I’ve been reading a lot of articles on the blogosphere this week about the results of a study just released by the University of Chicago on the happiest jobs or professions. It’s a fairly comprehensive study that involved face-to-face interviews with over 27,000 people between 1988 and 2006, so I think it’s fair to credit some weight to the findings.
And what were they exactly? That the most satisfying jobs are those involving caring for, teaching or protecting others, and those involving creative pursuits. Now, if you’ve been wondering for a while what will make you happy in your own work, and your current skill set doesn’t fall into one of the aforementioned categories, please don’t despair. The real underlying reason for satisfaction in those work categories is simply this: a sense of meaning in the job that one is doing.
And the good news is that any job can be meaningful. Yes, that’s right! Really and truly, there is as much meaning to be found in hairdressing (helping others to look their best usually has a positive knock-on effect on how they feel about themselves), as in nursing (people who feel good about themselves have a more robust immune system and will respond better and more quickly to the care they are given). It all depends on how you look at it, and what is true for you. The catch then isn’t in finding a career that fits some generic, societaly recognized "meaningful" role, but in finding a role that has meaning for you.