Job satisfaction – what’s the big deal?

Article by Michelle Abrahall 16.11.15

Do you have job satisfaction? And what does that really mean? Us Brits work some of the longest hours in Europe, meaning our jobs take up a huge chunk of our lives, and with retirement age getting pushed further and further back that’s not going to change anytime soon. We’re all aware of the theory behind job satisfaction; the idea that work should fulfil not only your financial needs but your emotional ones too. But how do you get it?

I’d like to reverse engineer this by looking at how you definitely don’t get it. What makes me the expert? A period of job-hopping after Uni that, although I’m not proud of, was instrumental in teaching me what I did not want in a job, and how important job satisfaction is.

Let’s start with the post-grad job: working front of house in a gym. A delightful mixture of early and late night shifts (which I’m sure was an infringement of employee rights), being made to push sunbed subscriptions on customers (some of whom were so desiccated by their ‘bed’ habit I felt like an enabler) and colleagues who openly sneered at my choice of degree topic (ok, so art degree + leisure industry isn’t a likely pairing, but I had rent to pay). I latest a few months. Lesson? Shift work and sales were not for me.

Next was an ill-advised stint in retail. I had worked at Woolworths (RIP) while at Uni, but this card shop was another kettle of fish. Woolworths was busy. This shop was dead. And I mean, ‘lucky if you see one customer an hour’ dead. I think I may have had a small mental breakdown while working there, bought on by the kind of mind-numbing boredom I have never experienced before or since. My mind was not only numb, it was withering away. If you think I’m being dramatic, you try working eight hours in an empty shop with nothing to do but rearrange greetings cards and dust figurines and see how you do. Lesson? Retail was not for me. And you might think that having a job in which you’re not that busy is a good thing, but it most definitely is not.

Moving on to a job that most people have had at some point in their career – the Admin Job. At last, I thought, an office job! A desk of my own! No more standing around all day! No more cheap uniforms in unflattering colours! I liked working in an office. The mix of personalities, the unspoken etiquette of tea making, the structure. It was great for a while. But I soon realised how starved my creative side was when I started drawing unnecessarily fancy notes for the milkman. Lesson? I needed to get into something creative, fast.

The first job I got that actually required some sort of creativity was in a print and copy shop. I was only a ‘bureau assistant’ to start with but I nagged the other designers to show me how to use the design software and I pushed my bosses to let me layout simple jobs like business cards and letterheads. That job had a lot of flaws (the biggest being we ended up moving to an industrial unit in Coventry) but it made me realise that I did want to be a graphic designer, after all.

Because, after three years of art courses at college and three years of Uni, I was burned out and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But the lack of job satisfaction I had in the jobs since graduating made me realise I wanted, and needed, to be in a creative career. After working for the print company it was still a long, bumpy road to where I am now (a freelance Graphic Designer) but those post-grad years really were formative. I realised the importance of job satisfaction because I didn’t have it for so long.


Illustration | Design | Copywriting

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