Study shows there’s no correlation between salary and satisfaction

Study shows there’s no correlation between salary and satisfaction

“You know; you could make more money if you were just a [fill in the job title of your choice]…”

We’ve probably all had the experience of receiving career advice from well-meaning family members and friends urging us to go into a career that pays better.

The standard line of thinking used to be that the higher the salary, the happier you would be on your career path. That seemed to be a perfectly logical conclusion, since one of the key objectives of work is to make money.

But new research from Sokanu, a career-discovery platform designed to help people find their ideal careers, indicates that perhaps this isn’t always the case. From May 2015 to July 2016, Sokanu collected data from 37,000 participants, assessing their levels of career satisfaction across five parameters: Skill utilization, work environment, personality fit, interest, and overall fit. Based on this data, Sokanu has developed a ranked list of nearly 300 careers with the highest and lowest degrees of satisfaction. The careers were ranked on a scale of one to five, with five representing the highest levels of satisfaction.

The end result: there is no meaningful correlation between salary and satisfaction.

No career with a greater-than-average satisfaction score earned more than $100,000, with the exception of one: CEO (not exactly a job that you can apply for on Craigslist). The data suggest that money doesn’t always make us much happier at work; in fact, careers that don’t necessarily promise wealth often end up making us happier.

Here is the list of the ten careers that ranked highest in terms of career satisfaction (starting from highest ranked):

  1. CEO
  2. Film director
  3. Author
  4. Singer
  5. Entrepreneur
  6. Art director
  7. Filmmaker
  8. Career counsellor
  9. Industrial designer
  10. Musician

The common denominator between the careers that ranked highest seems to be creative expression and a high degree of control. By way of contrast, careers that ranked lowest were found primarily in service and clerical professions. Here is the list of 10 careers that ranked lowest (starting with lowest-ranked):

  1. Janitor
  2. Quality control inspector
  3. House cleaner
  4. Retail salesperson/ cashier
  5. Delivery service driver/food delivery truck drive
  6. Bank teller
  7. Food server
  8. Financial clerk
  9. Shipping/receiving clerk
  10. Barista

It’s also interesting to note that the lower-ranking career categories included law and finance, both of which have a much higher earnings potential than other low-ranking careers, such as food and beverage or construction. From this list, we can see that just as creativity and control make us happy, service positions often make us miserable, regardless of the salary potential.

So, what advice should we offer to students, new graduates, or even experienced professionals who are contemplating a career change? Here’s what Saied Fard, president of Sokanu suggests:

When choosing a career, take time to research various career paths, using all the tools currently available. Think not only about whether the career interests you on a theoretical level, but also about other important factors like work environment and personality fit.

It’s important not just to research these differences, but to be honest with yourself about your personality strengths and weaknesses and the kind of environments you thrive in. The best career fit tends to come from a match of what interests you, what you are good at, and what the market needs.

If you are considering a career change, see if you can isolate the elements that are leading to your dissatisfaction. People are often unhappy at work because they are frankly confused about what they like and what they are good at. We tend to blame the job or a particular manager for our dissatisfaction, but the truth is that someone with the exact same position as you might actually like, or at least tolerate, it.

That being said, while it’s possible to be unhappy in a particular job, that doesn’t mean that the entire career is a poor fit. But if you do feel it’s time to reassess, take the time to research other career paths carefully to ensure that you are moving in the right direction.

Not sure where to start? Sokanu offers a free career test, linked to a database of more than 750 careers that can help you to identify your ideal career.

Best of luck discovering your perfect path. After all, you’ll spend as many as 47 hours a week for the next 40-plus years working — make it satisfying and personally rewarding!

Join Dana Manciagli’s Job Search Master Class® right now and immediately access the most comprehensive job search system currently available!


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