In the staffing industry, we do a lot of thorough vetting of prospective candidates for different positions. We want to make sure that our client is going to get the best possible person for their job, but on top of that, we want to make sure that the fit is going to be an ideal one for both the candidate and the client. I like to tell candidates and clients alike that there are rarely bad people, but there are a lot of cosmically bad matches between employer and employee. When skeptical candidates offer concerns that recruiters are only out to please their clients and don’t care about the actual employees, I’m fond of responding by letting them know that they are right…to a point. We do work for our clients–they pay our bill. But when a candidate is happy in their workplace, doing their job, the client is happy in turn. When the client is happy, I’ve done my job; theoretically, I work for both parties.
Finding what is going to make someone happy can be tricky, especially because people often immediately concern themselves with important things like benefits or paycheck size. These things are indeed important, but largely won’t be what gives an employee long-term happiness. The key is to figure out what other things are going to be necessary to keeping an employee satisfied and motivated. So, we ask this: what are three things that would keep you at a company long-term that are not pay or benefits? About half the time that I ask this question, candidates smile and say, “Wow…what a good question!” and then use some time to think a little harder about what they really want–we can tell sometimes that they’ve never before thought that what they wanted really made a difference in their workplace…that all work is the same. It doesn’t have to be.
Steve Tobak over at Inc.com sought to answer this same question for himself in his article, “4 Things that Make a Career Worth It”:
Some people get up in the morning, get dressed, go to work, clock in, do their job, clock out, and go home to their family. That’s the path they choose. [...] There will come a day when you’ll look back and wonder if you chose the right path–if that insane rollercoaster ride you used to call work was worth it.
Tobak sat down to figure out exactly what he needed in a job that would make him look back and know that he felt good about the choices he made. Among them were contributing to the world at large with the company’s goals and services, the culture of employee interactions, and the process of finding out more about himself as he continued in his work.
Other common things that I hear from potential candidates that would lead to their long-term happiness: opportunity for advancement, professional development, work/life balance, flexibility in scheduling, telecommuting opportunities (if this is you, do not apply at Yahoo!, of course!) a company that focuses on volunteerism, an entrepreneurial environment, and enjoying the people at work. Maybe you want a shorter commute, or maybe you really care about making sure that your management is accessible and supportive.
Not everyone has taken the time to think about these things because not everyone has realized that happiness at work is an attainable thing…and something everyone should have. Think back to your last jobs and what you loved and hated. Think about what companies you would love to work for and why. Think about the things that would make Mondays not just bearable, but something you enjoy. Do yourself a favor by asking these questions and finding your own answers–then do something about it! Maybe you would be able to suggest some changes to your management to make your workplace even better for you, or maybe you’ll realize that you’re not in the job you really need to be in to flourish, both personally and professionally. Either way, you don’t have to be a slave to your employer–people who are happy with their jobs are far more productive and contribute in greater ways to a company’s bottom line. Employers who understand this want you to be happy at work. Figure out what you need, and then take steps to pursue it!