If you’re less than 100% happy at work, how do you know if sticking around is still worth it? Here’s a simple guide.

I recently came across this statement: “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.” (New York-based designer Jessica Hische)

The reality is that most of us aren’t prepared to quit their jobs and become gardeners, musicians or gourmet chefs. (In my case, I still haven’t found the job that will pay me more than $200,000 a year playing video games and reading comic books.) Yet many of us ponder these questions every day: Why am I still in this job? Is this the right company for me? Should I consider this new job offer? Is it time to start my own business?

Here’s one way to answer those questions. When considering a new opportunity or reviewing your current job, think about it in terms of Love, Money and long term Career:

LOVE – You wake up in the morning and you’re raring to go to the office. Being at work doesn’t feel like work. You think about what you’re going to do tomorrow even when you’re off the clock. Maybe you even hang out with your colleagues after work because your office has such an awesome work culture. Bottom line: you just love what you do.

MONEY – Your job gives you financial security: the means to pay rent or a mortgage, feed your family, take holidays, save up for a dream house or children’s college education, etc. If you’re lucky, your job pays you enough to feed your passion, whether it’s photography, designer clothes or sports cars. “I do it for the money” is a perfectly legitimate reason to choose a profession.

CAREER – It isn’t just about the job you’re in now. It’s also about your our next job. The job you do today is leading up to an even better job tomorrow. Your job is in the field of expertise you want your career to be known for. Your job allows you to learn valuable skills that will be needed in the future. You have a plan and your job and employer are going to get you there.

Your ideal job gives you all three. If your job gets two out of three then you should still consider yourself pretty lucky. Most will stay at their jobs for even just one of the above.

If your job offers none of the above then you are probably a miserable human being. For your own sanity – and health – you really should consider a career change.

Post-script:

I won’t claim full responsibility for this smart way of summing up career options. This is the result of many drunken conversations with more clever people than I. (I just drew a nice picture.)

It is also somehow appropriate to write about jobs as the media and the web are currently being flooded with news of the death of Steve Jobs. This is my humble tribute. As Jobs himself said, above all, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” 

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