For most of us, “work” is a necessary part of life. Some people live to work; dedicating much of their waking effort towards a chosen career path. Others work to live; putting forth just enough effort to generate a stable income. Everyone else is somewhere in between.
When it comes to work, you exchange your time and talents for an organization’s treasure- yet may still feel unfulfilled. You might even change jobs in hopes of being happier, but something is still missing. The recipe for job happiness includes a balance of three key factors: (1) your knowledge, skills, and abilities must fit your job requirements, (2) your unique work preferences must be present, and (3) your compensation must be fair relative to the previous factors. We will explore each of these key factors individually and how to assess them in this blog.
Your knowledge, skills, and abilities fit your job requirements.
Organizations should have job descriptions written for every position which outline the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) required to effectively complete each role. If your role does not have a job description… write one! List the activities you perform, how often you perform them, and the percentage of time you spend doing each activity.
Then, look at your job description and ask, “Do I enjoy doing these things?”, “Am I good at them?”, and “Am I using the KSAs I’m best at?” If the answer is “No”, improving your KSAs for your current role or finding a different role that better suits your KSAs will drastically increase your happiness level. If the answer is, “Yes”, move on to assessing the next factor.
Your unique work preferences must be present.
Make a list of all the jobs you’ve ever had, then list what you loved about each job. Once you’re done, some common features should come to light. These work preferences will be different for everyone. One person might enjoy the autonomy to decide which tasks are done and when, while another would prefer a highly structured and consistent work environment. Another person might prefer to work independently, while another prefers being a member of a team.
Try to identify 5 unique work preferences you would want in any role, and be specific. Don’t just write, “Good Culture”, without also describing what “good culture” means to you.
Having trouble coming up with five? Try the inverse of the previous exercise: What did you dislike about your previous job(s)? If something stands out, write down the opposite of that (your list should be positive in nature).
Once you have five written down, prioritize them and compare it to your current job. If you are interviewing for a job, you should be asking about these five things when a hiring manager asks you, “What questions do you have for us?”
Your compensation must be fair.
Ideally, every organization would pay their employees a fair wage relative to (1) the KSAs required for a job and (2) the environment their employees must work in. In reality, you must take ownership over understanding and negotiating your compensation. Start by researching the average pay for your role relative to geographic location and industry (local economic factors matter). The US Bureau of Labor Statistics and other private career websites (e.g. PayScale, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, etc.) can be good resources.
Next, consider the work environment. Organizations known to have incredible cultures or strong benefits packages may pay lower than average wages. Conversely, organizations with damaged reputations or poor work conditions will often pay higher than average wages. Ultimately, you must decide if the proverbial “juice is worth the squeeze” relative to your unique work preferences.
It’s critical to your happiness and job success to understand how each of these key factors plays a role in your current or future career. Take the time to discover your talents, preferences, and compensation desires. Once you find the balance between all three, you will have the recipe you need to find joy in the workplace.