What Factors Contribute to Your Level of Career Satisfaction?

by Miranda Marquit · 11 comments

When you think of your level of career satisfaction, it is likely about more than just money. A study, with results published in the Wall Street Journal, was recently released showing that $75,000 was the optimum salary for happiness. After that, monetary increases didn’t really contribute much to happiness. This has me thinking about what factors contribute to your level of career satisfaction.

Monetary Compensation

How much money you make is definitely a factor that affects your career satisfaction. But it’s not just about the dollar amount. Also included is whether or not you think that you are being fairly compensated. How far your salary goes in your location — your discretionary income — is also a big factor in whether or not you are satisfied with your compensation.

Other Types of Compensation

Some people are happy taking a little less in terms of salary in exchange for other types of compensation. Benefits, such as a good health plan, can outweigh the take home pay. The retirement plan (and possible matching), vacation policy and even unpaid personal leave can all influence how you feel about your job. Some careers even offer perks, such as paid travel (business trips) and meal allowances.

Do You Find Your Work Stimulating?

Whether or not your career is interesting and stimulating can also make a difference in how you feel about your career. Think about what you do. Is it sometimes challenging? Do you feel engaged in your work? Work that you find interesting can be satisfying — even if you aren’t making a great deal. Others don’t really care about on-the-job stimulation; they are happy to punch in and out, and leave their work behind them to enjoy time at home.

Feeling of Appreciation

Everyone likes to feel appreciated. If you feel like you are being recognized for your contributions, you are more likely to be satisfied with your career. This recognition doesn’t even need to be monetary in some cases. Winning Workplaces cites information from a management consultant, Cindy Ventrice, that indicates that sometimes money isn’t the reward that workers want. Instead, many employees want individual recognition and appreciation. Are you that way? Would you be more motivated by a bigger paycheck, or better appreciation?

Other Considerations

One of the reasons I’m happy with my career is that it is flexible, and I can work from home. The ability to set my own schedule, choose who I work for, and do it all from home makes a big difference in my level of satisfaction. My husband likes to interact with others. I enjoy personal interaction, but I don’t need it as much as my husband does. He also likes to have clearly defined parameters for his work — and be able to leave it at the office. While I thrive in a work from home environment, it drives my husband crazy. Where and how you work, time you get to spend with your family when not working, as well as the commute you have, are all factors that can influence job satisfaction.

Your own satisfaction with your career depends on your personality, and what you find important. What matters most to you in terms of career satisfaction?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • HearMeRoarCEO says:

    It definitely helps to feel appreciated at work. We don’t ask for undue praise, but recognition when we put in long hours or accomplish something that no one else could figure out would be nice. It can’t just be black and white, did you do the job or not? Some of us spend most of our waking hours going to/from or being at our job, so if we aren’t overpaid then we need to be thanked for our efforts once in a while. That’s why I enjoy working for myself. When I help someone, they thank me and I feel good about the effort I put in, even if it wasn’t easy. @HearMeRoarCEO

  • Randy Addison says:

    The feeling of someone needs you and the feeling of being a big help to others could be a factor that you are in the right track in your career. Also, monetary compensation will go after that.

  • KM says:

    I think one of the main things I like about my work is that I work on something that other people don’t get to do (a very specialized field), so I feel more unique. I would get bored in a career that I know many other people have succeeded. I don’t want it to sound like I am better than others or anything, but I just get more satisfaction from work that is difficult and selective (I guess part of that is recognition). Right now I am in engineering, but I have been considering going for a doctorate in astrophysics, which, again, not many people do, so it’s a selective field. The only problem with that is that I like stable income (working for yourself sounds good in theory, but it’s unstable and I don’t like those fluctuations and not knowing how much I will earn), and the world of research is somewhere between a regular job and self employment, so it’s still something to consider before I make the switch.

  • Eloisa says:

    I enjoy working with my colleagues and have a sense of camaraderie and team work. My job has also to be close to home to minimize commute time due to family responsibilities.

    • I agree that a sense of camaraderie amongst co-workers is one of the most important factors for me. If a good team dynamic isn’t there, working can be a real burden. I also value being able to work on challenging/new projects. I’m welling to take a small pay cut if the those two factors are met. It helps with my overall happiness =)

  • I find that different things motivate different people, so it’s important to find the source of that motivation and reward a hard worker with the things they value.

  • Bogey says:

    For me the 2 most important things are doing interesting work and getting paid well.

    Doing interesting things is really my #1 goal in life. In my job as a commercial banker, I deal primarily with interesting people who are involved in exciting projects and awesome companies.

    As far as being paid well is concerned, I know I am good at what I do, so I might as well work for a company that is willing to pay me well. It’s not about the money per se, but more about respect.

    • KM says:

      I think money ties into recognition sometimes. If the company can afford it, they will pay you your value, so you feel like you are worth more if you earn more.

  • MoneyNing hits at the heart of recognition. It doesn’t have to be an award. If we feel we have achieved something significant, we have recognition. How well the company and manager reinforce that feeling of achievement, the more satisfaction the employee will have.

    As much as we think money matters, once we achieve fair compensation, increases to pay don’t do much to add to our sense of satisfaction. The confusion comes because most people will tell you they want money, yet ask them about what has made them feel valued previously and they will rarely mention money.

    Cindy Ventrice
    Author of Make Their Day. Employee Recognition That Works

  • MoneyNing says:

    When I was working, salary was a big reason for personal satisfaction but when I look back, I was happiest whenever I felt like I achieved something significant for the company.

  • Emily says:

    I think DHs biggest problem is not feeling appreciated. He worries all year about whether he’s working up to par until the next evaluation.

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