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Why Job Satisfaction Is Important If You Want to Succeed

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Why Job Satisfaction Is Important If You Want to Succeed

In my adult life, I’ve had nine positions at nine different colleges in seven different states. Some might call that picky. Others may refer to it as wishy-washy. But I like to think that I was a Job Satisfaction Seeker.

We all want to work at our dream jobs – who doesn’t? We want to be part of a community of like-minded individuals who come together daily to be part of an organization, corporation, or institution that makes a difference in the world. If you just wanted a paycheck, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article.

Job satisfaction doesn’t just come from your job title or your take-home check stub. You feel it inside because you know you are working at a place where you make a difference. Your values align with your employers, you connect with your co-workers, and you enjoy working for and with your supervisor. You are able to see the difference you make through your performance.

That sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

As I referenced in my opening line, I’ve worked at several different places. SEVERAL. And I wound up leaving those first eight positions for different reasons, but they were all related to job satisfaction in one way or another.

Company Culture

In my first position out of graduate school, I found myself in an environment quite different from the professional development I had received in my assistantship. I was doing an entry level position at a mid-size public school in the pacific northwest. I had been used to being the Big Fish in the Small Pond, but now the shoe was on the other foot.

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In essence, I had accepted a position that was, how should I say this, more politically correct that I was accustomed. And I got in trouble a lot. This led me to my first lesson on understanding company (institutional) culture. Knowing that your values align with your employer and that you “FIT” there is important to job satisfaction.

At this stage in my life, I had no idea what questions to ask during the interview to get to the concept of “FIT.” I was a young professional, just out of graduate school, and just married, too. The trifecta of early employment struggles. Still, I made some good friends during my two years at this position, and I can say with all honesty that I’m glad I took this position.

Using Your Skills at Work

My second professional position was at a small, private, liberal arts school in the midwest. I ran my own department – rare for someone at my age, generally speaking – and my supervisor was really cool. I loved my students and really connected with my colleagues and peers.

So, why did I leave? After almost four years – the third longest tenure in my career – I was in a meeting with my supervisor, discussing the changes coming down the pike in the next few years. My supervisor was very honest with me. “Kris, I’m not telling you to leave; but you will need to understand that the direction this department is going is highly administrative. If you want to stay successful, you’ll need to adapt to that and make some changes.” I thought of this for a long time and made the decision to look for a new job.

I realized that the parts of my current job I really ENJOYED – and had been successful – were not administrative tasks. They were highly relational and programmatic. And I wanted more of that, not less. I didn’t believe that my skills lay in the administrative arena. I wanted to continue working directly with students and doing programs.

Trusting Your Supervisor

My third job position was at a small-ish public school in the Washington D.C. area. It was roughly the same amount of money and the same duties, but a more prestigious title. Now, to be fair, there was a certain lure with this position because my sister had just given birth to twin daughters and lived only 20 minutes from my new employer. The pull from family can definitely be a factor when taking a position – and I thoroughly enjoyed the 9 months I spent in that area spending time with my sister.

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Still, there was always something behind the curtain that didn’t seem right to me. And it came down to trusting my supervisor. This was a strained relationship from the beginning; and I wasn’t “seasoned” enough to know exactly what I wanted to say to her to express my concerns. All it took was just one incident of getting thrown under the bus to turn the ship. It hurt, and to this day I’m not even certain that I handled it the best way. I learned a great deal about trust and communication. And that never happened to me again.

Creating Your Own Gig

From Virginia, I found my way to Chicago, working at a mid-sized urban institution. Chicago was home for me, and I relished the notion of working in my favorite city.

I honestly would have kept this position and stayed longer than 30 months – because it was a chance to create my own work experience and leave a true legacy. The position for which I was hired was a new position – I would be creating a leadership program for students living on campus. It included advising student leadership organizations and traveling to various conferences. I was given a very nice budget and a good deal of freedom in what I created.

The main reason I left this position was out of support for my husband, who was a California boy and longed for more sun and warmth. Resigning was tough for me because I had a very good experience at this institution. From the job satisfaction standpoint, I was thrilled to have the chance to create my own gig. And I truly DID leave a legacy.

But when you have a life partner involved, sometimes making sacrifices is what’s needed for your partner’s satisfaction. In my book, spouse satisfaction supersedes job satisfaction. And he had made many sacrifices for my career. So I made one for his happiness.

Change, Change, Change

From the Windy City, I went to Arizona with no job lined up. I spent close to six months in temporary positions and had a very hard time landing a position at the big local university in my field of housing and residence life. Not having benefits was getting pretty scary – and expensive – so I went down the road of applying for every single position I was even remotely qualified for.

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I was thrilled to finally land in New Student Orientation as a Program Coordinator. I would be working directly with the Student Orientation Leaders at a slightly lower salary than I’d had in Chicago. Still, it paid the rent and I truly enjoyed my supervisor and colleagues. This job allowed for some wonderful travel and I was able to grow the Student Orientation Program to a level it had not seen previously.

But a New Sheriff was in town – President, that is – and it looked like there was going to be some major changes on the horizon. It wasn’t that I was worried about job security, but I WAS worried about the possibility of my position shifting to a new division all together. And I’d finally realized that I’d been on a lateral train for close to ten years. It was time to seek higher ground and a bit more stability.

Work Life Balance

I applied only to jobs with the words “Director” and “Associate Director” in the title. I landed at a prestigious private school in the mid-south with a campus housing requirement and a very high-touch approach to student development and student conduct. My favorite theory of “Challenge and Support” was mostly support and no challenge.

But I thoroughly enjoyed my colleagues and my supervisor. We were a strong team and we worked very hard — almost too hard. As an Associate Director, I finally had a chance to supervise staff and really build a team. I loved the city and even my hubby found a way to break into a field that he enjoyed further.

