“If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Everyone’s heard this hackneyed advice, and everyone knows it’s absolutely false. But — is there such thing as a job that you enjoy? Can you ever feel satisfied in your career, or should you be resigned to slogging through work to make enough money to live on?
Several studies have focused on what makes people satisfied at work, with the result that researchers are almost certain they know job seekers can find career satisfaction. This guide to career satisfaction will help you find a job that (usually) makes you excited to get to clock in.
The Tip-Top, Most Important Quality of a Satisfying Career
Considering how different people are — how some excel at math and others at language, how some are driven by money and others by family — it seems impossible that there could be only one quality that makes for satisfaction at work. However, across studies, one feature of employment always stands out as ensuring that workers will feel rewarded in their occupation. Ultimately, if you want a lasting sense of fulfillment from your job, you need to choose to do something you are good at.
Research shows that being good at your work provides a continuous sense of achievement, which is essential for feeling satisfied. Plus, having a knack for your daily tasks gives you a leg-up in your field, allowing you to negotiate for interesting or meaningful projects and earn higher wages than your less-talented peers. Aptitude is more important than interest because you will produce greater work and see greater progress than you would chasing your passion without any talent.
It seems too simple and too difficult all at once. Are you good at anything enough to commit to a career in that field? The answer is yes; everybody has some natural talent. However, you can also pursue a career that provides the potential to become good (or better) at the work.
To determine what this means for you, you should consider the subjects in which you excelled in school. Then, you should explore career options that rely heavily on those talents. For example, if you are a wiz at art, you can consider a fine arts career as well as a path through graphic design. Early in your career, you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with different careers, perhaps sampling new options as side-hustles or through internship opportunities. Eventually, you will strike upon your dream career — and it will be because you are good at doing the work.
Other Important Features of Enjoyable Work
Of course, there are other predictors of career satisfaction besides talent. Here are some other facets of employment that all but promise high feelings of fulfillment:
Though you might think you’re attracted to certain positions due to their high salaries, the widespread prestige or the ultimate objectives, you shouldn’t factor these into your career decision. Instead, you should look at what workers do every day. Daily tasks aren’t often related to end products. For example, video game designers don’t play games day-in and day-out; they tinker with code, draw and write stories. Some indicators that a job is engaging are:
- Freedom to decide how you do your work,
- Clarity, or tasks with defined beginnings and ends,
- Variety in tasks, and
- Feedback, so you can improve.
A job with purpose and meaning is a job that will continue to be rewarding, even if the day-to-day isn’t necessarily enjoyable. When surveyed, people overwhelmingly declare that the most meaningful careers are those devoted to helping people, like medicine and social work. In fact, other research has found that those who devote at least some time to improving others or their community — through volunteerism or some other effort — are less likely to be depressed or suffer common physical health problems. You can earn an online social work degree or pursue other paths into meaningful work today.
You will spend roughly as much time at work as you will with your family, so it is important that your career provide opportunities for you to develop positive relationships with your colleagues. However, more importantly, you should be able to receive help from your co-workers when you encounter trouble. This is a form of social support that is critical to satisfaction, so you should be exceedingly concerned about your teammates when considering a new position.