Internet Survey Results:
What Contributes to a Satisfying Career?
Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D.
Imagine that you are a career counselor for people who are trying to define a career direction. Putting aside the differences in financial gains between various careers, what would be your counsel to a person whose objective is to find a satisfying career? What criteria should they take into consideration in making a choice? Having been in that situation, my answers to these questions were not very deep or consistent. Thus the motivation for conducting this survey.
During the second quarter of 2005, one hundred and twenty one people participated in our on-line survey to, define the most important contributors to a satisfying career. Seventeen percent have been employed in a full time job for more than six years and fifty seven percent have been employed longer than ten years. Also when asked overall how satisfied are you with your career only nine percent chose very unsatisfied while fifty three percent selected very satisfied and thirty eight percent selected the so-so option. This longevity in the workplace and high overall satisfaction scores lends credence to their opinions about what constitutes career satisfactionthey have the experience and know one when they see one.
The participants were asked to rate nineteen conditions (listed at the end of this report) three times:
1. How important are theses conditions to a satisfying career?
e.g., My work/career makes a difference
__Does not Apply,__ Not Important,
__Somewhat Important, __Very Important
3. To what extents are these conditions present in their current career?
e.g., My work/career makes a difference
__Does Not Apply, __Not Present, __Sometimes yes sometimes no, __Always Present
They were also asked how likely they were to change job/careers with the next 12-15 month and why.
What is important?
Only three of the nineteen conditions failed to be rated very important to a satisfying career at least 60% of the time: I can be my own boss, my co-workers are enjoyable, and I receive adequate performance feedback. The remaining sixteen factors all were voted as very important at least 60% for the time. Not much discrimination or distinction and maybe a little too idealistic to expect everything to be equally important. The next question asked for the participants to select the single most important factor from the list of nineteen factors. The following were the top six single most important factors for a satisfying career:
The argument could be made that I find my career personally satisfying is an outcome or because of the existence of the other five factors. Doing what makes a difference while utilizing my strongest talents plus having the opportunity to develop, grow, and advance with sufficient free time to pursue other interests sounds pretty good. Placed in these conditions it would be hard not to find it personally satisfying.
From the original career counselor scenario, based on these results alone, you might offer the following advice: look at those careers that you find personally interesting, fit with your values on what makes a difference and utilize what you feel are your strongest talents. Also consider those careers that allow opportunities for development growth and advancement and are not so all consuming that you dont have a life outside of work. Good advice if such an animal exists.
Are we getting what is important?
Knowing what is important for a satisfying career and having the opportunity to fulfill these needs may be two different things. When asked to rate the extent these same nineteen factors are present in their current career the two sets of results indicate that in fact these needs are not being fully fulfilled by the current career.
Now as a recipient of your counsel would the person be dishearten to learn that on average those people surveyed felt that only 30% of the time did their current career always live up to providing what was important and in 16% of the time the career didnt even come close to meeting these needs? Conversely would their chosen career be attractive to these respondents if they could count on it only fifty four percent sometimes meeting what is important to them?
What to do about it?
The argument could be made that these respondents might not have fully evaluated their chosen careers in terms of what was really important to them. Or, they might not have really made a conscious choice about a career, someone else or situations dictated the type of career/work they had to take.
Being placed in a situation where only 30% of the time your career always provided you what important and 16% of the time not at all might explain that 45% of these respondents indicated that they are likely to change jobs/career within the next 12-15 months. Reading the reasons for the change reinforces these conclusions: half of the written responses describing the major reason for the change point to some type of dissatisfaction with the current job/career. Some examples:
I need a job that involves me using my full potential
Personal boredom and a lack of vision for the future from my boss
Want increased challenges, increased skills in my field
More rewarding work with more balance between work/life
I would like more of an opportunity to make a difference and to develop and grow
Lest we focus only on the negative, keep in mind that 53% of the respondent chose very satisfied when ask to rate their overall satisfaction with their career. This group has selected a career that both meets their needs and provides them opportunity for continued satisfaction. Which begs the question, how can we help others find a satisfying career?
Whats your counsel?
For those who are formal career counselors or informally mentor/influence others, one conclusion from this survey is that the person needs to take more personal responsibility in making a career choice if they want to find career satisfaction. Focusing on the top six most important factors, the following questions, although far from exhaustive, might help those searching for a meaningful and satisfying career:
Matt Starcevich, matt@coachingandmentoring