“I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a..." /> “I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a..." />

In Search of the Elusive ‘Good’ Job

businesswoman shaking hands“I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish. … You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger.”Simone de Beauvoir

Since I opened with a quote, I feel greedy for throwing in another one, this time from radio psychiatrist Dr. David Viscott: “You can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.” This is at once pessimistic and optimistic, but it’s a quote that has stuck with me because it hits the right balance. We often dismiss career options as impractical or something we “can’t” do when we actually can do those things but can’t fathom making the changes or sacrifices to get through those transitions.

When it comes to work, it never ceases to amaze me how caught up we get in what other people (who don’t have to go to the job every day) think of what we do or who we work for. Since employment is viewed as a public projection of one’s self into the world, especially in the United States, this makes sense, but many of us limit our career options to the ones we think our families would approve of or that might impress significant others.

This process of how we rule out career choices is referred to as circumscription in Linda Gottfredson’s theory of career circumscription and compromise. Without even realizing it, we evaluate our options based in part on what we see our parents and family members doing. A career seems more accessible if someone we know is doing it. We also look for people “like” us in careers. This is all understandable because it is more comfortable to follow an established path than to carve out a new one. Going with the flow doesn’t trigger the curiosity in family and friends the way that doing something unconventional will. If people get curious about what you do and things don’t go well, anything perceived as a failure happens in a very public way.

While all of this may seem tangential to the idea of something as simple as what it means to have a good job, I encourage you to think about it this way: would a good job for a girl who loves to build things be the same as a good job for a boy who composes music? How could someone who needs tangible results be satisfied with something as abstract as composing music? Also, before anyone jumps on me in the comments about this, of course we see people in technical careers with creative hobbies all the time. The question to ask yourself when it comes to finding satisfying work is: what do you need to do on a daily basis in order to feel satisfied with your job?

Regarding practical considerations such as salary and job growth, on O*NET Online, anyone can easily view lists of the fastest-growing occupations, highest paid, etc., but I encourage job seekers to interpret the data on those lists with caution. If it were easy to find a job with high pay and good prospects, everybody would have a job like that. The reality is that the majority of high-growth occupations right now are low-wage positions requiring a two-year degree (or less).

Another piece of information to consider before students in BA programs decide to drop out and just get an associate’s degree is that while individuals with two-year degrees meet the minimum qualifications for most of the rapidly growing occupations, employers often don’t settle for the minimum qualifications, and even if they usually did, lifetime earnings and unemployment rates suggest that, in the end, you are less likely to be unemployed and more likely to earn more money with a higher level of education.

While this may seem overwhelming to career changers or anyone starting a career planning journey, keep in mind that whatever job you choose now probably won’t be the one you retire in. According to a recent survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that younger baby boomers reported holding more than 11 different jobs.

Consider what you know about yourself now and make the best decision for you. That’s how you find a good job.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Amy Armstrong, MS, NCC, MCC, LPC, Career Counseling Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • kristi

    June 17th, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    Just having any job at this point that pays the bills would be a good job for me!

    I have been searching for close to a year for something that fits my skill sets and pays what I need it to pay and there just isn’t anything out there for me at this time.

    I have thought about going back to school but am not sure I am willing to make that kind of investment although maybe it would be better in the long run to just jump in and do it. I am just so confused at this point and never thought it would be this hard to land on my feet.

  • Amy Armstrong

    June 17th, 2014 at 8:39 PM

    Hi Kristi, Thank you for your response. It’s rough being out of work, and making the decision about whether or not to go back to school can be difficult. Feel free to reach out to me directly if you would like a more customized response, but I will share here that in general, unless you really want to go back and study something now that you have time, it makes more sense to focus on the job search. If you stumble upon free training that can help build marketable skills, that’s great, but I wouldn’t invest a lot of money into getting a degree just to get a better job. With education, over the long-term, most people do see a financial benefit (but that isn’t everybody), and it definitely doesn’t mean it will improve your employment prospects while you’re looking. If anything, I’ve seen a lot of students enroll in college courses and lose the money for their tuition, fees, and books because they get jobs mid-semester and have to leave school.

  • AvA

    June 18th, 2014 at 4:16 AM

    Well, sometimes these things have a lot more to do with what you make of it than they do of the job itself. I can’t say that my job on the surface, when you just look at the description on paper, is great. But I have made some wonderful friends, I know that I am often helping other people, and the hours fit right into the schedule that I need. Sure, I would like more money at times and I would love to hear more often that I am a positive for them team, but I know that and sometimes you just have to give your own self that little pat on the back that you might be missing.

  • kristi

    June 19th, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    @ Amy Armstrong, thanks for the feedback and I know what you mean! I don’t want to get so caught up in classes that I can’t complete that I have to stop the job search altogether. I don’t have a degree so I have thought that maybe there would be some financial aid out there for me as a single mom but I don’t know, I hear a lot of scary stories about that too. I am pretty confused about what to do because I feel stuck like glue and can’t seem to find anythign to give me back that forward momentum.

  • Amy Armstrong

    June 19th, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    @Kristi, if you don’t have a degree, you should be eligible for a Pell grant, so that’s actually pretty good aid. Usually, you need to register for two classes to be eligible for aid—don’t let anyone at the college twist your arm into attending full time to get aid because you don’t have to. Also, if you can, try a community college to earn an associate’s degree first. Only use the government’s site for the FAFSA–don’t fill anything out on sites that promise to complete the FAFSA for you. The URL for the fAFSA is: fafsa.ed.gov

  • Taylor B.

    June 20th, 2014 at 4:25 AM

    There will always be those people like me who are forever looking for something a little better, because you know that the grass is always a little greener elsewhere. I don’t think anymore that it has to be about finding that one great or perfect job, but that it just has to be good enough to keep me going.
    I have been more than a little disappointed in many of my jobs that I have had in the past and I guess you can say that I am a chronic optimist, hoping that this next one is going to be THE ONE.
    It never is, and I think that I have decided that that is because I am looking for something like a job to fulfill me and that is likely never going to happen.
    I have to figure out a way to fulfill my own dreams and start looking for something external like a job to do that for me.

  • Amy Armstrong

    June 20th, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    @AvA and @Taylor, thank you for your replies. I agree that like most life situations, work is very much what you make of it—that doesn’t mean a rotten place to work isn’t a rotten place to work, but there’s always something positive to pull out of the experience. It would certainly be easier if we could objectively sort the “hotties” from the “notes” for jobs, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to do that. Anyway, if anyone out there is wondering what they did wrong to deserve the crap job they’re currently in, it’s probably not you. It’s really hard to find something that will pay the bills and not be kind of annoying, especially when it’s a first job.

  • Dana

    June 21st, 2014 at 6:06 AM

    Am I wrong to want to push my kids to do something that others would deem as professinal and acceptable? My son is a great and talented artist but what does he want to do with that? Become a tattoo artist. I wanted so much more for him but he seems so determined to pursue this work. I want so much more for him- is that wrong?

    He could do so many wonderful things with that talent that he has been given and I just feel like this would be such a waste.

  • Amy Armstrong

    June 21st, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    @Dana, I think most people will start feeling better about career choices if we can ever get past absolute right or wrong. A lot of the way we have to go about executing a career plan is out of our control. We can’t control what we enjoy doing or what our natural talents happen to be. We can’t really control what we want out of life; we want what we want. It’s normal to want a good life for your kids. It’s also important to recognize whether or not they’ve already created that for themselves. A good job for them probably isn’t going to mean what it means for you.

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