The Most Fulfilling Careers Have These 5 Things in Common

happy businessman smiling while reading his smartphone

Smiling man using his smartphone | iStock.com/Ridofranz

Sunday may be a fun day, at least according to The Bangles, but by the time the evening rolls around, most Americans aren’t feeling too cheerful. Three-quarters of people in the U.S. report experiencing “really bad” Sunday night blues, according to a 2015 survey by Monster.com. Anxiety or depression about the coming work week runs high among workers, which isn’t surprising when you consider that many people aren’t too happy with their jobs.

Only half of employees in the U.S. reported being satisfied with their jobs in 2016, according to the Conference Board’s annual job satisfaction survey. That’s an improvement over recent years, but it still means that 50% of people are less than thrilled about dragging themselves to work in the morning.

What’s the secret of the half of Americans who are happy at work? A recent LinkedIn survey offers some insight. The professional networking site asked more than 1,000 workers in the U.S. about their overall level of job satisfaction. They also asked about the factors that contributed to them feeling happy at work.

The most fulfilled workers lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, followed by Boston, Indianapolis, New York City, and Denver. Chefs were the most satisfied in their career choice, with 84% saying they felt completely or very fulfilled at work. Real estate agents took second place as far as job satisfaction, with 75% saying they were fulfilled. Doctor, IT consultant, and architect rounded out the top five list of fulfilling careers.

LinkedIn’s Work Satisfaction Survey also probed what specific factors influenced a person’s overall feeling of job fulfillment. Whether you’re a chef or an architect, the most fulfilling careers share the following five characteristics.

1. Pays a good salary

$100 bills

$100 bills | iStock.com/halduns

Money may not buy happiness, but it can make for a more fulfilling work experience, according to LinkedIn’s survey. The professional networking site isn’t alone in spotting a link between salary and job satisfaction. When job search site Glassdoor looked at 221,000 employee reviews and salary reports, they found that higher pay was associated with higher job satisfaction, with an employee’s happiness increasing about 1% for every extra $1,000 she earned, a small but significant increase. Overall, compensation and benefits accounted for about 12% of an employee’s overall satisfaction.

2. Friendly colleagues

happy staff

Smiling co-workers | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

People who reported being fulfilled at work tended to have positive, friendly relationships with their co-workers. That’s in line with research on how relationships between colleagues affect the workplace. People who have close work friendships are more satisfied than those who don’t gel with their colleagues, a Gallup poll found. Working with rude or difficult colleagues, meanwhile, can lower your motivation and impede creativity, other research has found.

3. Makes a positive impact

a doctor holding a tablet

Doctor | iStock.com

Being able to do work that had a positive impact played a big role in overall job satisfaction. Workers who are purpose-oriented tend to be more satisfied in their jobs, LinkedIn’s 2016 Purpose at Work report found. They’re also more likely to be in leadership positions and to actively sing the praises of their employer. While large numbers of people of all ages want to find meaningful work, baby boomers are actually more focused on whether their career is making a positive impact than Gen Xers or millennials.

4. Encourages work-life balance

workers leaving for vacation

Worker leaving for vacation | iStock.com

Giving your life to your job rarely leads to a feeling of fulfillment, at least according to LinkedIn’s survey. An “always-on” work mentality can lead to burnout and stress as you get used to responding to emails on the weekends and checking your messages just before you go to bed every night. Though work-life balance means different things to different people, having a job that allows you to disconnect and spend time doing other things that matter to you boosts your overall feeling of fulfillment.

5. Is challenging

woman working on a laptop

Woman working on a laptop | iStock.com

You may be able to do your job with your eyes closed, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Feeling challenged at work contributes to your overall sense of career fulfillment, the LinkedIn survey found. It could also have some pretty serious long-term benefits. People who had challenging jobs – ones that involved interpreting or evaluating information, developing strategies, or analyzing data – has slower rates of cognitive decline than people whose day-to-day work was less intense, a study published in the journal Neurology found. “Today’s challenging work conditions may also promote positive health effects,” the study’s authors wrote.

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