What I value in a job: 5 things to look out for




what do you value in a job

Writing my last post on the pros and cons of shift work led me to ponder what matters most in a job and how wildly that varies from person to person.

One of the most sublime pieces of career advice I’ve seen recently was a gem in a comment thread on Ask a Manager. The topic: how to figure out what kind of career you want. I’m happy with mine, but I have a strange fascination with the topics of careers, particularly when it segues into discussions on passion and balance. And I still have a foot in the other camp, because T is one of those drifters himself. Here it is:

“1. Figure out what you like to do for fun in your spare time.

2. Figure out what career track will get you as close as possible to being able to get paid a livable salary, while doing that thing every day. Even if the only thing you love to do is sit around and watch movies, figure out what it is that excites you about it, and find a way to apply it to a career path.

3. Get an education that is broad enough that your skills could be transferable to a different path in case you decide you don’t love the first one. (Get a business degree but minor in marketing. Get a French degree but double-major in education.)”

Overly simplified? Perhaps, but the sentiment is spot on. Enjoying your work isn’t just about enjoying the actual job duties. Here are 5 things I truly value most in a job.

The hours/schedule

Maybe you’re okay with being on call or working rotating shifts. Maybe you do your best work early in the morning or late at night. Or maybe you want to work flexible daytime hours to accommodate your family. Maybe you’re okay with travelling a lot for work. Or working all hours to grow a startup. Personally, I like pretty regular hours.

The stability/security

Hardly needs to be said, but … It’s always nice to not constantly be worrying about whether your job is in jeopardy.

The environment

Is it a pleasant place to be in physically? Is it a healthy working space? While my office is always far too cold and dusty, I do sit by a wall of windows. A view of the outside makes a real difference.

The people

Possibly the most important social aspect, because a bad boss or horror colleague can turn a dream job into a nightmare job. Inconsiderate, incompetent coworkers can also ruin things. Sometimes you can ignore them or minimise contact, though. Very few workplaces are ever going to have a 100% awesome staff. You don’t have to like everyone, but you do have to get along with them.

Although I’m often more productive when working from home and enjoy the solitude, I’m not a naturally social person so it’s a good thing that I’m forced to interact with others when at the office. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I can only think of three people I’ve ever worked with who really got up my nerves. One fell into the amusing/entertaining category and was thus tolerable, while the other two I actively avoided as much as possible.

The level of autonomy

The thing I would struggle the most with if I had to go back to working in customer service or hospitality like I did in my student days would be the lack of freedom. The strict breaks. The absolute lack of leeway on arrival and leaving time.

I understand WHY those jobs are structured as such, though. It’s a different matter though, when we’re talking roles more in the professional services industry, where you don’t need to be covering your desk all the time. I had lunch with a friend recently who related tales of certain teams at her workplace (an IT firm – not all tech companies are forward-thinking *cough* Yahoo ditching remote working *cough) where staff were kept under an eagle eye and basically treated like children, from the sounds of it. She asked if I could take my lunch hour whenever and if it was strictly monitored – and what about travel time if I went out to eat, did that count? (I picked her up on the way to the place we were going to eat at and I did not check the time ONCE while we were gone.)

I appreciate the flexibility to work around the odd personal appointment and make up time as needed, particularly since I have to attend events on my own time occasionally. Junior or senior, treat your staff like grownups and they will be the happier for it, I say.

How to get a job you love

Don’t get me wrong. Enjoying what I actually do at work all day matters to me. But that alone isn’t enough. There are lots of other factors that play into job satisfaction and at least some of those boxes need to be ticked.

What do you value in a job the most?

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19 thoughts on “What I value in a job: 5 things to look out for

  • Reply Well Heeled Blog March 15, 2013 at 07:45

    I value learning opportunities, potential for growth, and training and professional development, especially for women. I value being compensated fairly for my work, and that if I value being rewarded financially I do a good job. In short, I want to work for an employer that invests in its employees.

    • Reply Well Heeled Blog March 15, 2013 at 08:00

      Ahh fingers too fast! That should read: “I value being compensated fairly for my work, and that I value being rewarded financially when I do a good job.”

  • Reply krantcents March 15, 2013 at 07:55

    At this stage of my life, I value freedom. As a teacher, I have a lot of freedom. I can conduct my class the way I like. I create the lessons. As a former business person, I make sure they learn enough skills to use in school and the business world.

