As part of our series on Employee Experience we explore what really makes someone stick with their job.

This article is part of a series on Employee Experience.

Uncomfortable with many of the assumptions we hear about employees, we interviewed a mix of young frontline and knowledge workers, with degrees and without, and from a wide range of backgrounds. We sought to understand how they feel about work, where the differences lie and whether anything we think we know about them is true.

A century ago, work was a means to an end for most people - you worked to survive. This attitude has shifted over time - a job is now linked to self-actualisation.

Thinking about the majority of university graduation speeches, 'loving' what you do is key to happiness. The research, however, points us in a different direction. In conversation with Jochen Menges, a professor of HR Management and Leadership at the University of Zurich and University of Cambridge, we discovered an interesting split in behaviours.

Employees who seek passion end up not feeling it - the emotion is fleeting and after a little while it can disappear under the weight of daily admin and the unexpected problems that come with any job. When the going gets tough these employees leave in search of a new passion, because the job wasn't 'the one'.

There is a second group of employees who also identify with their role, but it's not the love for the work that drives them. They seek work with importance and impact on others - a tangible sense of the value they create for someone else. Employees who can see the difference they make stick with their jobs longer as importance does not fade. They see challenges as opportunities to get better and learn more so that they can solve even tougher problems and have an even bigger impact.

Maybe it's time to start telling graduates the truth - passion is great, but it has an expiry date. It doesn't constitute happiness on its own. Seek work that corresponds with your unique values and abilities and put these to use, happiness and meaning will follow, not necessarily in that order.

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