Why do people work?

Try to imagine how you would fill in 24 hours a day, every day, if you didn't have to work. There you go - off to the beach in summer, the movies in winter, watch T.V. on rainy days, go skating or horse riding, read a lot of books or magazines, sleep . . .

But would you?

Where would the money come from to pay your bus fares, to get into the movies, to buy your T.V. or to pay for the electricity, or buy your skates and books?

Let's say that money grew on trees, and that no-one had to worry about that "small" problem. Now you can do all those things... right?

Probably not, because if no-one had to worry about earning money, then who would bother driving your bus to the beach - for that matter, who would bother building your bus, or making your movies, skates, books, etc.? Why would they have to?

What you'd probably end up doing would be spending most of your time out in the fields growing your own food, or looking after your cows for milk and meat, your sheep for clothing, growing bamboo for the walls of your humpy.

Why would you need to do this? Because no-one else would need to do it to earn money, because money grew on trees - right?

Obviously, money in that sort of society doesn't really exist, and is of no value to the people...

So, in our society, is MONEY is the NUMBER ONE reason for working ! ! ! ???

A lot of people might agree with this statement, but is money the main reason why so many people spend so much of their time working?

Surely work gives us other things as well as money?

Go back to your farm for a second . . . and think of all the things you would have to do for yourself. What would happen if, for example, you weren't able to repair your hand-plough if it broke down?

Now, some other farmer probably discovered that they were particularly good a repairing broken down ploughs, and when everyone found this out, they all asked this farmer to repair theirs. Soon a thriving business had been set up-ploughs repaired in exchange for corn, or milk or rugs or any other thing the repairer needed.

Pretty soon, other people began specialising in all sorts of things, and they didn't have to worry about doing everything for themselves, as they were able to trade their special skills for the things they wanted.

So, the main reason why "work'' exists today is since we cannot possibly do everything for ourselves, we get other people to do things for us, and pay them for their work. In order to do that, we must also do things for other people so that we can earn money.

Think of everything you do-all of it costs money. Electricity isn't free, nor is water, food, housing, clothing, etc. So, we appear to be back at the point again where money is still the MAIN REASON for working, but now probably not in the original way you were thinking.

However, in the process of reaching this conclusion, we have uncovered another couple of reasons why people work-
  • because you are good at doing something special
  • other people need your skills, and you need theirs
  • to satisfy our needs for shelter and food
  • to provide "luxuries" to make our lifestyle more enjoyable.
You can get a lot out of working - it doesn't just have to be something "you gotta do!".

In fact, although money might appear to be the main reason for working, it isn't always the main "thing" people get from their job.

In fact, many people stay in low paid jobs because they get a lot of personal satisfaction from other aspects of that job.

Rewards from Work

Look at this list of "rewards" that people might get from work, and see whether you think that money is still number one:

  • lets me use my special abilities, skills and knowledge
  • makes me feel that I'm doing something useful
  • keeps me busy and helps fill in time
  • lets me be creative
  • involves doing a variety of tasks
  • allows me to meet a lot of people
  • lets me experience new things and learn more
  • lets me see something for my efforts
  • allows me to be responsible
  • gives me power/influence over others
  • provides opportunities to make friends
  • lets me help people
  • provides money
  • allows me to be with others
  • provides physical activity for me
  • allows me to contribute to the community
  • lets me control my own time
  • allows me to satisfy my other needs
  • offers me chances for improvement and/or promotion
  • allows me to be known and liked by many people

Are there any other rewards that work might offer?

If you can think of any add them to the list and then pick out and number in ORDER of IMPORTANCE, your TOP FIVE reasons why you would like to work.

Keep these reasons in mind when looking at job/s you'd like to do -
will those jobs provide you with those rewards?

For each statement listed above, can you name at least one job which would offer that as its main reward?

If you were not ''working", which of these rewards would you not receive if you were:
  • studying (at school, college,uni, etc.)
  • looking after a family home
  • living off lottery winnings
  • travelling
  • unemployed
  • making handicrafts for sale
Are any of these in your Top Five? Does this make any difference to your thoughts on your future? What "rewards" can you get from not working?

How would the rewards from permanent part-time, casual or shared work, differ from the rewards from full-time work?

For example, you would have more control over your own time with part time or casual work, at the expense of money.

Try to list at least five more differences.


This worksheet lists groups of certain features of jobs which are often important to people because they give them satisfaction.

Think about each statement carefully.

Using the scale below, write down the number which describes how accurately you think or feel.

