What Makes a Job Great

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my career — where it’s headed and my work in general. I’ll be completing almost three years designing interfaces officially. Assessing the career trajectory once in a while keeps me grounded.

While doing so, recently I picked up So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. The book makes a surprisingly strong case of not following the dogmatic advice — “Follow your passion” — but instead focusing on becoming an expert in something and let passion follow. More on that in another post.

The book mentions three basic psychological needs that if fulfilled makes a job great:

  • Autonomy: the feeling that you have control over your day, and that your actions are important
  • Competence: the feeling that you are good at what you do
  • Relatedness: the feeling of connection to other people

Evidently, these “nutrients” form a rare combination, at least for a position that I am capable of holding. Having said that, these are not impossible to attain.

According to basic economic theory, if you want something that’s both rare and valuable, you need something rare and valuable to offer in return. As far as I can see, it boils down to just one thing — there’s no alternative to hard work. If we want a perfect job we need to have skills that are rare and valuable, and in order to achieve those we need to work harder.