Workforce Development

Finding purpose in a job

What keeps an employee happy? It turns out it’s not just money.
By Amara Rozgus November 29, 2018

No surprise—I read a lot. I read all day long at work, then come home only to read more. My reading fodder is wildly varied, from young adult literature to scientific journals.

A recent article in The New York Times, written by a physician, collated several reports of physicians and their burnout rates. Beyond just looking at the medical field, it also delved into what keeps people happy in their jobs. The article touched on Viktor Frankl’s 1946 book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” which I begrudgingly read in high school. (Note: I read it again as an adult. It makes a lot more sense now than it did when I was 15.)

The gist of the article: Happy employees find purpose in their work. They also seek mastery and autonomy in their jobs. Like doctors, engineers often feel their work has purpose. A building is made safer by a fire protection engineer. Structural engineers build high-rises to combat high winds and seismic events. Mastery can be sought at any point in a career—whether a 20-something is studying for their professional engineer license or a 50-something is taking online classes to further their knowledge on a topic.

The quest for autonomy, or independence, is human nature in my opinion. To find it in a job is important, and to feel that you’re working independently without stifling bureaucracy or supervisors brings a lot of career satisfaction. Guidance and mentors are needed, but working in a democratic environment with room to breathe is key.

This year’s Salary Survey highlights some of these factors. For example, when asked “Do you feel your company is ahead of or behind the competition?” 74% responded that they felt they were “ahead” or “just pulling ahead.” Job satisfaction, and the feeling that you’re working for a company with progressive leadership, is important.

Technology advances are another area in which survey respondents feel they’re striving to gain mastery. A full 93% indicated that technology is changing the way they work. That said, conquering that technology via education helps building professionals achieve the mastery of a new system or tool.

Respondents to the Salary Survey also find different forms of satisfaction in their jobs. When asked how many years left until retirement, 36% indicated they had 9 years or fewer. This is a startling reminder that the workforce is not getting any younger. It’s good to know that 71% of these high-level employees are personally mentoring junior staff members. That bodes well for helping these younger team members gain purpose, mastery, and autonomy.


Amara Rozgus
Author Bio: Amara is the Editor-in-Chief/Content Strategy Leader for Consulting-Specifying Engineer.