When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Is that what you are now? Is it still what you want to be? Choosing a career path can be a daunting decision, as it will affect just about every aspect of your life down the line: not only what you do for a living, but what you can afford to do in your free time, who you meet in your life, and what sort of skill set you end up forming and using to solve problems all across your life.
Complicating matters is the fact that a job’s salary does not always correlate with how gratifying it is as a profession. Some high-paying jobs are absolutely soul-crushing due to unpleasant work, overtaxing schedules and commutes, or toxic work environments. Even identifying a gratifying and well-paying career path does not guarantee you’ll be able to land such a job. Numerous potential career paths have been expunged due to the aspirant’s lack of talent or failure to find sufficient network connections in the field. Resources are available online, such as this one, that can help you predict some of these factors to a degree, but this is still a long way from actually getting you the career path that will satisfy you in your life.
Psychiatrists who have psychoanalyzed the unemployed, underemployed, and generally dissatisfied have been able to identify three major factors that lead to a person being satisfied with their chosen profession, independent of wages earned.
1.Autonomy– The ability to make decisions and act independently. Just about every job out there is going to answer to a boss, but certain jobs allow a greater degree of freedom than others. A person needs to feel like they are, even to a small degree, in control of what goes on around them. This is why “micro-managing” is such a disruptive and disliked practice among employees.
2.Variety– Practice may make perfect, but too much repetition leads to regretting one’s career choice. If you’re the type that gets bored easily, you may be especially unsatisfied with a highly repetitive job, and be happier in a position where your assignments, environment, and short-term goals are more subject to change.
3.Impact– Just as a person needs to feel like they have a certain ability to make decisions, they need to feel like those decisions have tangible consequences. If you spend a great deal of time and effort on something, only to have the results of your work easily marginalized, forgotten, or undone, it’s only a matter of time before you start wondering what point there is to you doing it in the first place.
These factors have proven fairly universal among all those surveyed, but the degree to which they are important varies from person to person. Some people crave variety and new experiences more often than others, some people have a greater drive to impact the world around them, and some people rankle at having their decisions made for them harder than others. This is where a job’s wage comes in.
These three factors are important not just in a person’s professional life, but in the sum of their whole life. If your career doesn’t afford you enough of one or more of them, you can still find satisfaction in your life if your life outside your job supplies them. In many cases, that means you must earn enough money to be able to afford to do the things that make you happy, in the ways that your job does not.