Data points to ways to achieve job satisfaction

Most of us are in college for a reason — we are studying a particular topic so that we can earn a particular degree and find a career in a particular field. However, once we leave college, how should we ensure we find a job that we actually like?

Job satisfaction and employee engagement are the major indicators for whether or not people enjoy their jobs. As of 2020, job satisfaction reached 56.9 percent, a historically high number. However, the Pew Research Center reported in 2012 that job satisfaction can also vary based on age.

“Younger workers, ages 18 to 34, are a bit less likely than those 35 years and older to say they are completely satisfied,” according to Pew.

Dr. Nathan Iverson, program director for industrial-organizational psychology and associate professor of psychology, defines employee engagement as an employee’s emotion connection to their work, including their vigor, dedication and absorption. 

Iverson said there are two types of predictors for employee engagement: the ways employees can enhance their own experience and the ways employees can be impacted by the job such as pay, healthcare and who they work for. 

“I studied 83 nations, 2,800 people, and the No. 1 behavior lever we can pull is make a friend at work,” Iverson said. “It is interesting from a faith perspective that if we are made in the image of God, building relationships actually makes us happier.”

In America, additional factors that contribute to job satisfaction vary based on demographics. Iverson said these factors have changed more recently as data is collected for a more diverse workforce.

“Until 20 years ago, we used to say (what matters) is who your leader is because the surveys were done primarily with white men,” Iverson said. “Now, it has become more diverse in gender and race. For white men, it is still who your leader is as one of your top predictors. But for women and people under 21, it is role clarity. Leadership is No. 1 in the U.S., but if you divide it by gender, race, ethnicity and age, it is different.”

Iverson also pointed out that pay remains within the top five predictors of job satisfaction in America.

“Choose a field that pays well,” Iverson said. “If you are struggling to pay your bills, it will be more challenging according to the data to feel happy.”

Charlotte Steele, senior biology and kinesiology double major, recently got a job at Loma Linda University Medical Center as a patient transporter. She said her ability to help people contributes to her job satisfaction.

“I really like the job,” Steele said. “It’s a lot of moving and memorizing where to go, but the patients’ appreciation is worth it. I’m really a people person, so I look for jobs where I get to work with people and helping someone with something makes me feel really accomplished. I also like keeping myself busy, so a job where I can do that is good as well.”

So, how can college students set themselves on a path that will lead to increased job satisfaction? Iverson said there are several ways to pursue job satisfaction.

First, it is important to find what a person is passionate about, and then find a job with tasks they enjoy to do with an organization that they respect.

“What would you start a fight over?” Iverson said. “What would you not tolerate? Your calling and purpose is probably in there.”

Secondly, Iverson encourages students to adopt a stance of empowerment and recognize their power to control their own destinies. He said many alumni end up creating jobs for themselves, which can lead to better job satisfaction.

“We talk a lot with our grad students about does life happen onto you or do you happen onto life?” Iverson said. “When you walk into the room, is the room different or are you different? Are we victims or agents? Most of us go through life and without even realizing it, we consent to the role of victim. To shift that, to say, ‘Is this actually the path I want to go (on)? Is this the job title? Am I connected to the people I want to know in my life?’”

Job satisfaction is not a one-size-fits-all measurement. It varies from person to person, so it is important to figure out what is important to each individual and group to enhance job satisfaction. Making job-related decisions based on what is valuable to you could potentially make you happier.

“Run toward your pains instead of away from them,” Iverson said. “What makes you become most alive? I want to live in a world where people feel bursting with life. I want it to be weird not to like your work rather than the other way around.”

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