What makes a job good?

My view, in priority order:

  1. Who
    1. Who am I working for?
    2. Who am I working with?
  2. Why
    1. Why are we doing this work and not some other work?
    2. What is our mission?
  3. How
    1. How do we collaborate?
    2. Which processes are we using?
  4. What
    1. What tasks are we doing?
    2. What tools are we using?

In my field (software engineering) When and Where are rarely differentiators, since most people in the field work during business hours in an office setting. My list also elides monetary compensation, because it’s usually determined by the other factors.

I’ve found that higher-priority factors like Who can compensate for deficiencies in lower-priority factors like What, but not vice versa. All four factors are correlated.

A survey of job advertisements in my field would suggest a more typical order is:

  1. What, with an emphasis on tools/technologies
  2. How, with an emphasis on methodologies
  3. Who, with an emphasis on pedigrees
  4. Why, with an emphasis on prestige

My experience and observations of other people in the field are consistent with that view. Impersonal factors like technologies seem to have an outsized influence on job choices. These factors might be actual priorities, but might also reflect the fact that it’s relatively easy to gather impersonal information during the hiring process and relatively difficult to learn much else.

On the other hand, I rarely hear of anyone leaving a job in my field because of impersonal factors. It’s almost always because of the personal/interpersonal (“employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers”).