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We tend to think that some jobs are more creative or noble than others.

Most of us spend a third or more of our adult days working, whether it’s at a job, business, or home. It’s easy to think—especially if you’re not particularly happy in your job—that only certain kinds of work could be meaningful and satisfying to people.

What is work?

Work: A calling or just a job?
The research, however, is finding something different. Researchers have grouped people’s orientations to their work into three categories: those who see their work as just a job and are motivated primarily by the pay; those who are career-oriented and are motivated by advancement and recognition; and those who consider their work a calling and find the work itself rewarding. In this last group are the people who say they would keep doing their work even if they didn’t get paid for it, if they could.

Study suggests job level may not matter

One study of hospital employees found that roughly one-third of hospital administrators felt that their work was a calling—and so did roughly one-third of the janitors. Further studies have confirmed that roughly one-third of the people in any occupation feel their work is a calling. The occupation itself may not matter to your ultimate happiness as much as your commitment to it and whether it’s a good fit for your talents.

Of course, within occupations some jobs are better than others. And people who are happy at work are more productive, more creative, and get along better with coworkers and customers. Whether you are thinking about your own job satisfaction or thinking about how to promote a happier and more creative workplace, these are some of the key factors that contribute to happiness at work.

Happiness, by Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener
Authentic Happiness, 
by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph. D.

Factors that contribute to happiness at work

  • Jobs with a variety of tasks
  • Control over your job, including the freedom and discretion to solve problems, be creative, and apply your skills
  • Supportive management
  • Respect and status
  • Fair pay and benefits
  • Clarity about job requirements and how to meet them
  • Just enough challenge; a good balance between being able to do your job well and learning more

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