If you don't like your job, you aren't alone. In fact, two out of three working Americans do not feel engaged at work, according to a Gallup survey. And many of these people spend more of their waking time working than doing anything else.
As a psychology professor at a business school, I have chatted with many unhappy employees. I have found that one big reason people are unhappy at work is that when they choose a job or a project, they are not aware of what will truly matter to them once they are in the midst of it.
People send résumés and go to interviews thinking that they care only about salaries and promotions. These are important, yes, but they are not enough. To identify a satisfying job, people should be thinking about office morale and doing work that is interesting and fun.
To demonstrate this point, my colleague Kaitlin Woolley and I asked a large group of employees what made them like their present jobs, along with what factors would cause them to like future jobs.
Unsurprisingly, we found that promotions and raises were important for people both in their current job and in applying for future jobs. What was interesting, though, was that the majority cared a lot about present benefits (such as doing something interesting with people they like) in their current job, but they expected not to care very much about those things in their future jobs. When envisioning themselves in the future, they predicted that they would almost solely be driven by delayed benefits like salaries.