MacAskill on job satisfaction

Don’t you hate it when you have to choose between 2 great opportunities that both offer personal and professional growth? No? Just me?

When my time in Cambodia is up, I want to try a second volunteer nursing position. I’m having a hard time choosing between working in a managerial position at a children’s hospital in Laos, or working in a refugee camp in SE Asia. Because I suffer from FOMO, these kinda of decisions can be difficult or me, because I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong choice. Luckily for me, they both seem like great opportunities. Unluckily for me, that makes the act of choosing a big challenge.


I recently read a great book that can lend some helpful insight. Doing Good Better was written by William MacAskill & I highly recommend it. Part of the book talks about choosing a career, and gives 5 key points that are important in determining job satisfaction. To be clear, these are his ideas, not mine. However, it seems beneficial to reflect on these before choosing which volunteer opportunity might be best for me.

Here are the 5 qualities MacAskill states are necessary for job satisfaction.

  1. Independence– If you have control over how you are able to do your work, you are much more likely to find happiness in your professional lives. No one likes being micromanaged.
  2. Sense of completion– Are you able to see the direct results of your work?  Or do you feel like you are easily replaceable? Feeling valued obviously leads to greater meaning in our jobs.
  3. Variety– Are you doing the same thing, day in and day out? Or are you able to mix it up a bit, showcase your expertise and abilities?
  4. Feedback– Does anyone at work let you know if you’ve done a great job, or if you could use some improvement? It’s particularly hard to find happiness in something if you are unsure if you are good at it. Sometimes, all it takes is a little feedback. Try to take constructive criticism without being too defensive, (something I struggle with at times).  A lot of jobs do this with annual evaluations, but once a year is often not frequent enough, especially if your role changes frequently.
  5. Contribution and value– Do you feel like you actually make a difference with your work? If you can see that you are having a positive impact on the lives of others, or on the world, you’re far more likely to be satisfied with your career.

I think that ER nursing ticked all these boxes for me, and that’s why I found such great joy in it. You definitely rely on teamwork within the unit,  but are able to do a lot of your work independently. The sense of completion can come with small tasks, like getting a difficult IV stick, or from tasks that take hours, like getting a trauma patient stabilized and finally up to the ICU after multiple critical care interventions. As for variety, ER is where it’s at! You never know what you’re going to get. Feedback is sometimes even more available than you want it to be. Patients can be quick to tell you that you’re not doing well if you miss their IV after. I’ve found ER staff to be especially good at talking about what works well and what doesn’t. It’s essential for the team to function to the best of its abilities. And last, if you want to contribute to someone’s well being, what better way than helping them when they need it most.

Hopefully someone out there can reference MacAskill’s points when trying to make a tough decision. I’m going to go do the same.

Happy thinking!

kelli wags

4 thoughts on “MacAskill on job satisfaction

  1. wowser Kel…
    Both of your options definitely sound to me, like they check all those boxes !
    I would assume that your career path choise is going to be very fulfilling either way.
    I know you will make the right decision 🙂
    Keep on doing Kelli girl
    Love & Hugs xoxoxoxo


  2. Great post Kell, my new job definitely checks all those things off. Working everything from Er to general practice as a traveling vet tech is really hitting the spot. Plus it feels good when you get to send your severely ill pup or kitty home with Mom and Dad. Thanks for the awesome post.


    1. Leslie, traveling vet tech sounds amazing! I’m so happy you guys finally made the move you were dreaming of for so long. I hope its everything you imagined. Hope to see you again one day soon! Tell Dan hi!


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