Every step you take, even in the moment, is another step on a path that will lead to one place or some other. Once you define you want to go north, south or anywhere in between, you can take out a compass and start down the path. I tell people just starting college that “job satisfaction years from now will be affected by the decisions you make today.” That being the case, why not try to define “job satisfaction” now? For many young people, the reason they don’t is that they don’t yet know what job they want. Nonetheless, without a sense of what “job satisfaction” may be to you, it will be very difficult to use a compass; so let’s start with that – defining job satisfaction; and I have a 5-step method you can use.
Your 5-Step Method for Defining Job Satisfaction
At the core of Job Satisfaction is an understanding of what you enjoy most. To understand what it is you enjoy most, you have to define
1. Where or from what might job satisfaction come? Job satisfaction for some stems from the challenges in the job or a sense of purpose while for others it's more extrinsic and may be measured by the money they make; for some it may come from the learning that takes place or from knowing that their work matters; and still for others, simply having a job to go to everyday in order to have other things in life is fine, and it's from accepting that they derive their satisfaction.
2. Defining factors for YOUR job satisfaction: Defining the factors for your own job satisfaction requires you jumping all the way back to the beginning which could be your first job as, for example, a life guard when you were 16 years old, or a paper route at 12, and walking through your life right up to the present. However, instead of identifying duties, responsibilities, job descriptions, etcetera, as you might for a resume, look at your successes and the underpinnings of those successes. Underpinnings such as,
- Instinctive skills – the automatic, the intuitive, creative skills that you drew upon at that time
- Learned skills – that might be fielding phone calls, equipment inventory, basic accounting or program management
3. Other successes outside the workplace: When you take this “walk-through”, don’t limit yourself to jobs either. You have successes from other experiences outside a workplace that may be relevant and transferable. Maybe you led a youth group or did charitable work or went door-to-door promoting some cause; perhaps you edited a newsletter for your bowling league or helped a parent or friend put together a website for a small business.
Consider, too, alumni associations, community and civic organizations, councils with which you may have been involved (i.e. Habitat for Humanity, Scouts or a Theatre Arts Society), teams on which you played (sports; debate; moot court competitions) or Boards on which you served (Student Council or Yearbook or Save the World).
4. Success Attributes: Once you have all these successes out on the table (achievements, accomplishments, contributions), you can identify (a) actual skills, (b) personal characteristics, (c) professional characteristics and (d) inherent or learned knowledge areas, all that you drew upon to succeed. These are the "underpinnings" I referred to, your success attributes, many of which may be derived from your innate or core competencies … your intrinsic know-how. Don't stop here!
5. Motivated versus Unmotivated successes: One a piece a paper, set up a “T-Chart” with Motivated and Unmotivated Successes written across the top of your sheet as your left and right headings respectively. Next, divide and list your “success attributes” defined in No. 4 above, into your two groups under the headings.
- Motivated Successes – Those successes and their underpinnings that you are interested in perpetuating
- Unmotivated Successes – Though they are successes, they are those which you have little or no interest in perpetuating
The motivated successes describe those skills, competencies, attributes… you not only work with and perform well, but enjoy – they motivate you. The other skills or competencies, with which you perform well, maybe even very well, just may not hold your interest; thus they do not motivate you. For example, maybe you're terrific at editing research reports but don't enjoy it. If you're caught on the job being good at it and consequently it becomes 20% of what you do, well...there goes 20% of your job satisfaction out the window, follow me? It also, perchance, may determine the level of angst you feel on the job, the most sever level requiring you to pull yourself out of bed in the morning and drag yourself to work. How many people like that have you met in your life? They live for Fridays and Sundays are the worst day of the week. Hey … Life’s too short!
Once you have defined and thus classified your success attributes, you have laid the groundwork and are well on your way to defining the "best fit" for what might be your first career position after you’re graduated. With that done, you may be able to back up to the moment, the present time, and with some guidance from people you know and trust (i.e. family, peers, your school’s career development office, a career coach...) you can begin to lay a path moving forward.
A friend once said to me, “If I knew that job satisfaction was so elusive, I wouldn’t have spent half my life looking for it.” I asked him to define what job satisfaction for him would be. He said: “I’ll know when I find it”; hence the reason it’s been so elusive.
When you know what it is you can do, and moreover, want to do because you enjoy it most, you are in the best position to capitalize on the opportunities that await you in school, outside and beyond; and why? We are at our best when doing that which we enjoy most.
Hope this Helps!!