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Why Job Satisfaction Is Important If You Want to Succeed

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

More by this author

Kris McPeak

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

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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