This position was a live-in position. I had an amazing apartment, a great salary, and wonderful benefits. I could use my meal card to buy CD’s at the bookstore as well as meals off campus at local restaurants. But I spent many weekend evenings at the hospital dealing with students who were intoxicated and made more than my fair share of parent phone calls. I was finding very little work life balance at this institution of higher education. I took my next position after only 18 months on the job.

No Upward Mobility

FINALLY – it was off to Southern California! I took a senior level position at a small private university in the very large San Bernardino County. I was running my own department, supervising staff, and found a wonderful connect with the professional association of my field.

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My supervisor was amazing. He gave me autonomy and freedom to run my own show, asked my opinion on higher level matters, and did everything that he could to create opportunity for me. Things were looking good and I was being courted for an Assistant or Associate Dean-level position. This was awesome.

Then, the market crash of 2008 hit and our institution suffered greatly. There were layoffs on the private school front and many public schools were instituting mandated furloughs. I survived the layoffs at my institution, but the writing was already on the wall. In 2010, my supervisor shared with me that he did not see any possibility for upward mobility in my case unless someone in a higher position resigned or retired. And since we had just undergone our second full restructuring during my 4 year tenure here, I made the decision to start looking for something else.

The Moral of the Story

There is more to my story – after all, it IS 2019 now. I have found job satisfaction in my current position; and while there is still room for improvement on a regular basis, I don’t get restless anymore. I’m able to work collaboratively with my supervisor and my colleagues in a way that leads to job satisfaction every day. I feel stable and successful. I want to work in this position and this institution for the rest of my career. To quote Huey Lewis and The News, “I’ve Finally Found a Home.”

Do I regret being the former Mary Poppins of Higher Education? No. I learned a great deal about myself and what I’m capable of doing in my career and for students. But I’m happier and more satisfied than ever where I am now.

So go ahead – try on some different jobs. See how they fit. Ask questions. Make some waves. Participate. And don’t ever stop seeking job satisfaction!

More About Job Satisfaction

Featured photo credit: Amel Majanovic via unsplash.com

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Kris McPeak

Educator, Author, Career Change and Work/Life Balance Guru

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Last Updated on November 15, 2021

20 Ways to Describe Yourself in a Job Interview

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20 Ways to Describe Yourself in a Job Interview

“Please describe yourself in a few words”.

It’s the job interview of your life and you need to come up with something fast. Mental pictures of words are mixing in your head and your tongue tastes like alphabet soup. You mutter words like “deterministic” or “innovativity” and you realize you’re drenched in sweat. You wish you had thought about this. You wish you had read this post before.

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    Image Credit: Career Employer

    Here are 20 sentences that you could use when you are asked to describe yourself. Choose the ones that describe you the best.

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    “I am someone who…”:

    1. “can adapt to any situation. I thrive in a fluctuating environment and I transform unexpected obstacles into stepping stones for achievements.”
    2. “consistently innovates to create value. I find opportunities where other people see none: I turn ideas into projects, and projects into serial success.”
    3. “has a very creative mind. I always have a unique perspective when approaching an issue due to my broad range of interests and hobbies. Creativity is the source of differentiation and therefore, at the root of competitive advantage.”
    4. “always has an eye on my target. I endeavour to deliver high-quality work on time, every time. Hiring me is the only real guarantee for results.”
    5. “knows this job inside and out. With many years of relevant experience, there is no question whether I will be efficient on the job. I can bring the best practices to the company.”
    6. “has a high level of motivation to work here. I have studied the entire company history and observed its business strategies. Since I am also a long-time customer, I took the opportunity to write this report with some suggestions for how to improve your services.”
    7. “has a pragmatic approach to things. I don’t waste time talking about theory or the latest buzz words of the bullshit bingo. Only one question matters to me: ‘Does it work or not?'”
    8. “takes work ethics very seriously. I do what I am paid for, and I do it well.”
    9. “can make decisions rapidly if needed. Everybody can make good decisions with sufficient time and information. The reality of our domain is different. Even with time pressure and high stakes, we need to move forward by taking charge and being decisive. I can do that.”
    10. “is considered to be ‘fun.’ I believe that we are way more productive when we are working with people with which we enjoy spending time. When the situation gets tough with a customer, a touch of humour can save the day.”
    11. “works as a real team-player. I bring the best out of the people I work with and I always do what I think is best for the company.”
    12. “is completely autonomous. I won’t need to be micromanaged. I won’t need to be trained. I understand high-level targets and I know how to achieve them.”
    13. “leads people. I can unite people around a vision and motivate a team to excellence. I expect no more from the others than what I expect from myself.”
    14. “understands the complexity of advanced project management. It’s not just pushing triangles on a GANTT chart; it’s about getting everyone to sit down together and to agree on the way forward. And that’s a lot more complicated than it sounds.”
    15. “is the absolute expert in the field. Ask anybody in the industry. My name is on their lips because I wrote THE book on the subject.”
    16. “communicates extensively. Good, bad or ugly, I believe that open communication is the most important factor to reach an efficient organization.”
    17. “works enthusiastically. I have enough motivation for myself and my department. I love what I do, and it’s contagious.”
    18. “has an eye for details because details matter the most. How many companies have failed because of just one tiny detail? Hire me and you’ll be sure I’ll find that detail.”
    19. “can see the big picture. Beginners waste time solving minor issues. I understand the purpose of our company, tackle the real subjects and the top management will eventually notice it.”
    20. “is not like anyone you know. I am the candidate you would not expect. You can hire a corporate clone, or you can hire someone who will bring something different to the company. That’s me. “

    Featured photo credit: Tim Gouw via unsplash.com

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