Gallup Survey Finds 7 in 10 Americans Think Their Jobs Are 'Ideal'

Is your job ideal?

A Gallup Daily survey released this month says seven in 10 working Americans agree that yes, their jobs are ideal. The study is aimed at getting better details about job happiness at a time when people may feel lucky just to be working.

Though the study isn't focused on journalism jobs, its findings are applicable to journalists and anyone who has a job during these tough economic times.

The study found that workers are most likely to say their job is ideal if they make a lot of money (more than $120,000), if they are working in professional jobs and if they are older. The January telephone interviews with 18,269 adults show that income and other demographics are not the only factors that lead to Nirvana.

Written by Gallup's Jenny Marlar, the report says "experienced, educated workers in specialized fields view their jobs most favorably, while those who are at the beginning of their careers and working in professions not generally associated with advanced educational attainment (clerical, service, retail and manufacturing) are among the least likely to say their jobs are ideal."

Marlar, a consulting specialist on this study, was part of the survey design team and participated in analyzing the data. She said in a phone interview that this is one of a series of reports on employment that Gallup launched in December to learn more about how people measure job satisfaction.

"We see slight improvements when the economy is down," Marlar said. "People may be saying, 'I'm just happy to have any job at all,' " Marlar said. She noted that in future surveys, finding a question that discriminates a little more might help turn up PhDs who are working as baristas -- happy to have a job but not yet using all their potential.

How does money play into job satisfaction?

The money thresholds are interesting. Remarkably, 57 percent of people making less than $12,000 a year say their jobs are ideal. It is not surprising that satisfaction rises with pay. The biggest jump is between the $12,000-$23,999 bracket and the $24,000-$47,999 bracket, from 60 percent to 68 percent.

There is no change between the $48,000-$59,999 category of people who say their jobs are ideal, or the $60,000-$89,999 cohort. Seventy-three percent of both groups say their jobs are ideal. And only a few people get happier after that. Marlar said that rising above the poverty level is the big turning point.

The biggest variable in the report is age. Seventy-eight percent of workers aged 50-65 are most likely to say they have an ideal job, while only about 52 percent of the workers under 30 say the same. It would seem, then, that newsrooms shedding older, more expensive workers for young people whom they plan to pay less should be ready for some complaints and turnover.

This is the fix a lot of journalists find themselves in. They work in favored jobs but worry that they may have to make a change to something that is, well, less than ideal. Professional workers, a category that includes lawyers, doctors, teachers and accountants, is one of the most satisfying career sectors in the study. Nearly eight in 10 workers called those jobs ideal. Almost everyone else -- including those in managerial, executive, sales and retail jobs -- is less likely to call their jobs ideal.

Only two categories that Gallup used scored higher: owning your own business or the farming/forestry/fishing sector. So, it seems that if folks must leave a highly ideal profession like journalism and still be satisfied, they can either start their own business, as many entrepreneurial journalists are doing -- or go fishing.

Question about your career or job? E-mail Joe for an answer.

Coming Friday: Learn how to loosen up a reluctant reference.

  • Joe Grimm

    Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website.


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