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How to find a career that will make you happy. It is possible!

At times, it can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack, but finding a career that makes you happy may not be as hard as you think. In fact, according to a recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) a whopping 86% of Americans were satisfied with their current jobs in 2014—which is 5 percentage points higher than reported in 2013. Still not convinced? Job satisfaction may seem like a concept that’s out of your reach, but there are some major factors that can help to make it a reality. So let’s take a look at what you should be on the lookout for when considering a potential career path.

What makes people more satisfied on the job?

Feeling like you’re being well-paid for everything you do seems like a no-brainer when it comes to job satisfaction. Everyone has to pay the rent. That’s why it’s a bit shocking to learn that the SHRM survey found being treated respectively was the number one factor that contributes to job satisfaction. Apparently, Aretha Franklin had it right! Less surprising is the fact that having an environment of trust between employees and senior management came in second place. It’s hard to be happy if you feel like your boss doesn’t have confidence in your abilities—or if you don’t have confidence in theirs. Rounding out the top five factors were benefits, compensation and job security, which are all understandably important to most people.

But those aren’t all. Here are more work values to consider when it comes to employee satisfaction[i]:

  • Recognition: Does your company offer opportunity for advancement, leadership, and recognition of your value?
  • Relationships: Does your boss encourage co-workers to collaborate rather than compete?
  • Independence: Does your job give you freedom and autonomy in your work?
  • Achievement: Does your job allow you to capitalize on your strengths and gain a sense of accomplishment?
  • Working Conditions: Does your employee offer job security and comfortable working conditions?

This may seem obvious, but feeling like your work matters and has meaning is also very important. Nobody wants to spend eight hours a day doing a job that doesn’t feel worthwhile. However, what exactly is meaningful can be subjective. Payscale recently conducted a survey that found that the highest overall job satisfaction rates are found in jobs that pay well and contribute to society in a positive way—such as surgeons or scientists, for example. Now, the reality is that these jobs typically require a high level of skill and education, so that’s something to keep in mind. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a career that is meaningful to you! How does education play a part?

How does education play a part?

Any way you slice it, earning a college degree can have a direct impact on finding the right job for you. In fact 91% of people who earned a bachelor’s degree—and 96% of those with a graduate or professional diploma—reported their education has paid off, or they expect it to in the future, according to a recent study by Pew Research Center. However, it’s worth noting that this view does vary significantly by major—with one third of all liberal arts, social science, and education majors reporting they should have selected another field of study to better prepare them for their career. Only one quarter of science and engineering majors reported similar regrets. So that’s something to consider. Regardless of the major, highly educated people were more likely to report being very satisfied with their current jobs than those with less of an education. [ii]

How common is it to work in the field as your education?

What strikes fear in the hearts of students everywhere? Spending four—or more—years earning your degree only to end up in in a job that’s not remotely related to it. But we have some good news! That helpful Pew study found that almost half of college graduates described their work as “very closely” related to their undergrad or graduate degree. So you can breathe a sigh of relief. Here’s something to keep in mind though—people who earned a graduate or professional degree were more likely to report their current job matches “very well” with their degree. When it comes to majors, almost 69% of college graduates said their major is at least somewhat related to their current job. However, 78% of engineering and science majors—and 73% of those who majored in business—said they work in a job related to their field of study, but only 59% of social science, liberal arts and education majors had such luck. [ii]

Although deciding on a major or degree program can seem like a life or death choice, the reality is it doesn’t have to be. What’s important is that you take a good hard look at your skills, experience, interests, and goals—and then go from there. Once you’ve figured out what direction you want your career to take, it’s a matter of earning the education you need to help you meet the qualifications for your dream job. And we can help in that department! Search for degree programs that align with your career goals. And if check out our FREE career assessment test above if you’re still on the fence!


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