  • Reply Liquid March 15, 2013 at 08:52

    I look mostly for stability and freedom. Having the liberty to be creative and do things my own way is important. I don’t like being micro managed. Luckily I’ve landed in the right job as a graphic artist. Companies are always changing and it’s the people inside them who make the changes. So individual employees like myself have power over how companies are run. It’s not possible for everyone to find their perfect job, but everyone can make their jobs a little better if they advocate the change they want to see around them 😀

  • Reply Holly@ClubThrifty March 15, 2013 at 11:47

    I value the stability. I love having a stable job that consistently pays the bills. I don’t like to worry. Boring, I know =/

  • Reply Country Girl March 15, 2013 at 15:27

    I value stability and having a good mentor/supporter around. I like my steady hours, 8-5, Monday to Friday and knowing that the work is relatively constant. Having a good mentor is really important too, because I’m still learning the ropes so it’s handy having someone who isn’t sick of my constant questions and is always willing to offer up advice.

  • Reply Sp March 15, 2013 at 17:44

    Growth, learning, development. Interesting problems, variety. Autonomy in how to get the work done and working hours, enough mentoring/support to help with growth (not a “mentor” who just assigns lame-o work – I quit a situation like that!). I find I’m most happy in a job where I feel like I’m a significant player and a top performer. I’m not happy being in the peanut gallery. As long as I don’t feel my salary is wildly out of whack, it isn’t the biggest motivator for me. I’m more motivated by appreciation shown in the day-to-day.

    I was thinking about this a lot lately, and used this web site to identify my strengths (I didn’t take the “test”, i self identified for free): http://www.strengthsquest.com/content/143324/themes-full-description.aspx

  • Reply Thad March 16, 2013 at 01:44

    I enjoy meaningful work, pleasant surroundings, opportunity to interact with others (collaboration), and leadership who sets a pace. Thankfully I have all of those and more where I work.

  • Reply SP March 16, 2013 at 02:44

    One more thought – step 1/2 is really hard, at least for me, and especially when you are kind of starting out (before college, or even just at the end of college).

    I absolutely LOVE my job, but I would have never sat down and thought of it if I tried to come from “what do I do in my spare time”? For me, it was more, “hmm, I am good at math and enjoy it, this career uses it…” I wasn’t doing math in my spare time. I don’t even do that much in my day to day job, though it is a highly analytical job.

  • Reply Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce March 16, 2013 at 05:27

    Great post. Thanks for this. The stability argument is definitely key; great insight.

  • Reply SavvyFinancialLatina March 16, 2013 at 08:46

    Great post!

  • Reply The Norwegian Girl March 16, 2013 at 09:22

    that`s some decent advice! I thought a lot about what I wanted in a job when becoming a student, and many of those are mentioned here. For me I wanted a stabile job, decent salary and regular hours, so combining that with my passion for language, becoming an English teacher seems like just the thing for me!

  • Reply Linda March 16, 2013 at 09:27

    I like to learn new things and then share them with other people. I *think* I’d probably be happier if I worked at a reference desk or something like it that involved digging into varied subjects. However, one thing I’ve learned about my personality over many years is that I tend to tackle a subject/skill for a while (months, years) and then drift away from it. With this in mind, I doubt there is one thing I could commit to that I am “passionate” about and could make a living doing.

    So instead, I’ve chosen to stick with working someplace that has values similar to mine, that employs smart and (mostly) nice people, and compensates me well. That way I can afford a lifestyle that lets me throw myself into the hobbies for which I currently have a passion. And if those hobbies change over time, it’s no big deal because I’m still paying the bills on time, saving, and having a pretty good life.

    • Reply eemusings March 16, 2013 at 16:13

      Ever read Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher? It’s all about people like that – who like to delve into things and then move on to new ones (which I think also describes T). I think what you’ve done – pick pleasant work that allows you the time and disposable income to pursue your other interests, is the way to go.

  • Reply femmefrugality March 16, 2013 at 10:22

    Totally showing this to the boyfriend. He’s trying to figure out what to study after I graduate this semester. It’s not an easy decision, but I think asking these questions may just do the trick!

  • Reply KK @ Student Debt Survivor March 17, 2013 at 08:40

    I value meaningful work (not just busy work) where I feel like I’m making a difference. I value normal work hours (for 3 years I worked nights and never saw my family or friends). I value ability to move up within the organization. If I didn’t see a path to promotion I wouldn’t stick around very long.

  • Reply Ashley March 17, 2013 at 10:31

    My current job is a good example for this — I love my job. I love the hard work, great coworkers, and the ability to grow as a young women. I think that no matter where you work, you need to be able to enjoy your surrounding, like your work, and have good coworkers.

  • Reply CF March 17, 2013 at 11:39

    For me, it’s all about the people. I’m looking for an awesome manager who I can connect with and awesome coworkers that I can have a beer with. At my current job, I have both. My coworkers are smart and fun and I adore my manager. I pretty much knew at my interview that I would accept the job, if they offered it to me – we just clicked!

  • Reply » Carnival of Money Pros Nickel by Nickel February 24, 2014 at 17:30

    […] @ NZ Muse writes What I value in a job – When it comes to your work, what matters the […]

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