By Jackie Schaffer
Being happy at work is much more than being well compensated. Though, when college seniors are fortunate enough to receive more than one job offer, typically salary is the primary differentiator. And even those of us who have been in the workplace for some time are often swayed by higher compensation offers.
But those of us who have been truly happy at work would advise friends to look beyond compensation—and even beyond benefits (including healthcare, dental, 401K and PTO plans). Certainly it’s easier to look beyond compensation when you are making enough of it that a few thousand dollars doesn’t make the difference in making rent or not, but things like compensation and benefits are not as important when you’re not happy doing what you’re doing.
Those of us in the creative space are pretty lucky—we didn’t become designers or writers to get rich (in fact, we probably realized that was highly unlikely). Rather we entered the creative world because we were passionate about our talent. Being happy at work is multifaceted, but I would argue it begins with being passionate about what you’re doing.
From there, I would rank your co-workers and company culture in spots 2 and 3, because every job is going to have tough days and weeks, but if you can jam out to some 80s Madonna (or whatever your guilty pleasure is) at 9pm with your colleagues while pulling a late night, it won’t be as painful; in fact, you might even recall it as fun a week later. While building friendships with colleagues is not for everyone, building relationships is. And it’s important that when you look around at your colleagues, you can see yourself enjoying lunch with them. Likewise, your colleagues should be people who motivate you to be your best—being in an environment where complacency is status quo is not engaging or motivating.
So after having a job doing what you are passionate about, working with great colleagues who are both fun to hang out with and people you can learn from, and working for a company (and especially a manager) that represents your values and supports your growth, I would then start looking at the “hard benefits” of a job offer—compensation and benefits.
In this time of Thanks, be thankful if you’re truly happy at work—not enough people are. And if you’re not happy, consider a new year’s resolution to address that.
Jackie Schaffer, vice president and general manager of Cella Consulting, is a former in-house leader who has consulted for teams of all sizes, including Fortune 500 clients, government entities and educational institutions and has the unique opportunity to speak with hundreds of creative leaders each year. Cella helps creative leaders and their teams identify and execute strategic priorities, so they can increase their effectiveness and focus on creating high-quality creative.