What is job satisfaction?

Nov. 1, 2009
No profession or job is safe from the havoc wreaked by the current economic troubles.

by Lory Laughter, RDH, BS
[email protected]

No profession or job is safe from the havoc wreaked by the current economic troubles. Everyone I talk to is concerned at one level or another about the possibility of business downsizing. The flip side to this dilemma is that those who did not find their careers fulfilling in the past are now finding contentment, if not actual joy, in their careers. Reality has a way of making things brighter.

For me, contentment is not enough. For a career to be fulfilling, it needs to provide some level of satisfaction. Spending hours, weeks, and years merely content with existence seems like a depressing way to live. The choice of career does not matter: extracting satisfaction from one's working hours is not dictated by occupation.

I asked every person I encountered the past two weeks one simple question; “:What is one thing about your profession that brings you job satisfaction?” The answers were varied and surprising. I asked everyone, from the man who sold me a car battery to the wealthy businessperson in my operatory.

Most revealing was the fact that everyone was willing to give me an answer. Not one person said their job was totally unsatisfying. I didn't set out to question only those who appeared successful or happy. My purpose was to gather answers from anyone who would respond.

The most common reply by far centered on helping people. Although that would be the expected response from those in the health-care field, helping was also the most common answer for car mechanics, grocery baggers, and even a parking enforcement officer. The officer's idea of helping others is giving people new to the area one chance to learn the parking rules before giving them a ticket, and by showing repeat offenders that continued negligence is a costly habit. Like we help patients develop healthier home-care routines, she helps drivers realize the financial reward in safer parking habits.

Health-care professionals listed financial comfort more than any other group, and we cited friendship less than any others. Respect and independence also came in close to the top regardless of job performed. It's good to know that most people want to think on their own and have their ideas respected. We have not arrived at the age of robots … yet.

When I asked, the smiling man at the tollbooth told me he enjoys handling cash. He feels lucky to be in one of few jobs where cash is the only accepted payment. While not exactly equal to rolling in dough, I can see his point. It almost makes me feel bad that my car is equipped with “:fast track,” which allows me to bypass the cash lanes. I disabled it on that day in order to ask him my question.

Most hygienists could not stick to the guideline of “:one thing” — most listed three to five answers. Those who work in food service usually answered with one word. Men, on average, gave shorter answers than women, and younger workers cited the possibility of advancement more often than those over 40. Some people enjoy jobs that keep them close to family, while one person found great joy in a career that allows her to roam among strangers.

I decided to end my survey with a phone computer technician. After Randy told me the humming and grinding noise in my laptop would stop with frequent dust removal from the vents, he responded to my query. A career that allows for graveyard shifts greatly influenced his decision when job hunting. Randy eats dinner every day with his wife and teenagers, and rarely misses one of their activities. By sleeping while the others are at school or work, Randy gets more quality family time than most of his peers.

Satisfaction can be found anywhere at anytime. It's not a gift, but rather the result of input.

About the Author

Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, divides her full-time clinical practice between general and periodontics practice in Napa and Sonoma, Calif. She is co-owner of Dental IQ, a continuing education provider (www.dentaliq.net).