How important is it to love your job?

Careers In Nonprofits surveyed 200 current and former CNP job candidates seeking positions ranging from entry- to executive-level in Chicago and Washington, D.C. (100 from each city) to find out how they felt about work. In both cities, more than 60 percent of respondents said they love their jobs, with 62 percent in Chicago and 61 percent in D.C.

That’s a troubling percentage, though, because that means more than a third of respondents don’t like what they’re doing. The same number of people in each city said they were working (52 percent) and the majority were either fairly new to the workforce with less than five years experience, or career veterans with better than 15 years on the job. 

Somewhat surprisingly, where Chicagoans and D.C. residents differed was on the importance of loving their job. Eighty-percent of Chicagoans said it was “very important” compared to just 68 percent of D.C.-area residents.

Even in good economic times, people toil away too long in jobs they hate getting out of bed to go to. But that doesn’t make it healthy in the long term. In the current job market, getting the job you love might seem harder, depending on what you want to do. Are you settling, or pursuing your passion with fervor?

A few things to consider:

Are you being honest with yourself? Go deep within your self-conscious and explore, for instance, whether you are staying in a job you hate because you lack the skills for the job you love. If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to get busy obtaining that skill set, figuring out which skills you do have would possibly translate in the chosen field, or selecting another potentially rewarding career path. Apathy can keep you stuck in a job you hate longer than you need to be.

What are you willing to give up? Be prepared to make a list of what you’re willing to give up, or to take on, to land a job that moves you. Is it salary? Vacation time? A long commute? Once you do, you’ll be able to recognize a good fit when you see one and have less likelihood of buyer’s remorse down the line.

Careers In Nonprofits helped Anna Kakos secure a job she loves as a fundraising campaign associate at the University of Chicago’s Biological Sciences Department. It’s a temporary assignment, but Anna says for now she’s willing to sacrifice job security to explore her passion, which is fundraising.

“Just working at such a prestigious university has been really fulfilling and being exposed to such a dynamic group of fundraisers,” Anna says. “I came from a small foundation and now I’m working in an office where everybody is focused on the same thing. It’s great to be around like-minded colleagues.”

She also sees her job as a chance to broaden her skills set and awareness. “I applied for several jobs this spring and summer and nothing really came to fruition. I applied for the temp job through Careers In Nonprofits and it was a really good fit at the time and it still is.”

Look outside your chosen field. Don’t let your college major limit your job search. To find the job you love, you might have to expand your search to include careers outside your degree, or explore different ways to put your knowledge to work.

Courtney Balson-Madden, assistant to the CEO at the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s in education. “I’ve never worked in communications really,” said Courtney, who found the permanent position last November through Careers In Nonprofits. “Now I’m combining my love for education with the nonprofit sector.”

What’s more, it doesn’t feel like work to her, Courtney said, even when she’s tired. “Loving your job is the feeling when you wake up in the morning that you’re happy and proud to go to work,” she said. “At the end of the day, when you’re totally run down from everything you’re doing you still feel really good about yourself. It’s a career; it’s not a job.”

Nurys Harrigan-Pedersen is president of Careers In Nonprofits, the experts in nonprofit staffing and recruiting with offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C.