Job interest not a big predictor of job satisfaction

November 22, 2020

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Job interest not a big predictor of job satisfaction

At some point in their childhood or early career, most people take an interest assessment to help determine how their interests relate to different jobs. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, The Occupational Information Network’s (O*NET) My Next Move website, which hosts the Interest Profiler, averages over 1 million site visits per month.

The trouble is, your interest in an occupation does not matter as much as you might think when it comes to job satisfaction. At least according to a new study.

What the researchers say: “Our main finding was that interest fit significantly predicts satisfaction, but it’s not as strong of a relation as people expect,” reports the lead author. “Other things that lead to satisfaction include the organization you work for, your supervisor, colleagues and pay.”

For those forging a career, the takeaway seems hopeful.

“To be satisfied with a job, you don’t have to worry too much about finding a perfect fit for your interests because we know other things matter, too. As long as it’s something you don’t hate doing, you may find yourself very satisfied if you have a good supervisor, like your coworkers, and are treated fairly by your organization,” he added.

To reach these conclusions, the team systematically reviewed data from 65 years of research conducted between 1949 and 2016 on the link between interest fit and job satisfaction. They examined 105 studies with 39,602 participants.

The research also indicates that the relationship between interest fit and job performance is more critical than the link to satisfaction.

“Being interested in your work seems more important for job performance and the downstream consequences of performing well, like raises or promotions,” said the researchers.

The use of vocational interests to predict job satisfaction dates to the 1940’s when interest assessments were first described as a tool to help people discover satisfying work.

“In popular career guidance literature, it is widely assumed that interest fit is important for job satisfaction. Our results show that people who are more interested in their jobs tend to be slightly more satisfied, but interest assessments are more useful for guiding people towards jobs in which they will perform better and make more money” they conclude.

So, what? Let’s see if I’ve got this right. If my main interest is in conning people and letting millions of them die or get sick to serve my own interests, the ideal job in terms of interest match is POTUS. It’s not that I’ll get total satisfaction from doing the job—for that I have to surround myself with people who always agree with me or are members of my family. But I will be incredibly successful in killing people and be able to scam millions from taxpayers. Simple really.

Dr Bob Murray

Bob Murray, MBA, PhD (Clinical Psychology), is an internationally recognised expert in strategy, leadership, influencing, human motivation and behavioural change.

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