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Do you have a Good Job?

Recently I was reading a question on the Rock Star Finance Forum by Our Financial Path around “Should I like My Job”. It got me thinking, how do I define a good Job.

How do I define a good job?

So any thoughts about whether you have a good job usually starts with your satisfaction. Do you enjoy what you do day in and day out? Does it motivate you to get up in the morning or do you routinely have a case of the “Mondays”? We spend more hours at work then doing any other activity. If you do not enjoy goign to work every day then it will impact the rest of your life. That being said Job Satisfaction is not the only piece of the work pie.

Not Only Job Satisfaction

Job Satisfaction only takes you so far. If it was we would all take our dream jobs for free. Compensation is the next important aspect of job choice. Now compensation is largely proportional to the barriers of entry to a job. Compensation is also inversely related to the desirability of the job. If you had a extremely desirable job which everyone wanted to do, then it would pay poorly.

Labor is just another supply and demand market, and an excess supply caused by this scenario would drive the pay through the floor. As such often, but not always, compensation and job satisfaction are inversely related.

Barriers to Entry

There are of course a significant number of outliers where the high job satisfaction job has high barriers of entry. Those barriers could be years of schooling, a high end unique skill set, or even whom you know. The sweet spot is to pick a position limited in pay by a barrier rather then satisfaction. Then choose the barrier that causes you the least impact.

In my case, I chose years of college and other training. Engineering school is no picnic. I decided I’d rather have the barrier be up front and smoother sailing later in my career. I’m now in some ways cruising on the good ship career. However, the choice of college is not the only thing that got me to smooth seas.

Opportunity for Advancement

Which brings us to the last aspect of a good job, Opportunity. I’ve spoken before of the importance of crafting your brand.  Well a job that satisfies you is great. So is a job with great compensation. However, if there is no opportunity that better be the job you want for life. The problem is we are ever changing as life goes on. The job you like now may not be the job you want a decade from now. But a job without opportunities will make it hard to change with life.

Even worse, technology and companies change over time. That great job you have now may be obsolete a decade from now leaving you to start over. Needless to say compensation would have to be stratospheric compared to another job if one allows you to work 5 years and the other 30.

My Experience with a High Paying Dead End Job

I ran into this early in my career actually. I started out in IT as a developer 15 years ago. My first job had me developing for a very specific piece of purchased enterprise software. When the company I worked for outsourced the software I developed for there was talk of the need for a contractor at 200 dollars an hour. Sure I could have jumped from my 50K a year entry level developer to a job paying 10x as much. However I saw the writing on the wall that this particular software would only last a few years before the software disappeared.

Furthermore, at 300 dollars an hour people would start to crowd into the area and competition would quickly drive down my billable rate. For a 22 year old I was largely prescient, the developer of the enterprise software went under a few years later. I’ve made way more in my career even to date then I would have made in a year or 2 of contracting for that software, and I still have marketable skills going forward. It also did not help that I found coding largely satisfaction free, which is why I no longer do it.

All Three Required for a Good Job

From my perspective, satisfaction is a big piece of the pie but the real goal is having a makeup of all three: Opportunity, Satisfaction, and Compensation. I would consider an opportunity for a short period of time if it only had 2 of the three, but for the long term I want a position with all 3. I would not consider a position that only had one of the three unless it was that or unemployment.

Now something to keep in mind, is while you want a balance of all three, where you tilt (which you favor) will change over time. For example at the beginning of my career, opportunity needed to be overweighted as I was at the bottom end of the possible compensation simply because of my experience. Meanwhile, as I approach retirement the need for opportunity will decrease as the need for advancement options with higher pay decreases. As such at certain stages of your life the balance will shift between the three.

Tilting Towards one of the Three

Finally, different people and careers will also require different tilts. For example a school teacher after tenure probably has less need for opportunity then a corporate employee. Instead they perhaps are tilting more towards a particular type of satisfaction of making a difference in a young kids life. A future business executive meanwhile need more opportunity early on to make it to the top. Still in either case, there needs to be all 3 available to truly have a good fit.

Do you consider your current job a good job? Where does it stand on the scale of Satisfaction, Compensation, and Opportunity?


  1. I think you hit the nail on the head. These three factors are crucial and indeed what I will consider for my future jobs. People will put different weight on these factors depending on their interest and ability. Once I’m financially free, satisfaction will probably be the most important to me.

    • May 24, 2017

      It definitely changes over time. I find myself reaching for more work life balance satisfaction more recently.

  2. Leo T. Ly
    Leo T. Ly May 22, 2017

    I totally agree that as you progress through your career, you will tilt your preferences towards the factor that you desire the most. I would also add a four factor: work life balance. As a father of two, I am starting to tilt my desire towards work life balance as I value this more that other factors at the moment.

    • May 24, 2017

      I view this as part of satisfaction, but your right it could also be a seperate category given he relative importance. I know I’ve chosen work life balance over pay in the past. Thanks for the great add.

  3. Jim @ Route To Retire
    Jim @ Route To Retire May 22, 2017

    I’m a manager at 45 person IT support company. I’ve been there for 18 years and get paid fairly well (nothing exorbitant though). I got promoted after the first handful of years, but I’m now at the top rung (I report directly to the president).

