Rick Wamre: What makes a job worthwhile?

Photo by Hilary Schleier
Photo by Hilary Schleier

When we talk about our jobs, there are really only two things we can say: Either we love them or we endure them.

Right?

Most of us, it seems, simply endure our jobs. We show up because we need the money, and even if we don’t like what we have, most of us are too lazy or too frightened to do anything about it.

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As difficult as it can be to find a job that pays well, it’s even more difficult to find one that seems worth doing. Our cover story about people who have “day jobs” but really love their hobbies started me thinking about the difficulty of finding and keeping a good job.

A very few of us really love our jobs wholeheartedly. For whatever reason, we’ve found something that is fulfilling enough to make us happy, whether we’re becoming rich or not.

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We talk about money, how it impacts our job happiness and how we should be making more of it, but there are plenty of studies and research papers that say when push comes to shove, money is rarely the most important factor people consider when evaluating their jobs.

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It’s a factor, to be sure, but stuff like flexibility, fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment or value tends to be higher than cash on the “happiness” list. And as difficult as it can be to find a job that pays well, it’s even more difficult to find one that seems worth doing. Our cover story about people who have “day jobs” but really love their hobbies started me thinking about the difficulty of finding and keeping a good job.

So many job descriptions sound great — they make it sound like you’ll be running the company, helping out widows and orphans, and earning tons of money to boot.

But when you show up for the interview, things look and sound less rosy. And then you start the job and find out your co-workers fell for the same story and now wish they hadn’t.

Then there are other places that seem to operate on the “rewards” system, as in you’ll be lucky if they even consider you for a position because everyone who works there is great and the company is great and everyone loves everything and everyone, blah, blah, blah. Those are scary, too, because honestly, what workplace do you know where everyone really loves everyone else?

And then there are the jobs where they promise you the moon and tell you the sky’s the limit, and it turns out there’s a limit and it’s nowhere near the sky.

There just aren’t many places that offer a fair wage, an opportunity to have your voice heard when decisions are made, and an opportunity to leave each day feeling like you’ve done something useful or important with your time at work.

If you’ve found one of those places, keep reminding yourself what you have and quit listening to the whiners who don’t have anything good to say about their job.

And if you hate your job and don’t know what to do about it? Well, you could go talk with the boss, but that’s probably a whole new column for another day.

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