3 Lists for Evaluating Job Satisfaction

Yesterday’s post discussed how to quantify overall life satisfaction using weighted averages across broad categories. This being a professional blog, today’s post is going to focus on the category of career satisfaction, and evaluating job opportunities. Along with the weighted averages, I used the following lists in my discussions about the decision to accept my current job.

The “dream job”. This list was comprised of all the elements that contributed to my “dream job”. Now, the dream job should be somewhat rooted in reality, in that it should be something attainable for you at the height of your career. For example, it’s not really viable to discuss being a movie star as a dream job for most people, since it’s highly unlikely that most people will become a movie star. This is particularly true if you lack the skills, training, and experience to even break into the movie industry. So, now that we know the dream job is really the most satisfying job available if you have the proper skills, training, and experience, we can come up with a list of items that define the dream job. The “dream” part of this list is that you can include whatever “silly” characteristics you want. Go ahead and put down that you want the job to be in City X, or that you want to have a company car or corporate expense account. Go ahead and include a specific title that you’d like to have, or number of direct reports that you want to supervise. I would recommend using salary requirements that are attainable in your field… again, it is highly unlikely that most of us are going to make $15 million per year, so you won’t be able to take strong steps to achieve that quality in your dream job. For my list, I included some broad reasons why this characteristic was important in creating my dream job. This list should remain largely unchanged throughout your career. Here’s a few items that made it onto my list:

Office located in a downtown area because I love the energy of commuters and lunch meetings that occurs in such a business-centric environment

Salary in the six figures and a signing bonus, because that’s what over-achievers and industry experts earn in my field, and I want to be at the top of my industry

Dress code that requires a suit and heels occasionally, but at minimum requires business casual, because I like a company and clients that respect presentation in an employee, dressing up makes me feel confident

Travel up to 30% because I like to deal with people face-to-face whenever possible

Company has a distinct culture that permeates every department and interaction, including a Christmas party and some morale/team-building events

I also included several specifics about the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities that the position requires, and why those tasks make up my dream job. You can include any number of items on the list, so think hard about what would make you 100% ecstatic to accept an offer and feel like you’ve attained the “dream job”.

The “acceptable job”. This list includes all the items that make up a job that you would consider taking, and you would be mostly satisfied with. This is generally the type of job you’ll have when you don’t have 10 years of experience and a graduate degree or other higher education relevant to your field. The requirements for this job should change every few years, as you gain the skills, training and experience necessary to obtain the dream job. For example, your salary requirement for the acceptable job as a new college grad might be $30,000 per year, but when you have 3 years of experience, your salary requirement might increase to $45,000 per year. If the dream salary is in the six-figure range, you should be evaluating how the salary at your acceptable jobs furthers you on a path to reaching the dream salary. For me, a key component to my acceptable job list was “high growth potential.” After working for a company that had no clear path for growth, I made this a requirement for my next acceptable job. I still see “high growth potential” as an important characteristic of any future position until I reach my dream job. Here’s a few of the items that were on my “acceptable job” list:

Business hours/schedule that would allow me to pursue my MBA while working

Minimum salary requirement

High growth potential with regular performance and compensation reviews

Opportunities to travel occasionally

Again, I included specifics about the day-to-day tasks and corporate culture, but I was much more lenient about these requirements. As you can see, many of these requirements are different than my dream job, but they do contribute to my ability to obtain my dream job. Once I complete my MBA program, I will no longer need a schedule that allows me to attend school. And, upon completion of my MBA program, I will have made progress on my path to my dream job by increasing my knowledge in my area of expertise.

The “deal breakers.” These are characteristics that are a no-go for a position, under any circumstance. I don’t care how much you pay me, but I simply cannot sit at a desk all day crunching numbers or making spreadsheets. I hate being by myself all day long, so an all-virtual company or completely telecommuting position is a deal breaker. While I might be willing to run numbers occasionally or telecommute once in a while, I would never be satisfied in a position with these qualities as the main job description. Don’t compromise on deal breakers at any point, because you’ll ultimately be dissatisfied; and job dissatisfaction leads to low productivity, lack of motivation, and degrades your overall life satisfaction.

If you really want to dig deep, you can use the weighted averages method from yesterday’s post. However, since this list is much more comprehensive, it might be difficult to assign percentages. So what’s your “dream job”? What steps are you taking to obtain your dream job? How is your “acceptable job” helping you progress toward the “dream job”?

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