I'm having a fabulous time on my tour promoting my new book, Use Your Head To Get Your Foot in the Door: Job Search Secrets No One Else Will Tell You. I've been meeting folks with so many stories that I could write another book on the challenges of today's job market.
Those who have lost their jobs are eager to get back to work. They are motivated and educated, frustrated and aggravated. They are ready to bring their skill sets and experience to an organization and prove their worth. They just want to get back to work.
Those whose jobs are secure for the moment, but are looking to move on, have a different set of concerns. They are grateful to be employed, but are ready to find new challenges or use their abilities somewhere else. They'll keep plugging away until something comes along, but they have their antennae up all the time.
But the one common theme that took me somewhat by surprise is this: It's not all about the money.
Naturally, job hunters expect to be able to pay their bills and maybe have a little left over. But this recession and accompanying ripple effect has made many re-evaluate their requirements in taking a new job, and very high on the list is job satisfaction. At a time when people can't be as picky as they might be in a better economy, doing what you love and what you are good at seems to trump a bigger paycheck.
What breeds loyalty to a company? Why do employees keep working for an organization even when there are other opportunities? Several themes emerged quickly.
Professional development. Employees who have the opportunity to learn new skills are far more likely to stick around. It's the top reason that people give for staying with an organization. And it doesn't always require that the new skills come in the form of formal education. In this climate of tight budgets, companies are offering fewer education benefits. But smart companies are promoting mentoring within their walls, pairing experience with ambition, and developing employees at all stages of their careers.
Coaching and feedback. Even top performers need to know how they are doing, what's really working and what improvements are necessary. Smart managers understand that every employee wants to feel like their contributions are being noticed. It's a mistake to assume that workers know how things are going just because managers are satisfied with results. When employees begin to wonder whether the company cares about their careers, they think about moving on. Regular reporting or feedback sessions can be brief but are critical to employee job satisfaction -- even when the feedback is less than glowing.
Positive work environment. Many people spend almost as much time at work as they spend away from it, so the work environment matters. Whether it's a factory floor or a corner office, the surroundings and the co-workers influence a big chunk of job satisfaction. Managers need to keep the work flowing; a constructive approach keeps morale up. So does a little fun every now and then. Birthday celebrations and employee recognition needn't be elaborate, but a little stroke goes a long way.
Good bosses. The fact is, people don't really leave jobs, they leave bosses. A great boss provides all of the above, plus takes an appropriate interest in the employee as a person. Consider what happens when a favorite boss leaves the company: an exodus. People who seemed to be happy with their jobs resigned to follow the leader. And that's usually not about the money either, but the person in charge.
When you interview, often one of the last subjects that comes up is salary. It's possible to determine a salary range before you start the whole process, using the going rates in the industry. I always counsel job hunters not to base their decisions solely on the paycheck.
If you take a permanent job merely for the compensation, I'm willing to bet that your job satisfaction will be on the low end of the scale and your frustration will be off the charts. But if it's a job you love, and prove your value to the company, chances are the money will follow.
Mackay's Moral: Money talks, but it shouldn't have the final say.