A lot of your research focuses on motivation, including at the workplace. What advice do you have for job seekers?

We are now switching jobs more than ever. In surveys, more than half of full-time employees in the United States say they’re interested in a job change. Everybody’s looking around. There’s much more turnover. But why are people unhappy where they are and want to move?

Usually people are unhappy because they aren’t intrinsically motivated. Yes, they want to increase their salary, and climb the ladder, but those turn out to be secondary motivations, in particular among the educated population. If I feel good when I get up in the morning, enjoy my colleagues, and think my job is a good place, these are all intrinsic motivators. They predict I’ll stay at the job.

We asked MBA students to reflect on their future jobs and consider how much they would care about doing something that’s interesting, with people that they like, and for a feeling that they are learning and growing. We also asked them to think about these criteria in their current and past jobs. They said that in their present situation, intrinsic motivation mattered to them. They cared about working in a place that was engaging, where they were learning and developing their skills. But they predicted that they wouldn’t care about this much in their future jobs, and they didn’t remember caring about it much in the past.

What got us up this morning was something exciting to do, not the salary or opportunity for promotion. But we don’t have the insight that the person in the next job is still going to be us, and that we’ll care about the same things. So when you look for your next job, know that intrinsic motivators will matter more than you think right now. The future is going to become the present.

Ayelet Fishbach is Jeffrey Breakenridge Keller Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing and IBM Corporation Faculty Scholar at Chicago Booth.

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