August 21, 2013, 12:59 PM — Numerous surveys have been conducted regarding employee satisfaction in the IT industry and they all seem to point to a conclusion that surprises most managers – that IT staff care about a lot more issues than the size of their salaries and whether their titles impress their friends. After reading a number of these surveys and looking back at my decades of work in Unix systems administration and information security, I decided that the only way to properly assess job satisfaction is to first plug all the things that you care about into a job happiness category and then assign points to each job attribute in each category.
Creating the categories
The first step that I took was to spend some time thinking about the things that have mattered most to me in jobs past. I quickly realized that some of the items in my list fall into a “must have” category. No matter how much you pay me, I won’t take a job that doesn’t pay my bills and give me enough extra to pursue my hobbies and take a nice vacation now and then.
Must haves are non-negotiable. They’re the job attributes that you just can’t manage your life without.
The fair category includes job attributes that you ought to expect – things like fair treatment on the job, periodic feedback and a comfortable work space. Lacks in this category are likely to leave you feeling resentful.
Nice to haves are the icing on the cake. They are the work attributes that might make your workdays a little nicer, but could be traded off for things that are more important to you. You might, for example, trade a comfortable work setting for a sense that the work you do has significant value.
Highly desirable are the things you can do without, but could make a world of difference in your day-to-day activities. If you have flexible telecommuting as an option, for example, you will have less conflict trying to balance your work and personal lives.
The Priceless category includes the too good to be true job attributes -- the kind of things you are not likely to be offered except at the most well managed companies.
Using the categories
Once you’ve established the categories that make sense for you, give yourself some low stress time to think about the job attributes that matter to you and start plugging them into the appropriate categories. Your “must haves” might be altogether different than mine. So might the items you put into other categories.
My must haves are all very practical. I’m willing to drive a long distance if it means that I can live in a quiet rural setting and if the commute is fairly low stress. I compensate for the long drives by subscribing to audible. Listening to books in my car gets to looking forward to my drives to and from work. Items in this category include:
- manageable commute – For me, any commute that involves less than an hour of driving (one way) is acceptable.
flickr / .reid