More than a holiday romance: the pursuit of happiness

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holiday romance

Finding the best employer is like playing the dating game. No-one wants to be married to their job, but tying the knot with an employer is an important commitment. The strongest relationships can last a lifetime, while playing the field may not look quite so good on your CV. So what is it that attracts us to our employers? Do we marry for money, or is long-term fulfillment enough? And is a good sense of humour essential? Pf’s Emma Campbell-Kelly outlines some of the key criteria in identifying ‘The One’.

The summer months, particularly the holiday season, are often the time when most of us pause and reflect on where we are in life. That two-week break in the Maldives, or even just the back garden, can invariably provide the catalyst for some killer questions: Am I in the right job? Does my employer appreciate me? Do I appreciate my employer? Is it time for me to move on? For many, this period of reflection provides little more than confirmation that they are happy where they are. In the current climate, where job security is king and fear of moving jobs has bred a ‘better the devil you know’ approach, many workers are staying put rather than risking change. But for some, a ‘grass is always greener’ philosophy drives them towards the pursuit of new employment. But what do you look for in a new employer? What defines the perfect job and, indeed, an employer of choice? Where do you begin in the pursuit of professional happiness?

Searching for a new job can be a daunting endeavour. Whether it’s your decision to enter the vacancy abyss or not, the task can be arduous and time-consuming. Slim pickings are expected in such a precarious economic climate, but there’s still a world of decisions to make: location, role, salary and even whether you are looking in the right industry are all key considerations.

The experience is similar to becoming newly single, in the market for a new partner. Job sites and recruitment companies could be metaphors for dating agencies in this case, or a friend who’s trying to set you up, or a speed dating session.

And you must select employers from this pool of availability in a similar way to how you would approach someone to ask them out. Like a relationship, a job is an investment, and will define you for the period you choose to stay committed to it. You want the whole package: ‘The One’. It will stay on your record, your personal history, or rather your CV. No pressure then.

What do you look for? Materialistic features (financial details) are number one priority for most. Your interest in a job or person is sparked by judging at face value. It’s not necessarily shallow, because what else can you base your judgement on in the first instance? Being objective with your search is key to obtaining a job that will tick all the boxes for you.

So once you’ve landed your first ‘date’ with the desired employer, aka job interview, first impressions are too important to disregard. You dress to impress, revise your CV, and prepare answers to every question under the sun. Both parties want to impress, without coming across as too keen. But at the end of the day, you want this job, you wouldn’t have applied otherwise. And the employer wants the best they can get (which is you, obviously). After all, as Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, said: “You’re only as good as the people you hire.” So it’s potentially a win-win situation, as long as you both get what you want.

Job satisfaction has always come top of surveys questioning motivation at work. Until now. It seems that such an insecure and volatile economy is making us tighten our belts (as if they weren’t tight enough already). Living costs are continuing to rise, a unanimous, desperate ‘Yes please’ is given in response to money. The prospect of a double-dip recession has hit us while we’re down, just as we were getting our hopes up.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise when perusing the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) recent quarterly Employee Outlook survey. The review showed that increased salary and benefit packages have overtaken job satisfaction as the number one reason why employees are looking to change jobs.

Out of 2,000 questioned employees, 54% rated higher salary and benefits as their top reason for wanting to change jobs, while 42% said that job satisfaction drove their career move choices. This is a sharp reversal compared to last year’s 61% voting job satisfaction over 48% monetary reasons to look for alternative employment. A shocking revelation from the survey showed that almost a fifth (18%) of employees completely run out of money before they’re paid, either always or most of the time. So the financial pressure is on, it seems.

But are finances what get us out of bed in the morning? We recall how the carrot beat the stick regarding the donkey’s motivation. But what does the carrot mean to you?

Is it salary, benefits, a fancy company car? For some people, especially those who are struggling financially at the moment, the answer would be a giant nod of the head. But what about the 42% who voted job satisfaction as their motivation to work hard?

For this group, an employer’s treatment of its workers and management skills really makes a difference. It’s the little things that contribute to their career happiness. A friend you can confide in, belief in your product, respect for your manager; the buzz of adrenaline when you know you’ve done a good job.

Company culture has always been a vital aspect of work life. Your co-workers are with you for a significant portion of the day, so team dynamics are important. Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company had the right thinking: “Our employees are like extended members of our family.” The company should run like a well-oiled machine at all levels, complementing and developing each other’s roles and responsibilities. Confidence and trust glue the team together and make everyday errands pass by effortlessly.

There’s no doubt about it, your happiness at a company is largely directed by what you do for at least 40 hours a week. And let’s face it – your working life is a long one, so it’s best to do something you enjoy. It’s been proven time after time that you’re more likely to work harder if you’re passionate about your job. Happy people are more energetic, proactive, creative and optimistic, and quicker to learn. In which case it’s in your employer’s interest to make you happy.

This is largely down to how you’re managed. Management and guidance at work largely affect your work ethic and the company’s dynamics. “Management is nothing more than motivating other people,” stated Lee Iacocca, Chairman for Chrysler Motors. Management is a crucial role to play, because your workforce implicitly relies on your motivation to work. Donald Trump once said, “Good people = good management and good management = good people.”

Money can only promise a limited amount of will-power from an individual; pride in their work will give them the edge and a hunger for success. Belief in your product, trust, loyalty and commitment to the employer are also invaluable attributes for an employee to embody, and are recognised by good employers. As Mary Kay Ash, Head of Mary Kay cosmetics, stated: “People are definitely a company’s greatest asset. A company is only as good as the people it keeps.”

So perhaps, most of all, we just need to feel loved. Being treated well, as in a committed relationship, ensures that we’re in it for the long haul.

In July, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published a report on what makes Brits happy. Not money, as it turns out. Health, family and friends topped the list when around 34,000 people were asked “What is wellbeing?” and “What in life matters to you?”

The survey was commissioned by David Cameron to help him develop future policies, but ironically critics have since complained that the £2 million to conduct the survey was a waste of money as the results are quite obvious. We’re never happy, are we?

But at the end of the day, as much as money is a necessity to live, happiness in yourself and at work increases quality of life, and helps boost your company at the same time. A happy workforce is a productive workforce after all.

From an employer, you want to be pushed to your full potential, appreciated for your effort, made responsible for important decisions, making you believe in your product and employer.

Working life is most enjoyable if you’re lucky enough to be in the position of not worrying about money. To have an enthralling occupation puts a spring in your step.

And as much as looking for a new job can be tiresome and sometimes feels like a dead end, just remember, it’s all in aid of finding ‘The One’, your soulmate that offers the whole package: an invigorating role with great prospects. And if the money’s good at the same time, all the better. So make it a good one with good people.