Ask mortician Elizabeth Fournier whether she loves her job and you'll get an unequivocal, “Yes!”
What began as a cemetery attendant position -- an admittedly offbeat choice for a job while in college -- has flourished into what Fournier considers her calling. Even when it became clear that her interest in the mortuary business was more than a passing phase, her friends never took her seriously. “Now, some 19 years later, they ask me to bury their family members,” she says.
“I am honored to assist people during what can be the worst time of their lives. For me, helping families is a role consistent with the work of midwives and nurses,” says Fournier, the sole proprietor of Cornerstone Funeral Services and Cremation in northern Oregon. Fournier’s contributions to her community are extremely meaningful. "That connection is what I love most about my work."
What Drives Job Satisfaction?
Many of the reasons Fournier loves her unconventional work are actually conventional, at least according to career satisfaction studies that draw a correlation between job fulfillment and personal contributions. Tom W. Smith, head of the polling center at the University of Chicago, has learned that the happiest workers are in caregiver roles as diverse as firefighters, teachers, clergy and physical therapists.
"Job satisfaction is the result of a sense of autonomy, purpose and the desire to do things because they're fun and interesting,” claims author Daniel Pink in his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. "Money can actually cause someone to work less effectively."
For Gregory Smith, owner of the consultancy Chart Your Course International, it's no surprise remuneration doesn’t necessarily correlate with job satisfaction. “Money may attract people to the front door, but something else keeps them from going out the back.”
The Job Satisfaction Barometer
Yet for all the people who love their careers, there’s a surprisingly high number of people who don’t. The January 2010 results of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center found that in 5,000 US households, only 45 percent of workers were satisfied with their jobs. And according to a 2009 Monster.com/Human Capital Institute workforce survey, 58 percent of employees are just happy to have a job in this economy -- but they don’t necessarily love what they do. In fact, 65 percent of respondents to a recent Monster.com poll do not love what they do. For those who admit dissatisfaction, the reasons are universal regardless of profession: feeling anonymous and unrecognized, feeling work is irrelevant and meaningless, experiencing disharmony with coworkers and, in particular, hating their boss.
Reignite Your Romance with Work -- or Consider Courting Another
If feelings about your career tend more toward disenchantment, the good news is that there are several steps you can take to change that, from improving your current situation to exploring other career options.
If these strategies still leave you restless, it may be time to begin looking for a new job. Remember, “it’s your career -- you own it and live with it, so make sure you love it,” says Hollick.
- Consider the 80/20 Ratio: Curt Rosengren, career columnist for US News & World Report, says, “If you love what you’re doing 80 percent of the time, you’re doing pretty well. The energy you get from the work you do probably far outweighs the drain of the things you don’t like.” Stay focused on the pleasure you derive 80 percent of the time.
- Conduct a Research Project: What about your current situation doesn’t work for you? What does? How can you respond differently? If you feel unappreciated or ignored, find appropriate ways to become more visible. Make sure your opinion is known by seeking opportunities to speak up. Or if you’re stuck on autopilot, request more responsibility to further develop your skills. Exploration can energize your routine and help adjust your attitude.
- Complete a Self-Assessment to Discover Your Passion: Heather Hollick, founder of coaching firm Rizers in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, encourages people to find “their sweet spot” -- the intersection of what you enjoy doing, what you’re good at and what brings value in the marketplace. Identifying this overlap is crucial to loving your career.
- Is Your Boss the Problem? Lastly, if you don't get along with your boss or coworkers, limit interactions with them as much as possible. Focus on your performance and results.