No matter how hard you may try to pick a job that you think you’ll love, scientific research has shown us over and over again that people go about it all wrong. Research shows that what people think will make them happy is often very different from what actually will make them happy at work. Perhaps that accounts for why the majority of people are unhappy with their jobs.
Keep reading to learn what scientific research has to say about choosing the perfect job for you.
Don’t Dwell on Salary
After analyzing the results from more than 100 job satisfaction studies, the evidence is conclusive that there is only a small relationship between higher salary and higher job satisfaction. Don’t focus on pay.
The jury is still out as to whether money can buy happiness. Rich people are generally happier than their poorer counterparts, but evidence shows that winning the lottery or some other financial windfall doesn’t change a person’s happiness much over the long term.
When you focus on a job’s pay, you miss the opportunity to weigh other factors that might play a bigger role in your satisfaction. So although it’s nice to make some more money every pay check, it doesn’t make you as happy as other factors and doesn’t deserve as much attention as it’s given.
Downplay Your Interests
Now we know this is going to surprise a lot of you but there is no convincing evidence that proves that following your interests leads to fulfilling work. It should be obvious that doing a job that has something to do with what you’re interested in should matter. Shouldn’t someone who is interested in music be happier working as a record producer rather than an accountant? But the scientific research doesn’t show that it has any effect.
But there is a reason that science doesn’t say our interests matter. First off, our interests change over time and faster than we’d expect. Psychological studies have shown that people are terrible at predicting what they’d enjoy in the future. This makes sense because I know that some of my interests when I was 18 would no longer keep my attention today. You?
Other scientific research shows that although our interests are still important, we tend to outweigh them compared to more pertinent choices. So even if you did enjoy music, the late nights and long hours might be less desirable than you’d think.
Seek Significant Work
Throughout the field of positive psychology, professionals agree that a sense of meaning is important for an individual’s overall sense of happiness. Now studies have applied this to the workplace. When you feel like your work is contributing to a worthy cause, you are likely to love your work much more. Being kind to others has been shown to boost your mood. So when you’re able to turn your work into a way of helping others, you’re bound to find more satisfaction.
A meaningful job doesn’t have to be limited to a charity or nonprofit. Making a difference is up to you and can be done in many different ways through industries such as politics, entrepreneurship, and medicine.
If you’re in a job and can’t just change, try volunteering. The research is clear that those who volunteer are consistently happier than those that don’t. You can also donate money to charity as research shows this can make you feel great too.
Avoid Easy Jobs
When we’re not being mentally challenged, we quickly get bored. While you might think that getting an easy job would be less stress and a piece of cake, it can actually lead to more fatigue and feelings of dissatisfaction and even resentment.
In order to love the work you do, you need to feel like you’ve achieved something. Science has developed two tests that can help you determine how important mental challenge is for you on the job. The Growth Needs and Need for Cognition scales. While some people might not need as much challenge and growth opportunities as others, the scientific evidence shows that growth potential and challenge are important factors.
Diversify Your Tasks
The job characteristics model which is supported by more than 200 independent cases says that variety is a key component to finding work that’s satisfying. When we find work that opens up our horizons to more tasks and challenges, we don’t take a good job for granted as quickly. In a study by Sonya Lyubomirsky, she found that participants who tried new activities reported higher levels of happiness than the ones who remained the same.
Many jobs require different tasks including medicine, consulting, and media. When you are working on different projects and with new people, your experience changes frequently. But on the other hand a financial analysis who sits at a computer in a cube working on spreadsheets has a low-variety job.
If you want to get more variety at work, start by asking for it by requesting new projects or a higher level of responsibility. Another way to achieve variety is by switching tasks more often and changing up your schedule. Small changes can go a big way.
Find Autonomy at Work
When you have control over how and when your work gets done, you will experience higher levels of job satisfaction. You’ll be able to structure your work around your needs. Autonomy is a need that lies deep within humans and one that history has shown us some are willing to fight for. When you find work that gives you the freedom to determine your schedule and how you work, you’re likely to experience more job satisfaction.
If you want to know how much autonomy there is at a new job, ask the people that work there how much freedom they feel like they have. If you feel stifled at your current job, you may need to sit down with your supervisor to see if you can get some more independence.
Find a Source of Reliable Feedback
When you get feedback on a job, you’re likely to experience more motivation and higher levels of work satisfaction, multiple studies report. On the other hand if feedback is infrequent or poor, you may lose motivation.
If you want to increase the amount of feedback you get, start by asking for it. You can also start looking at the work itself for some feedback. Are you getting the results you need?
Like Your Coworkers
When you’re around people you like, your mood is enhanced. When you have doubts about the coworkers at a new job, remember that you are going to be spending a lot of time with them. Don’t discount your colleagues when selecting a new job. It’s not silly to want to work with people who you like.
When we have fulfilling close relationships, our feeling of wellbeing goes up. And if we have social support at work, our stress levels can go down. Studies also show that when people get along with their colleagues, they find their work more meaningful.
Follow Your Strengths
When we achieve, we feel better about ourselves. Most people are continuously working toward an achievement and when it comes, they usually feel good. Like when you finally finished that large project or mastered a difficult new skill.
In order to get this sense of achievement on a regular basis you must find work that utilizes your strengths and skills. Research shows that if your skills and the job are mismatches, you’ll be unhappy with it. If you tap into your signature strengths as developed by Seligman, you’re likely to find fulfilling work. When you apply your inherent strengths at work, you’re going to see increased levels of satisfactions.
Finding the Perfect Job Won’t Necessarily Be Easy
Even with years of scientific research to guide you, finding a career you love won’t happen overnight. But never give up. As research shows, we often misjudge how happy something will make us in the future. So although the sign on bonus might be tantalizing, don’t overlook the long hours you’ll need to put in which you might later regret.
As you begin to understand the science behind job satisfaction, you’re going to be able to make wiser choices and work toward finding a career you love. You won’t necessarily know that you’ll love something or not until you try it. So keep expanding your horizons, learning, and progressing your life. Don’t settle and keep trying things until you find what works for you.
Sources and references: Vox