What is a Good Job?

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I will tell you. But first some questions…

Have you had someone tell you, “he or she has a ‘good job?” You don’t know what it means, but you are jealous. Have you ever accepted a new job and on your first day at work you realize immediately that you made a mistake? Have you ever taken on a new assignment and realized you should have asked more questions? Have you ever felt joy when you left a job that you never liked, to take one that you know will be better? Have you ever had a job that you couldn’t imagine not being a part of your life because you enjoyed it so much? (Lucky you!)

Sure, you may have a short commute and good pay and benefits and free coffee but does that make for a good job? Not necessarily. Based on my observations over the years and lots of research, here is what makes for a good job:

  • Start with the people you work with. Colleagues who support you, help you and are generous with time and expertise are only the beginning. All of your best friends don’t need to be at work but you should look forward to being around your team. And if your boss is interested in your career and supportive in your day-to-day you will truly enjoy your work. If you dread being around your co-workers or boss, could be trouble.
  • Then, the autonomy you have over your work life is key. Consider the decisions you can make in dealing with customers or in how a project is completed or how and where your day is spent. The more control you have over your schedule, routine and decision making when it comes to your job, the more you will like it. If you hear the phrase, “Check your brain, at the door”, it may be time to check out.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, meaning is what puts the joy in a job. Ask any firefighter or special education teacher who are always the most satisfied of anyone who works. You might be curing cancer or the environment; but deriving meaning from a career could be as simple as feeling like you are contributing in a meaningful way to the organization’s mission. Meaning could be derived from the satisfaction that you know you are doing a good job. Meaning could be derived from the sense that you are providing for your family. You define what meaning is for you.

Now you have the answer to the eternal question, “what is a good job?” OK, maybe it’s not just three factors. Depending on the career, there could be hundreds of additional things that make for a good job ranging from foosball tables to safety. But without people, autonomy and meaning, that good job might just be an aspiration.

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