Getting the most from your job

By Caroline Smith and the Mind Tools team

There are three basic approaches to work: is it a job, a career, or a passion? Depending on which type of work you are in right now, the things that give you satisfaction will vary.

If you work at a JOB, the compensation aspects of the position will probably hold more appeal than anything else, and have the greatest impact on whether you stay or go.

If you work at a CAREER, you are looking for promotions and career development opportunities. Your overall satisfaction is typically linked with your status, power, or position.

If you work at a PASSION, the work itself is the factor that determines your satisfaction, regardless of money, prestige, or control.

Being aware of the type of work you are doing, and the things you need for job satisfaction, will help you to identify and adjust your satisfaction expectations accordingly.

Building job satisfaction

Once you have identified the blend of status, power, or intrinsic enjoyment for you to feel satisfied, you then need to work on some of our seven ‘ingredients’ for a satisfying job.

  • Self-awareness
  • Challenge
  • Variety
  • Positive attitude
  • Knowing your options
  • Balanced lifestyle
  • A sense of purpose


The first step in the search for job satisfaction is to know yourself. If you’re to be happy and successful, you need to understand your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you identify what types of profession will allow you to build on those strengths, and minimize those weaknesses.

It is difficult to feel satisfied with something you aren’t very good at, so look at the things at which you excel and try to find a position that uses some of those skills.

Understand your personality traits and your preferred style of working. Understand what you value and what motivates you, and also what you do not value, and what de-motivates you.


We all thrive on interesting challenges and different things challenge different people at different times. Figure out what you can do to make sure you don’t allow yourself to go stale at work.

Even if the job itself is not all that challenging, you can make it challenging.

  • Set performance standards for yourself – aim to beat your previous record, or set up a friendly competition among co-workers.
  • Teach others your skills – nothing is more challenging, or rewarding, than passing your skills and knowledge on to others.
  • Ask for new responsibilities – these will give you opportunities to stretch yourself.
  • Start or take on a project that uses skills you would like to use, or want to improve.
  • Commit to professional development – take courses, read books or trade magazines and attend seminars.


When your mind is bored you lack interest and enthusiasm and even a well-matched job becomes dissatisfying. Some common methods to alleviate boredom at work include:

  • Cross train and learn new skills.
  • Ask to be moved to a new assignment or department requiring the same skills.
  • Ask to work a different shift.
  • Volunteer to take on new tasks.
  • Get involved with committee work.

Positive attitude

Attitude plays a huge role in how you perceive your job and your life in general. If you are depressed, angry or frustrated, you’re much less likely to be satisfied with anything. Making a change to a positive attitude is a complex process that requires a lot of work and a strong commitment. However, over time, you can turn your internal dialogues around and start to see most events in your life as positive and worthwhile.

  • Reframe negative thoughts to the positive.
  • Put the events of the day in the correct context.
  • Don’t dwell on setbacks.
  • Commit to viewing obstacles as challenges.
  • Accept that mistakes are simply opportunities to learn.

Know your options

When you feel trapped, you can start to get anxious. To combat this, continuously scan your environment for opportunities. When you feel you have options, you have more control. When you make a positive choice to stay with a job, that job has much more appeal than if you feel forced to stay because you feel you have no alternative.

  • Keep a list of your accomplishments.
  • Update your resume on a regular basis.
  • Keep up to date on employment trends.
  • Research other jobs that interest you.
  • Adopt an ‘I’m keeping my options open’ approach.

Maintain a balanced lifestyle

Keep your life and work in balance. When you focus too much on one at the expense of the other you risk putting your whole system in distress. When work takes over your life, it is easy to resent it and lose your sense of perspective.

Find a sense of purpose

Last, but certainly not least is the need to find a sense of purpose in the things you do. Even if you have a boring job, it helps a lot if you can see the real benefit you’re providing for people.

Even the most mundane job usually has purpose if you dig deep enough. And if it doesn’t, should you be wasting your life doing it?

A longer version of this article, including links to many useful tools, first appeared at