    That said, the stress level that I’ve had over the past couple of years has turned my good job into a bad one. I think I had checked off all your criteria at the beginning, but now it’s time to hurry and wrap-up this FI thing and jump ship! 🙂

    — Jim

    • May 24, 2017

      It does change over time. There’s a saying that the manager makes or breaks the job, not the job itself.

  4. Matt @ Optimize Your Life
    Matt @ Optimize Your Life May 22, 2017

    I think job satisfaction could also be broken down into a bunch of sub-categories that are all important. How much autonomy do you have? Is your work meaningful and contributing to society? Is there a good work/life balance? I think the most important of your three categories is job satisfaction, but I’m still working on which subparts contribute the most to that satisfaction.

    • May 24, 2017

      Great point, there are many aspects of job satisfaction. They probably change over your life situation as Leo pointed out with kids.

  5. I’m looking to move out of my current job. There isn’t much potential in terms of vertical movement. I’m gaining good communication and project management skills, but at what opportunity cost? Could I do this in a similar role that has potential for growth vertically?

    Thanks for sharing – this was good given my current situation.

    • May 24, 2017

      Great questions to ask. It’s important to step back and evaluate your job in the context of your needs on a regular basis.

  6. Kevin
    Kevin May 22, 2017

    One thing you don’t bring out in reference to opportunity is when you’ve had enough and don’t want to get more promotions or additional responsibility. At a certain point in your life, you decide you would rather spend more free time doing things you enjoy at home with family, etc. The opportunity there might be learning new things, or working on interesting projects – but not in “moving up.”

    I like my job a lot, but don’t feel the need to move up. I’ve already turned down a couple of promotions as I move towards FIRE.

    • May 24, 2017

      Great point. I think I wrote this more thinking about those just starting their careers, but there is definitely a point on the curve where you typically just work in place. Thanks for the great add.

  7. Jack Catchem
    Jack Catchem May 22, 2017

    I think my job is awesome and regularly harass the internet with my deep love affair for it (sorry). Policing on the West Coast (Especially California) is a killer career. Opportunities are available for all kinds of passions (K-9, SWAT, Detective, Motorcycles), Compensation is an entirely different world than in the Midwest and some parts of the East Coast.

    Satisfaction comes from within and your ability to truly care and believe you are impacting lives. Too many people focus on the unstoppable Titan of the Total Crime Stat and forget for each person contacted, cited, or arrested, a significant impact occurred in their life because of “the cop.” When you don’t get too meta and focused on how you can affect the life in front of you, I’ve found deep satisfaction with this career.

    Also: We are hiring. 🙂

    • May 24, 2017

      Jack, I had to chuckle out loud with your last line. You do make it sound like a fun job.

  8. Mrs.Need2Save
    Mrs.Need2Save May 22, 2017

    I consider my current job to have all three attributes. However I still get a case of the Mondays. It has been fulfilling to me and rewarding both financially and career progression wise. I guess I’m just too excited about what else I could be doing instead of working from time to time. But I continue to do my best effort here. They pay me well for my time and I want to leave on a high note without any slacking off.

    • May 24, 2017

      Nothing wrong with being ready for new experiences either. I love ice cream, but if all I ever do is eat ice cream I’d probably get sick of it.

  9. Grant @ Life Prep Couple
    Grant @ Life Prep Couple May 22, 2017

    I currently have a great job that I would rank highly in all categories.

    The difference between this job and my other jobs is stress. I suppose that falls into job satisfaction. Being able to go home at 5:00 and not being pressured to work weekends is HUGE for me.

    • May 24, 2017

      Work life balance and stress are both very important aspects of job satisfaction.

  10. Mustard Seed Money
    Mustard Seed Money May 23, 2017

    Since I recently started a new job outside of my traditional field I am going to say opportunity for me. It was a step back for me honestly but the opportunities in the future seem better and I am enjoying the work that I do more. So that’s always a plus as well 🙂

    • May 24, 2017

      Congrats on the job change. It sounds like it’s really fitting your needs.

  11. SMM
    SMM May 23, 2017

    All three would be a perfect/dream job for me! I have 2 out of 3. It’d probably be rare to have all three in one job. Also early on people think compensation is the biggest factor, but I think as we get older, we realize that the work/life balance may be just as important (at least it is for me).

    • May 24, 2017

      Very true, the older you get the more people tend to tilt towards work life balance.

  12. Dividend Diplomats
    Dividend Diplomats May 25, 2017

    You defiintely need all three for it to be a good job. Without a doubt. But even with progression, pay, and opportunity for advancement, does it help you meet your goals. Work life balance is important if one of your main goals in life is to spend a lot of time with your family. You may have all three from your article, but if you value work life balance, it may be tough to find a job that has all 4. WLB is something that is often not considered until you start to have a family, especially when you are younger and are excited to work a ton, travel, etc. But over time, you could have the best job, but may find yourself susceptible to burnout.

    Thanks for the great read!


    • May 26, 2017

      Too true Bert, especially the part about post kids. It’s like having a second job.

  13. Dividend Daze
    Dividend Daze June 6, 2017

    All of those are important in having a good job. I think it may be smart to work a little more and harder when you are younger. Travel a lot and take on extra responsibilities. Build your skills in your 20s so moving forward it gives you more opportunity to find and advance in a job you really want and love.

    • June 6, 2017

      There is definitely something to be said for front loading your work efforts. Thanks for stopping by.

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