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Legal work beats being a fast-food cook

July 8, 2014

When it comes to job meaning, satisfaction and stress, it seems there are many better choices than working as a lawyer or contracts professional. In fact, mail clerks feel as good about the value they deliver and there are some 300 job groups that yield greater satisfaction. The statistics suggest that being a Funeral Director is about twice as good as being a lawyer.

Job meaning, according to, is directly related to the extent to which a job is felt to ‘make the world a better place’. It is therefore not surprising that the roles occupying the top spots are typically linked to social and human benefit – healthcare, education, social service. Business activities feature far less well. For example, being a Chief Executive comes in at number 105 on the list, out of 454. In terms of ‘meaning’, it scores 74%, in terms of satisfaction it achieves 89% and stress level is 81%.

Obviously, satisfaction is not always related to salary level. The Clergy come top of the list, earning only about 12% of the wages of the third-placed surgeon. Clearly a sense of purpose and mission is key to the overall sense of job meaning and professionalism alone does not appear to be enough. Hence lawyers and accountants are well down in the list. Procurement managers fare slightly better that either of these roles, with statistics of 43% for meaning, 63% for satisfaction and 60% for stress.

Beyond a general sense of interest, is there anything we should take from these statistics? I think they illustrate the importance of leadership and that to have a motivated and enthusiastic workforce we must instill a sense of mission and purpose. Beyond that, we must also generate meaningful measures of contribution – not some vague or meaningless numbers, but actually related to human benefit. That is perhaps why we need to feel ownership of a process and to link the results from that process to social progress. And for those engaged in contracting, I believe that is possible. Trade lies at the root of social progress; without trade, we would not have the wealth needed to deliver all those healthcare, education and social services. Contracts – and their successful delivery – underpin prosperity.  So we should recognize that our job has tremendous potential for social meaning; now we just have to work harder at developing the skills, methods and knowledge to ensure the way we work actually translates to the benefits that can be achieved.

Next year, perhaps we can have climbed up that ladder of job meaning – and in the meantime, we can at least be grateful that we are not the bottom-placed fast-food cooks!


One Comment
  1. Eugene P. Grace permalink

    I have done a lot of contracting in my career. I agree with the idea that the words on the page can be boring, or worse not meaningful. I learned to understand the drama behind the words. I have been involved in a number of innovative products that involved payment systems. The contracting and disclosure were particularly complex and presented significant disclosure problems. Once I understood the substance of what I was doing (i.e., the drama), the work did become more alive. Even if the contract is for standard goods and services, realize that your work is helping to keep your fellow employees in their jobs, supporting their families and the extended community. Bringing the work alive also has the added benefit of generating greater focus on the work under review.

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