When Tourism Queensland posted “the best job in the world,” it was little surprise that the position received over 34,000 applications.
Sure, getting paid to soak up the sun’s rays and scuba dive every day sounds like paradise, but does having the title “best job in the world” mean you’ll be happier at work?
Yale School of Management psychology professor Amy Wrzesniewski says it’s not our job title that impacts our work satisfaction, but whether we view our work as a “job,” a “career,” or a “calling.”
Throughout numerous studies, Wrzesniewski has examined how the way we view our work impacts our satisfaction. Those who view their work as a “job” are only interested in the material benefits derived from their work. Daily work life is only a means to allow these individuals to acquire the resources needed to enjoy their time away from the job. Their major interests and ambitions are not exercised through their daily job tasks. Those who view their work as merely a “job” consistently have the lowest levels of job satisfaction and engagement.
Those who view their work as a “career,” on the other hand, have a deeper personal investment in their work and focus on advancement and increases in prestige and power that come from that advancement. But Wrzesniewski says those who have the highest levels of job satisfaction are those who see their work as a calling. These individuals don’t view their work as merely a means for financial gain or career advancement, but find the work itself personally fulfilling. “The work is an end in and of itself,” says Wrzesniewski. Those who viewed their work as a calling also reported fewer days of work missed than those who viewed their work as a job or a career.
Whether you view your work as a job, a career, or a calling has nothing to do with your job title. Wrzesniewski says within any occupation, you can find individuals with all three kinds of relations to their work. She found hospital janitors and groundskeepers who viewed their work as a calling, and physicians and nurses who viewed their work as merely a job.
So, how can a janitor view their job as the “best in the world,” you ask? Wrzesniewski identifies three ways to turn your job into the best:
“Regardless of the kind of work it is, people who experience the work they do as a calling are very aware of the ways in which their work makes the world a better place,” says Wrzesniewski.
A hospital janitor may not be a glamorous job, but those janitors who had a high level of job satisfaction talked about themselves as being “healers” rather than simply “cleaners.” “They talked about how they were responsible for creating sterile spaces in the hospital in which people would heal faster,” says Wrzesniewski.
Internalizing the importance of your work is key to increasing job satisfaction. The janitors who felt their job was to help people heal rather than simply sterilize and clean a room had identified a greater purpose to the daily tasks that made up their job description. These individuals were able to visualize the greater reason for their work.
Find interactions between the various daily tasks identified in your job description and your values, strengths, and what you’re passionate about. Janitors who were passionate about helping people found greater purpose in their work than those whose passions and interests lied outside their work. Focusing on these intersections between your strengths, values, and passions and the tasks you do daily in your work and building upon them is key to improving engagement.
Your job may not take you to an exotic locale, but whether or not you have the title of “best in the world,” by engaging in these tactics, you can increase your satisfaction and your success.