The Relationship Between Salary & Meaningful Work



The Relationship Between Salary and Meaningful Work

By Vanessa Richardson

Which is the key to happiness – a high salary or job satisfaction?  It is an age old question to which everyone has a different opinion.  It is perspective.  To some, it might simply be having a modest home and food on the table but to others, (mostly others) contentment comes from having more than what they may conceive to be the minimum, and understandably so.  There is security from having more; but at what point does job satisfaction and meaning come second to a large salary?  Is it possible to have both?

In the article below “9 Out of 10 People Are Willing to Earn Less Money to Do More-Meaningful Work”, over 90% of those surveyed said they would be willing to trade a percentage of their earnings for greater meaning at work.  “The trillion-dollar question, then, was just how much is meaning worth to the individual employee?”  More than 40% of new K-12 public school teachers don’t make it past the five-year mark yet they will often emphatically state they find great purpose to their work.  They almost always leave seeking higher paying positions.  The same is true for social workers, school counselors, and community advocacy workers – all positions which are considered to hold great meaning. 

In the Journal of Happiness Studies, the overarching theme when it came to salary attainment is that most people are hardwired to reach for a higher salary than what they currently earn, however those who have actually obtained their magic number will say the benefits of that number are ambiguous.  While several legitimate factors come into play when determining as well as negotiating what salary will meet one’s needs such as region, children, stage in career, etc., many times it is instinctive to ask for more.  One may believe they have nothing to lose by the request.  However, that in itself may come with potential risk. 

The relationship between meaningful work and salary may lie in purpose; while a physician might almost always have both, many in other fields may be left to trying to find it.  For most people, purpose is built not found.  The ability to connect your work to service and remembering why we do what we do may help to identify purpose, even if your salary expectation is not met.  Job satisfaction and meaning is something we must intentionally pursue and create.



Integrated People Solutions is an executive placement firm in Denver, Colorado, and is part of the Kennedy Executive Network


About Kennedy Executive

Kennedy Executive Search & Consulting is a global partner network of retained search boutiques in Europe, Africa, North America and Asia Pacific with offices in Amsterdam, Budapest, Copenhagen, Denver, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, London, Milan, Monaco, Oslo, Paris, Prague, Sydney and Vienna. The network covers 360 degrees of talent management: executive search finds and assesses the right talent in the market, consulting develops people and organizations. With the addition of Evolve South Africa, Kennedy is now active on 4 continents and in 14 countries and offers a global reach. Between the 75+ consultants and researchers, 30 languages are spoken. As a network Kennedy will run 365 strategic recruitments all over the world this year. Kennedy Executive Search & Consulting helps organizations to achieve their goals and people to enhance their careers every day.




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