The saying goes that if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. But how many people get to enjoy such a luxury over the course of their career? How common is it to actually feel motivated, passionate, and self-actualized at work?

For Americans, the workplace is looking rather grim: More than half of employees in the United States don't feel any particular connection to their job, and another 16 percent downright resent it.

A recent study by Signs.com dove deeper into what it means to be satisfied (or not) in your career, and whether people are more prone to following their dreams or their wallets.

What causes people to eventually quit

If you're a disengaged employee, fantasies about quitting your job--whether in a blaze of glory or quickly and quietly--are likely familiar to you. Among the survey's respondents, insufficient pay was the No. 1 reason that people considered quitting their jobs in the next five years (almost 34 percent of women and about 32 percent of men), followed by lack of growth opportunities (22 percent of women and nearly 26 percent of men) and lack of passion (15 percent of women and 16 percent of men).

And contrary to the notion that people quit managers, no matter how badly workers disapproved of theirs, less than 6 percentof men and women thought of leaving because of their boss.

Of course, quitting your job is a drastic measure, and it takes a fair bit of time to reach that boiling point. As revealed in the survey, people's motivations and salaries had a lot to do with how quickly they decided it was time to pull the plug.

What's your motivation? 

Of those who were primarily in their career for passion's sake, people earning between $75,000 and $99,999 per year didn't start considering switching jobs until three and a half years in.

In comparison, even the highest earners ($100,000 or more) who chose their job for the pay--as opposed to passion--were ready to throw the towel in by year two.

"We found that being motivated primarily by income had a strong association with restlessness in one's job and a desire to change positions, even at the highest income levels," said Matthew Gillespie, a project manager with Signs.com and lead author on the study. "People in jobs they were passionate about tended to stay much longer in those jobs, even at lower salaries, when compared to individuals whose primary motivation for work was income."

According to the survey, people who felt passionate about their jobs stayed happier in their roles for longer--the number on their paycheck simply wasn't enough to keep them around long term.

While overall life satisfaction increased as people's salaries climbed (though it did taper off at the $100,000 mark), people making less than $15,000 a year were just as passionate about their jobs as those who were clearing $100,000.

So keep that in the back of your mind when you make your next move: career fulfillment can't be denominated in dollars and cents. It's all about how your work makes you feel at the end of the day.

Published on: Aug 12, 2019
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