on conveyor belts, or working to solve other people’s problems?
Career dreams are one thing; practical reality is often another. When they happily coincide, seize the opportunity and enjoy it! Luckily, when they do not, it’s good to know that it is possible to get job satisfaction from a practical choice of career. Job satisfaction doesn’t have to mean pursuing the ultra-glamorous or making money from your hobby. You can work at job satisfaction, and find it in the most unexpected places…
The heart of job satisfaction is in your attitude and expectations; it’s more about how you approach your job than the actual duties you perform. Whether you work on the farm, a production line, in the corner office or on the basketball court, the secret is to understand the key ingredients of your unique recipe for job satisfaction.
Identify Your Satisfaction Triggers
There are three basic approaches to work: is it a job, a career, or a passion? Depending on which type of work you are in right now, the things that give you satisfaction will vary.
- If you work at a JOB, the compensation aspects of the position will probably hold more appeal than anything else, and have the greatest impact on whether you stay or go.
- If you work at a CAREER, you are looking for promotions and career development opportunities. Your overall satisfaction is typically linked with your status, power, or position.
- If you work at a PASSION, the work itself is the factor that determines your satisfaction, regardless of money, prestige, or control.
Inevitably, these are generalizations, and you will probably find that you get satisfaction from more than one approach to work. Being aware of the type of work you are doing, and the things you need for job satisfaction, will help you to identify and adjust your satisfaction expectations accordingly.
Building Job Satisfaction
Once you have identified the blend of status, power, or intrinsic enjoyment that need to be present in your work for you to feel satisfied, you then need to work on some of our seven 'ingredients' for a satisfying job. These ingredients are:
- Positive attitude.
- Knowing your options.
- Balanced lifestyle.
- A sense of purpose.
The first step in the search for job satisfaction is to know yourself. If you're to be happy and successful, you need to understand your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you identify what types of profession will allow you to build on those strengths, and minimize those weaknesses. A useful framework for conducting this type of analysis is a Personal SWOT analysis. You can find a Bite-Sized Training session on how to do this here.
It is difficult to feel satisfied with something you aren’t very good at, so rather than spend time beating yourself up about it, take a long hard look at the things at which you excel, and try to find a position that uses some of those skills too.
Another important component of self-awareness is to have a good understanding of your personality traits and your preferred style of working. A useful tool for this is Schein’s Career Anchors, which helps you understand what you value and what motivates you in your career, (and also what you do not value, and what de-motivates you).
For more information on some of the most commonly used personality and behavioral typologies, the MindTools site has an article on Myers Briggs. This also provides links to assessment tools such as the MAPP assessment as well as a suite of assessment tools at Analyze My Career.
By increasing your self-awareness, you can work towards the ideal blend of compensation, status, and intrinsic reward that suits you, and that you can realistically achieve. Knowing this will help you to set appropriate goals, and manage your own expectations.
The greater the match between your preferences and the requirements of the job, the more potential for job satisfaction you have. The remaining six 'ingredients' determine how much of that potential you actually achieve.
Some days you may deny it, but we all thrive on interesting challenges. Does this mean your job has to be the head of engineering at NASA? No, different things challenge different people at different times. You just need to figure out what you can do to make sure you don’t allow yourself to go stale at work.
Even if the job itself is not all that challenging, you can make it challenging. Some great ideas here include:
- Set performance standards for yourself – aim to beat your previous record, or set up a friendly competition among co-workers.
- Teach others your skills – nothing is more challenging, or rewarding, than passing your skills and knowledge on to others.
- Ask for new responsibilities – these will give you opportunities to stretch yourself.
- Start or take on a project that uses skills you would like to use, or want to improve.
- Commit to professional development – take courses, read books or trade magazines and attend seminars. However you do it, keep your skills fresh and current.
Closely related to the need for challenge is the need to minimize boredom. Boredom is a common culprit when it comes to job dissatisfaction. When your mind is bored you lack interest and enthusiasm and even a well-matched job becomes dissatisfying. Some common methods to alleviate boredom at work include:
- Cross train and learn new skills.
- Ask to be moved to a new assignment or department requiring the same skills.
- Ask to work a different shift.
- Volunteer to take on new tasks.
- Get involved with committee work.
- Go on an extended leave, or take a sabbatical.
If your job is inherently repetitive then add variety by changing your routine. Instead of sitting in the lunchroom for your break, go outside, or reposition your desk so you have different scenery.
All jobs have elements or tasks that are boring, and if you're to do your job well, you'll need to do these tasks well (you can bet there are things even your CEO doesn't like doing!) However, make sure there's plenty of interesting work to offset the boredom.
Attitude plays a huge role in how you perceive your job and your life in general. If you are depressed, angry or frustrated, you're much less likely to be satisfied with anything. Making a change to a positive attitude is a complex process that requires a lot of work and a strong commitment. However, over time, you can turn your internal dialogues around and start to see most events in your life as positive and worthwhile. Here are some tips:
- Stop negative thoughts from entering your brain.
- Reframe your thoughts to the positive.
- Put the events of the day in the correct context.
- Don't dwell on setbacks.
- Commit to viewing obstacles as challenges.
- Accept that mistakes are simply opportunities to learn.
- Become an optimist.
To help you with your quest to become positive, MindTools has a useful article titled Thought Awareness, Rational Thinking and Positive Thinking, which helps you to identify and change negative and unhappy thinking patterns
Know Your Options
When you feel trapped, you can start to get anxious. At first you wonder what else is out there for you. This progresses to the point where you become convinced that anything other than the job you're doing has got to be more satisfying. To combat this, continuously scan your environment for opportunities. When you feel you have options, you have more control. When you make a positive choice to stay with a job, that job has much more appeal than if you feel forced to stay because you feel you have no alternative.
- Keep a list of your accomplishments.
- Update your resume on a regular basis.
- Keep up to date on employment trends.
- Research other jobs that interest you.
- Adopt an 'I’m keeping my options open' approach.
Maintain a Balanced Lifestyle
You'll have heard many times that you need to keep your life and work in balance. When you focus too much on one at the expense of the other you risk putting your whole system in distress. When work takes over your life, it is easy to resent it and lose your sense of perspective: Suddenly everything about your life is clouded with negativity.
Find a Sense of Purpose
Last, but certainly not least (for many people) is the need to find a sense of purpose in the things you do. Even if you have a boring job, it helps a lot if you can see the real benefit you're providing for people.
Even the most mundane job usually has purpose if you dig deep enough. And if it doesn't, should you be wasting your life doing it?
If you're struggling to see the value in what you do (or if you want to sharpen your image of it) see our article on mission statements and vision statements: Unleashing the Power of Purpose.
Work plays a significant role in our lives. In our quest to be happy and productive, having a strong sense of job satisfaction is important. When you are dissatisfied with your job, this tends to have an influence on your overall outlook on life. While you may not be in the career of your dreams right now, it is still your responsibility to make sure that what you are doing is satisfying to you.
By knowing the key elements that go into job satisfaction, you can choose to take control and make the changes you need to feel really satisfied and motivated by what you do. Make one small change at work today that makes you feel good or different – build on that change and create a satisfying environment for yourself.