Sokanu Reveals Its 10 Most Satisfying And Unsatisfying Careers And Why

As I reviewed the new study by Sokanu ranking careers with the highest and lowest degrees of satisfaction, I was delighted to see that I have personally experienced working in four of the top five positions listed in the survey. So, not only can I report this study to you, but I can also personally validate the findings.

It turns out that all top 10 most satisfying careers share two common factors that I’ll explore below. And—perhaps surprisingly—all but one of the top-scoring jobs does not normally come with a big paycheck. My current blended career incorporates careers number 1, 3, and 5 and I am about to start another project aligned with 2 and 7.

Sokanu, a unique career discovery platform, released the new data today. Based on feedback collected from 46,000 participants from May 2015 to July 2016, the company developed a ranked list of careers, highlighting the top ten and bottom ten overall. Over 150 careers were ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 representing the highest levels of satisfaction. The overall satisfaction scores are based on the average between the following satisfaction components: personality fit, overall interests, work environment, and skill utilization.

On Sokanu’s ranked list, all of the careers rating 3.5 or higher do not usually have a six-figure salary associated with them, with the exception of one: Chief Executive Officer. Here is the list of the 10 careers that ranked highest in terms of career satisfaction (starting from highest-ranked):

  1. CEO
  2. Film director
  3. Author
  4. Singer
  5. Entrepreneur
  6. Art director
  7. Filmmaker
  8. Career counselor
  9. Industrial designer
  10. Musician

All of the above careers received an overall ranking of 4.0 or higher (out of 5). “This data suggests that money doesn’t always make us much happier at work,” Saeid Fard, President of Sokanu, says. “In fact, careers that don’t necessarily promise wealth often end up making us happier.” One of most helpful findings in the study is the common denominators between the careers that ranked highest. They all involve a form of creative expression and a high degree of control—so we can infer that in the general employee population, these are attributes of a job that would attract talent—and retain it, too.

Here is the list of ten careers that ranked lowest (starting with lowest-ranked):

  1. Janitor
  2. Quality control inspector
  3. House cleaner
  4. Retail salesperson/cashier
  5. Delivery service driver/food delivery truck driver
  6. Bank teller
  7. Food server
  8. Financial clerk
  9. Shipping/receiving clerk
  10. Barista

All of the lowest-ranking careers listed above received an overall ranking of 2.2 or lower (out of 5). Customer service representatives and receptionists were not far behind this list, still numbering among the lowest-ranking careers. While the legal profession was not in the top 10 least satisfying careers, it only received an overall ranking of 3/5, indicating a relatively high level of dissatisfaction. “It’s interesting to note that low-ranking careers included law and finance, both of which have a much higher earnings potential than other low-ranking careers, such as food & beverage and construction,” Spencer Thompson, the CEO of Sokanu, explains. “From this list, we can see that just as creativity and control make us happy, service positions often make us miserable, regardless of the salary potential associated.” Thompson says careers in the service industry lack one of the key components of the top-rated careers above: control over your work and your work recipients’ reception of it. Perhaps that’s why these careers are ranked so poorly overall.

According to these findings, most of the careers with the highest satisfaction rankings are not associated with six-figure salaries, whereas some of the careers with the lowest rankings have a high earning potential.

In my personal experience, I have made relatively little money in the careers I’ve explored on the high satisfaction list. Only now am I starting to see the financial fruits of my labor as a CEO and entrepreneur. Despite this, the highly-ranked roles engaged me at the highest level. I can’t say I have had a bad run in my other corporate roles either—where I made the greatest amount of money. However, most of these corporate roles provided me with an opportunity to use my creative talents and have a fair amount of control. When any of my roles started to lack the control and creativity I desired, my job satisfaction began to decrease and I started to look for other opportunities.

The financial stresses connected to low-paying careers on the highest-ranking list should not be overlooked. After spending a day directing a short film for no money and no expectation of money to follow, I ended my day on a high. But after the work was done and the high subsided, the nerves as to where my next income would come from quickly set in. Over time, the financial stresses of a low-paying career can have a negative impact on the work itself and your enjoyment of it. They say money can’t buy happiness, but being paid well to do what you love certainly contributes to a happiness and security factor. While the first focus of a job or career search should never center on money, getting paid well to do what you love is always ideal in life. The pay part usually means you are doing what you do best, too.

Regardless of your industry, position, or outlook, Sokanu’s study can help you discover a new perspective on the idea of a fulfilling career. As a hiring manager looking to attract top talent, you can apply the findings and make sure to ingrain and emphasize creative and control aspects in new open positions. If you’re an individual stuck in what you perceive to be a dead-end job, you can take this research to heart—and find ways to be creative in your current role, or move on. And if you’re a young professional just getting started on your career path (or anyone who needs a gentle reminder), this data can help you realize that chasing the paycheck isn’t necessarily the best path to work satisfaction.

Sokanu designed and launched its career discovery platform in 2013 to help people find their ideal career based on their personality traits, interests and abilities. I took their free online assessment to discover my ideal career. With my second book due out next year, I was happy to see my top career alignment is that of an author.

Regardless of your career, ensure your work is meaningful to you. Do something you enjoy and are passionate about. Play to your strengths. Empower yourself to make these decisions, and your career will ensure the highest possible level of success and happiness. With one life to live, you should never stop trying to achieve that goal. Align your priorities to finding a career that fulfills you, and you will accomplish things you never imagined possible.

Sokanu’s mission is to fundamentally change the way people prepare for the workforce by helping them to find the career that is right for them and the unique path to getting there. Their platform is already being used in more than 100 schools and universities, including NYU, University of Nevada, University of Texas, University of Miami, and many others.

For more information, visit and check out my book How to Find a Job, Career and Life You Love.


Published on Forbes, 31 August 2016

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