Today’s job market favors employees. The attitude of most workers is that they should have a job that makes them happy. So it’s no surprise that at any given time 70 percent of the workforce is job hunting, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Everyone is looking for the right position. But what exactly does that mean?
Here is something it’s probably not: Prestigious. People who chase fame and prestige are generally not as happy as other people. If you’re after fame, you are setting goals that are dependent on other peoples’ approval. Conversely, goals about self-acceptance and friendship make you happy because you have more control over them.
You might think you’re different – that you have a legitimate shot at fame. Ninety percent of young workers think they are in the top 10 percent of all workers, according to Business Week magazine. Also, 40 percent think they will become famous. The reality is that only 1 or 2 percent ever achieve a modicum of fame.
A good rule of thumb when choosing a job to make you happy is to pick one that is based on the following list of attributes.
To test a job to see if it’s good, give the job points for each attribute it has:
A short, predictable commute - 1 point
The problem with a long commute is that it is long in a different way each day. Sometimes it’s the rain, sometimes there’s an accident. Sometimes traffic is backed up for no apparent reason. Humans can acclimate themselves to a lot of traumatic stuff – even being a paraplegic, according to Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness. But you cannot acclimate yourself to something that is bad in a different way every day.
Workflow you can manage – 1 point
This is not about doing work. This is about managing your personal life, which you cannot do if you have no control over your workflow. You need to be able to predict when things will be difficult and when it’s safe to focus more on your personal life. This is why management consultants are generally happy – they oversee their own schedule. But those who hold client-heavy jobs, such as lawyers or financial analysts, have to jump at a clients’ whim.
Clear goals that are challenging – 1 point
Goals that are not challenging result in boredom, not happiness. And challenging work without a clear goal is a bad job waiting to happen, because people want to know how they’re doing. But you can’t get feedback from a boss who does not set clear goals to manage your progress.
It is worth noting that the primary cause of workplace burnout is not the amount of time spent working, but whether the work you did made a difference. For example, nurses on the pediatric burn unit have high turnover because it is exhausting to be taking care of children without being able to stop their suffering. Conversely, entrepreneurs are typically happy because they have so much control over workflow and goals.
Co-workers you’re close friends with – 3 points
If you have two good friends at work, you are almost guaranteed to like your job, according to Tom Rath, the author of Vital Friends. This is, in part, because you can process the bad parts of a job more productively with friends by your side to help you.
So finding a job you like or turning a bad job into a good job might actually be totally under your control; you can decide you are going to be likable and make friends, or not.
0-2 points – probably not a good job
3 points – probably a good job
4-6 points – probably a really good job