Six Reasons to Love a Job

by Julia on June 1st, 2009

You may have correctly gathered that freelance writing doesn’t pay my bills. I have a day job. I like my day job. This blog will focus on my writer-identity and I have a hunch that it may stray into the realm of “I wonder what an optimally fulfilling career would look like.”

My paranoid side can spy my boss–and all of my potential future bosses–reading over my shoulder here, so I would like to state for the record that I am happily employed, I work hard at my job, and have no plans to leave it. Here are a few things I enjoy about it.

  1. Learning new stuff–No two days at my office are exactly alike. If I get bored, I dream up new projects and different ways to reach out to people.  My boss is open to these ideas and my job has evolved with my skills and interests.
  2. Helping people–Okay, let’s be clear here.  I’m not saving lives or rescuing kittens from trees.  But I do work directly with people who have questions and seek resources.  I can usually deliver what they’re looking for, with a smile.  It’s satisfying to exceed expectations and make somebody happy.
  3. Committed coworkers–I work in the public sector. None of us are in this work for the money. My colleagues are smart, diligent and charming. They challenge my ideas and principles and are fun to work with besides.
  4. Flexible schedule–When I had a baby I was able to negotiate a part-time return to work. With the money that’s no longer going into my paycheck, we hired someone to job-share with me, and a student assistant to take care of the boring stuff that neither of us wants to do. It’s fabulous.
  5. Culture of trust–I don’t fill out a timesheet.  The assumption at my workplace is that we’re professionals who will get the job done. In my experience, we always do. I set my own hours, and can even do some work from home, which lets me accommodate the quirks of a kid-centered world.
  6. Big shoes–Flexibility notwithstanding, this is not a fluffy little part-time job.  My colleagues and clients depend on my work, and there’s always way more of it than I can possibly do well. On bad days this makes me despair. But I thrive on challenge and responsibility and I know that in the nice mellow job that I sometimes fantasize about, some vital part of me would atrophy.

As it turns out, I’m entirely predictable. In 2006 the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago surveyed people about their job satisfaction and overall happiness. Not surprisingly, people like jobs that help others, use creativity and have a manageable level of stress. Clergy, firefighters and physical therapists have the highest job satisfaction. Roofers have the lowest. Perhaps the most surprising part, though, is that on a 4-point scale of job satisfaction (4=very satisfied), the average rating across all occupations–even the lousy ones–is 3.3. Think about that next time you’re griping around the water cooler.

  1. Chris permalink

    Right on – people like a challenge, they like to have fun, and they like to be treated with respect. A job that delivers those things is a good one.

  2. Hi Chris,
    Your point about having fun is an interesting one, and not actually addressed directly in the survey I cited above. An Australian study found that over half of employees’ job satisfaction can be predicted by the quality of their workplace relationships.

  3. For those of us who work enough hours so that our work relationships rival that of our spousal and familial bonds, having strong positive working relationships are a make-or-break deal, for commercial success, advancement of one’s career, and one’s day-to-day happiness.

    As a principal in a small design firm the things you mention: helpfulness, compassion, commitment, and trust, trump technical prowess and freaky-genius creativity in almost every situation. Creating and promoting a work environment similar to the one you describe is vital for growth and ultimate success.

    It’s very cool that your government day job in an office cube gives you this kind of satisfaction.

  4. I agree, those are some good reasons. #1, learning new stuff, is definitely what keeps me going on the job. Jobs I have enjoyed have all had that in common. And #4 is more important to me than I realized…once you’ve tasted freedom it is hard to go back.

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