What’s your formula for satisfaction at work? – Part II

In part I, I have suggested that satisfaction at work can be measured and reflected on using a formula that takes in different factors with different weights. These factors simply measure what is most important to a person in a given job (or any form of work).

In Part II, I will apply this model to a real life example. Let’s imagine a person named “Omar” who’s reflecting on his past experiences and struggles with jobs and career choices.

Omar’s Career – From One Job to Another

Omar is a talented person who takes his work seriously. He graduated from college and immediately got a job with a great salary in a reputable company. He enjoyed the first two years of his work at this company and was getting promotions and increasing responsibilities. He then was approached by a bigger company and got an offer that’s financially better with increasing responsibilities to manage a team. He immediately accepted the offer and joined the company to stay only for six months. He felt that this job is not a fit for him, but he didn’t know why!

Driven by that feeling of dissatisfaction, Omar searched for other job opportunities and finally embarked on a job with a mega company. This time it was with a little less salary and no management responsibilities. Omar worked for almost two years in this company and got raises and more responsibilities, but he still felt something missing. At the end of the two years, he was approached by a multinational company and was offered a great job with a higher salary. The only problem with this offer is that it required him to change gears and do something completely new to him. He weighed things out and decided to move on and accepted it.

Three and a half years at the multinational company were just like heaven. Omar felt motivated and enjoyed hard work. He continued to get raises and promotions. He didn’t manage people at all, and that was just fine with him. He did things he didn’t do before, and all was great with him. By the end of the fourth year, things started to change and a dusk of dissatisfaction crept. He wondered what was different, but he couldn’t identify a valid reason. He started searching for different opportunities. The company knew and offered him another job in a different business unit with different responsibilities and exposure. He accepted it and pushed himself for a year and a half, but a call for a change persisted. He resigned from the company and decided to pursue a new endeavor.

Omar worked as a consultant in an organization for a year and a half, and enjoyed work for a while and was feeling happy again. He then was approached by another organization to lead a division and was offered a big salary; more than a double. Without hesitation he accepted the offer to just go into darkness again! In 6 months, Omar changed jobs and worked for 3 months in another company, but didn’t survive for so long. He didn’t have a single clue of what went wrong. What felt a perfect-fit job for him turned to be the very wrong choice in no time. He couldn’t work and couldn’t produce what is expected of him. He searched and searched and this time genuinely identified what kind of work fits him.

Omar found that doing meaningful work is so prominently important to him. He also needed a high degree of autonomy in the kind of work he pursues. He also identified that his work needs to give him opportunities to acquire and share knowledge. The other two factors are status and money, but they come second in importance to the other factors.

Omar finally embarked to be a consultant, but this time on his own. This enabled him to be highly autonomous, and allowed him to pursue meaningful work opportunities. Also, with consultancy he can always be on the edge of knowledge in his field, and be able to share that with his clients. He’s also able to avail time to work on developing some business ideas of his own. Status and money come along those factors decently.

Omar is now thinking about the satisfaction@work model. He is trying to reflect on what his factors were at those stages of his career. He needs to dismantle his memories to explain why he moved and changed jobs in the past. Can the model be used to interpret his memories and experiences? Let’s discover that.

Timeline of Omar’s Career with Varying Factors

The table below shows Omar’s career for the past 12 years. In each job, a number of factors were prominent and were driving his satisfaction and hence his eagerness to move. You can notice that his satisfaction level changes and matches his experience explained above, and that can be linked to how satisfied his individual factors were.

It’s also interesting to notice how some factors popped up on his way, and how some factors changed in importance with time.

Reflections

Omar started reflecting on each job while considering the factors and overall outcome. This is what he thinks are explanations.

  1. Very few and well satisfied factors resulting in high satisfaction. Omar remembers how he needed a job that gets him lots of knowledge and learning, and a decent salary.
  2. Omar started to look for meaningful work. Although this job gave him a high salary, it didn’t created impact and didn’t enable him to learn and share. This resulted in low satisfaction.
  3. A move that got him just a bit of meaningful work, good knowledge, and very little money. It lasted longer, but that wasn’t enough for him. That explains why the call for change persisted.
  4. Heaven again! A job that got him all factors at full throttle. He should have continued in this job, but there was a new factor that was creeping. When autonomy started to be prominent for him, his satisfaction couldn’t sustain!
  5. Changing jobs without knowing the cause! This results on losing what you have in hand. Also, the driver for the move from the previous job wasn’t satisfied here. And money is not everything!
  6. Recovering by having a job that gave him an average gear for satisfaction. Although wasn’t a problem, but shortage of money caused the overall score to be mediocre.
  7. What would Omar do when his current job is just okay, but he gets a double of his salary?! Without knowing his own factors and evaluating them properly, disasters happened.
  8. Another round of looking for a better job without a clear basis of selection. He jumped on the next opportunity only to know that it’s no match at all!
  9. With a clear set of factors that drive his selection and a clear understanding of what is most important, he embarks on a job that achieves high satisfaction after almost 4 years of trial and error.

The Model Cannot Stand Still

Now, Omar has clarity on what his model (or formula) for satisfaction at work looks like. What is more important is that he knows for sure that it doesn’t stand still! When he feels satisfied at his current job and all of a sudden things change, then it might be a signal of changing factors; that his formula is going to have a new version. Reflections from time to time on his “lasting” feelings at work will help him identify what his next version of the formula would be.

Omar Evaluates New Work Opportunities

Omar has been approached for a number of opportunities as follows:

  • Opportunity 1 – High profile government job; to lead a strategic unit at a government entity.
  • Opportunity 2 – Sales manager at a big company with a high pay
  • Opportunity 3 – Consultant and coach partnering with an reputable education institute

He uses his new model and evaluates the opportunities and finds the following projections for satisfaction:

Based on these quick projections, he can apologize from opportunities 1 and 2, and can consider moving on to opportunity 3. The reasoning behind that can be:

  • Opportunity 1: this opportunity is not a good fit for him! Although it will give him high status and good salary, he can see that it will strip off the autonomy and knowledge he strives for. If he takes on this opportunity, it might lead to moderate satisfaction.
  • Opportunity 2: this doesn’t fit at all. It will only provide him with status and money. He believes that all other important factors cannot be satisfied in this particular job.
  • Opportunity 3: this scores high in 3 factors, and moderate in the other two. The overall projection is high which makes this opportunity a good candidate. He needs to compare this opportunity to whatever he’s doing right now on a head-to-head basis to reach a final decision.

Conclusion

Omar struggled at his career and didn’t have a clue of what the reasons were behind his struggle. The model can be used to quantify his satisfaction at work and to explain those struggles. Also, he is equipped now with a tool to evaluate new job/work opportunities.

Do you have other ways to explain Omar’s career choices and issues? Can you suggest a better tool?