Money Can’t Buy Happy Engineers

April 7, 2014

When looking for your next job, there are many more things to consider than the size of your pay check. Money’s important, but salary alone doesn’t make for happy engineers.

Happy Engineers are Healthier

Money Can't Buy Happy Engineers

Credit: Jeffrey Zeldman

It’s not just hippies and New Age lifestyle gurus who advise us to strive for happiness. It’s well-documented that unhappiness leads to all kinds of poor health and stress-related illnesses: heart disease, strokes, even cancer. It affects your relationships and your personal life, which in turn affects your motivation and performance at work. And if work is making you unhappy, as we said last month, it’s highly likely you’ll eventually get burned out and won’t be able to function at all.

Job satisfaction is one of the most important factors in your overall happiness. Enjoying your job isn’t just a luxury; happy engineers enjoy greater quality of life.

What Makes Engineers Happy?

Money Can't Buy Happy Engineers

Credit: Moyan Brenn on Flickr

So what makes you happy? Money? Status? Possessions? Power?

Time and time again, psychological studies have shown that these don’t provide the level of happiness people expect. There’s an instant buzz when you achieve something, but it fades fast, leaving you unsatisfied, disappointed, and searching for the next thing. You get your dream BMW, then you want a Mercedes. You get the Merc, then you want a Porsche. And after the Porsche, the Ferrari. Your thinking is very negative, always dominated by what you don’t have, and what you haven’t achieved.

It’s important to recognize that although these things don’t bring happiness, the lack of them can – and usually does – certainly cause unhappiness. If you don’t have enough money to live on, or you feel undervalued, that’s a major stressor – but once you’ve achieved a satisfactory level, more really doesn’t help.

What brings profound and long-lasting happiness is usually much more immaterial: respect, companionship, laughter, achievement, and – despite Ayn Rand- altruism. Volunteering through organizations like Engineers Without Borders can change the way you see yourself. Truly happy people are happy because they like what they do, and because what they do makes them feel good. They like who they are, and are liked by others in return.

Finding A Job That Makes You Happy

Ask yourself this: if you knew you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you really want from your job? We all have different priorities and there are no right answers. Consider these, for example. How many of them are true for you?

Money Can't Buy Happy Engineers

Credit: Luke Wisley

  • This is a company that’s fun to work for. We have great camaraderie, we play with Nerf guns in the office, we‘re always laughing and joking around, we go to lunch together. I actually enjoy my time at work and look forward to going in.

  • I have a great work/life balance. I don’t have to work too many hours, and my boss is cool about taking time off for personal issues when necessary. I can work from home if I need to, and they’re relaxed about things like hours as long as we get the work done. I have a great social life, and work doesn’t interfere.

  • I get to see the world. You wouldn’t believe some of the places I’ve been. I love to travel, and I’ve had the opportunity to visit, or even live and work, in different cities, countries and cultures – all at their expense.

  • They give me fantastic benefits. These guys really know how to look after their employees. My family and I are taken care of, and I just don’t have to worry about our lives being devastated by tragedy.

  • I’m getting a chance to enhance my skills. I’m learning so much on this job. It may not be where I stay, but it’s a step towards my ultimate goal.

  • It’s an opportunity to work with and meet amazing people. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. I’m making contacts, and getting to spend time with people I really respect.

  • I’m doing something I can be proud of. I’m working on projects that really make a difference. I’m changing people’s lives. When I look at what we do, it makes me feel good about myself.

  • I follow my dreams. Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to work on stuff like this. And now I do. Are you jealous?

Assuming you’re not one of the lucky few who answered yes to all the above, then ask yourself how much they would be worth to you. Would you take a job that paid a little less if you could enjoy yourself a whole lot more?

Money Can't Buy Happy Engineers

Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

No, Just Show Me The Money

If the salary really is why you’re taking a job, then don’t just think of it as a score: the bigger the pay check, the better the job, or the better you’re doing. Ask yourself what you’re going to do with it, and how it’s going to make you happy. Have a purpose for that money.

Perhaps you want to put your kids through college, or you’ve always dreamed of buying a boat and sailing the Caribbean, or you can afford a season ticket to your favorite NFL team. Or maybe you just want to pay off your student loans, build up your pension fund, and retire early. Think of the money and as a means to an end, not as an end in itself.

Do The Job You Really Want To Do

If you’d be happier restoring old steam locomotives instead of maintaining subway trains, building hospitals in Haiti instead of Hoboken, or designing solar panels instead of substations, then maybe you should start looking. Although you may have a little less in your bank account, you’ll probably find it’s worth it.

So go ahead, enjoy yourself. It’s okay to be happy.


Featured Image Credit: Ben Smith