Less pay, longer hours–the new dream job?

Salary was one of the least important requirements of a dream job, cited by just 12 percent of respondents in [a new] survey by, an online job site, and The Walt Disney Co, which is holding a contest in which winners can get a chance to work at a Disney theme park job for a day. Having fun at a dream job was cited by 39 percent, with 17 percent saying making a difference in society was most important, the survey showed.

As society gets wealthier and more and more people have their basic needsââ?¬â??and even many of their desiresââ?¬â??met, we can expect more job seekers to put more weight into finding a job that offers personal fulfillment. Since money tells only a part (and apparently a shrinking part) of the story, researchers who focus so intently on wages will have a tough time determining whether things are getting better or worse for workers. Even “hours worked” is a rather unreliable measure. According to a Money Magazine/ survey:

The hours category showed a real shocker — that extremely satisfied employees are putting in a lot more time at work than others. The most satisfied reported averaged 56 hours a week — 11 hours more than the least satisfied group. Almost without exception, as satisfaction rose, workers reported putting in longer hours.

In this overview of telecommuting trends (pdf), I point to other surveys where workers say they prefer perks like flexible schedules to more pay. Sounds like good news, but look at the title of this MSNBC article: Most U.S. Workers Not Living the Dream

Overall, 84 percent of respondents said they are not in their dream jobs, the study found.

OK most workers aren’t living the dream, but what’s more interesting is what the framing of this issue says about our elevated expectations. From a historical perspective the fact even a sizable minority of respondents has a dream job is something that should spur Cruise-like fits of couch-jumping joy. It wasn’t long ago when the vast majority of the workforce toiled away in the fields. The fact that we even think that a job should be more than something that gets us food, clothing and shelter reveals enormous progress.