When Forbes magazine published its list of the 10 highest-paid actresses of 2017, it came as little surprise to see the brilliant Jennifer Lawrence coming in at number three.
Starring roles in movies such as Mother! and Red Sparrow, plus a hefty contract with the Dior fashion label, have seen the Hunger Games star apparently rake in a whopping $24 million this year alone. Yeah, but is she happy?
Us mere mortals can only guess, but’s probably safe to assume that the wildly popular, talented, Oscar-winning actress is indeed happy. The question is still worth asking, however, because when J-Law was growing up, she didn’t want to be an actress at all – she wanted to be a doctor.
That matters because, according to a 2017 report by the University of Chicago, the jobs that bring the most satisfaction and happiness are those that involve working with, serving, nurturing and protecting other people. Not exactly the stuff of Hollywood. The happiest and most satisfied of all American workers today? Members of the clergy.
Okay, not for everyone. And if you want to become a religious leader of some kind, you’re probably on the wrong website. But the UC report – reportedly the most comprehensive of its kind to explore happiness and satisfaction among workers – certainly provides food for thought. It reveals the least satisfying jobs are mostly low-skilled, manual and service occupations.
So now you know – if you didn’t already. It’s safe to say that many of the UC research findings are perfectly logical; predictable even. It does, however, shine a light on a sometimes-overlooked aspect of the working world – doing something that makes us happy.
As kids, we all want to be something cool when we grow up. We want to be astronauts, ballerinas, super-vets, cowboys, rock stars, Premier League footballers. Our parents don’t care what we do, as long as we’re happy. It all starts so promisingly!
Of course, in the adult world things are not that simple. There are points, targets, standards, criteria, qualifications, that decide and dictate which career paths we follow. Along those paths, our ambitions are defined by tangible reward and achievement – salary, benefits, prestige, career advancement. Happiness is often considered just a bonus.
It should be a little more than that. “Do what you love,” said the great American writer Henry Thoreau. “Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” In other words, find what you’re good at and follow that happy path to success. That may be in financial services, IT, hospitality or whatever: remember, you don’t have to be a teacher to teach people, or a carer to care for people – across all sectors of industry, the need to nurture and keep staff fulfilled is universal.
Still too simplistic? Maybe it’s about taking a more holistic view of our jobs and careers; prioritising happiness and assigning a similar value to the concept of job satisfaction as we do to the other, more tangible metrics such as the ones mentioned above. At the very least, it’s worth asking “Will I be happy?” the next time you update your CV for a vacancy that’s caught your eye.
As for Jennifer Lawrence, she may be interested to know that the University of Chicago report found that doctors do not make the list of the most satisfied or happy professions. Lots of prestige but also great responsibility and opportunity for stress, apparently. Maybe she made the right choice after all.