Who Cares About Gainful Employment and Work Life Balance

June 28, 2015 by Margaret Townsend
Change jobs if you are not happy


What it means to be gainfully employed, how it relates to work life balance and why we should care.

Second only to personal relationships, work is the most important determinant of quality of life.  Your employer might believe that you are gainfully employed because you receive consistent work and get paid regularly.

On the surface this seems to ring true.  A steady stream of cash flow certainly does affect your quality of life.  But it’s complicated.  How much money do you need to enjoy a good quality of life?  On a survival basis that would be just about enough to keep the wolf from the door.  But on a ‘quality’ basis the answer becomes less easy to find.  A 50k or 200k salary being sufficient for a happy life is relative to what each person considers happiness and how they wish to live their lives.  Nevertheless wealth and to a greater extent survival are certainly undeniable benefits of being gainfully employed. 

The Gainful Employment Rule.

According to Barrack Obama and his Administration, to be gainfully employed means you can pay off your student loan relatively quickly when you are finished with college and they are wanting to penalize colleges whose past students are failing to do so, under education reform laws.  They also proposed to limit financial aid to students if their projected earnings after graduation do not meet a certain debt-to-income ratio.  That’s a lot of pressure not only to succeed at college but also to reach for high paying salaries and/or careers with large paychecks.  But their aim is to ensure colleges provide us with a high standard of education which allows us to pursue our goals and achieve a standard of living expected from a third level qualification and while we may agree or disagree with this particular law reform, there is clearly an underlying issue to be addressed within our community as we are an unhappy workforce.

Finding the meaning in fulfillment.

However if work comes second only to relationships in determining how happy we are then gainful employment must surely have a deeper meaning and provide more personal benefits than merely how much money is earned.  Broadly speaking, to be truly fulfilled in life a person needs to develop their character, abilities and feel a sense of achievement but exactly what elements make up each of those three requirements is I believe unique to each person and therefore finding fulfillment must ultimately come from within yourself.  If you know what makes you happy and fulfilled then you should be aiming for work which feeds all of your requirements, not just the financial ones.

Some may be happy at work, but not everybody is…

If personal and financial fulfillment embodies gainful employment then haven’t most of us reached those heady heights of happiness at work?  Seems not.  Gallup produce a daily index on how people are getting on with their lives and these are some of today’s statistics;

  • 33% Engaged at Work

It seems two thirds of us are essentially sleepwalking through our jobs, uninterested.  Look at your colleagues sitting right and left of you.  You may be happy at work but neither of them are. 

  • 14.7% Underemployed
  • 6.1% Unemployed

A fifth of us are either unemployed or in jobs that are insufficient for our needs on any level.  That means 20 houses down from yours in any direction – your neighbors – are struggling to make ends meet. 

  • 35% Worried about Money

And a third of us are worried about money.  So every third neighbor also has financial concerns.

These statistics don’t change much from day to day or even year to year and when we bring it down to colleagues, friends and neighbors it seems more real and troubling.

But the good news is that economic confidence is rising, consumer spending is increasing and now that employment is going in the same direction it is time to seek out fulfillment, engage in the workplace, consider retraining or studying, change jobs, become gainfully employed, be confident, achieve success and prosper. By the way, good luck in your jobsearch if you’re looking!

About the Author

Margaret Townsend
An experienced recruiter and job seeker, now co-founder of www.globehook.com a private job search website. Blogs are full of practical tips and advice on career development, work-life balance, the job search and the job interview. Also writes in-depth unique articles about workplace issues such as gender diversity, HR practices, culture fit, employee engagement and gainful employment.

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