0     1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10
Not me at all Sometimes I think this DEFINITELY me!

When you have finished each group, add up your score for that group and write it in the 'Total' space at the bottom.

My job must:
  • provide opportunities to sort out problems
  • allow me to do something useful
  • let me see something for my efforts
  • be able to be done efficiently
  • have good working conditions
  • let me use my hands
  • perform a useful function in the community
  • provide honest information or service
  • provide time to enjoy other aspects of life
  • allow me to work with things/objects rather than with books/ideas


My job must:
  • allow me to carry out decisions I make
  • let me try out new ideas
  • allow me to express an opinion
  • allow me to enjoy freedom from close supervision
  • let me organise work for others to do
  • have opportunities for promotion to senior levels
  • let me make decisions for myself
  • allow me to mostly be my own boss
  • allow me to tell others what to do
  • allow me to influence others


My job must:
  • give me a feeling of achievement
  • let me meet people
  • let me teach others what I know
  • be one where I'm really needed
  • make me feel appreciated
  • give me an opportunity to be known for my abilities
  • be seen by society as "useful"
  • let me get some occasional praise or thanks
  • allow me to show others what I can do
  • increase my self-confidence


My job must:
  • keep me busy most of the time
  • make me feel that I am useful
  • allow me to plan for the future
  • not be risky or dangerous
  • have good working conditions
  • have opportunities for promotion
  • include provisions for retirement
  • be well paid for the work done
  • be one I can make a career out of
  • be one where I know exactly what I must do


My job must:
  • allow me to get things done
  • provide opportunities to follow what really interests me
  • allow me to see something for my efforts
  • have opportunities for promotion
  • let me become independent
  • allow me to further develop my knowledge and abilities
  • provide some challenging work for me to do
  • allow me to attain status/prestige in the firm/community
  • allow me to achieve something with my life
  • enable me to get the material things that go with being successful


My job must:
  • give me a chance to be with people
  • let me work closely with others
  • help other people
  • give me a chance to help people with problems
  • allow me to share my interests with others
  • provide a useful function in the community
  • provide opportunities to meet a range of different people
  • give me a chance to hear what others think/feel
  • provide occasional praise/thanks for work done
  • give me a chance to understand people


My job must:
  • allow me to acquire and pass on information
  • let me try out new ideas
  • allow me to share my ideas with others
  • be one where I know what is going on
  • allow me to further develop my abilities/knowledge
  • allow me to organise and analyse information
  • provide some challenging work
  • improve my understanding of certain things
  • allow time for discussion about work with others
  • provide opportunities for me to broaden my horizons


My job must:
  • give me a chance to work with pleasant things
  • allow me to be creative
  • provide pleasant surroundings for me to work in
  • let me use my talents fully
  • let me express myself in my work
  • let me try out new ideas
  • improve my understanding/appreciation of nature and/or culture
  • leave opportunities for me to enjoy the nice aspects of life
  • be pleasing to my senses
  • enable my work to be appreciated by others


Which group/s showed as being most important for you?
Do you think this is an accurate picture of what you really want to get from work?

Think of three jobs you'd like to do.
Would these jobs give you the satisfactions you've said were important (from the graph)?
If not, should you try to think of other jobs which would provide those satisfactions?

Listed below are the names of some people and some statements they are likely to make. Try to decide which of the eight groups (from the exercise above) they might belong to.

  • A. I'd like my life to be as safe as possible, so that I can cope with the unexpected without difficulty.
    Secure Sam/Polly the Planner

  • B. I gain great satisfaction by finding out everything I can about my job so I can become expert at it.
    Curious Cathy/Knowledgeable Noel

  • C. I am not happy being a follower and would rather exert some power over others.
    Influential Ingrid/Responsible Robert

  • D. I prefer people who notice the good job that I do- I love receiving attention from others.
    Appreciated Allan/Noticed Nelly

  • E. I value useful, worthwhile things which help make life more comfortable.
    Practical Pauline/Productive Phil

  • F. I like to be in pleasant surroundings, working with the artistic skills and talents that l/others have.
    Aesthetic Alice/Creative Christopher

  • G. I gain much self-satisfaction by getting results in my job, and by handling challenges well.
    Andy the Achiever/Successful Samantha

  • H. I much prefer to work and be with other people, and feel as if I can do something useful for them.
    Sociable Susie/Friendly Fred

Are you game enough to find out what the genie has in store for you?

Back to Choosing a Career index.