Why this Job – Six Questions to Ask

When you’re looking for a new job, or evaluating a your current job, understanding the why will help you gain perspective. It will help you make the best decisions for yourself and your life.

One of the best ways to understand motivation is through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Answering the why question
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Answering the Why

In 1943 Abraham Maslow penned a paper that defined a series of needs. These needs summarize our motivation: from the basic (food, clothing, shelter) to abstract (love, belonging, self-esteem) all the way up to self-actualization.

Today, I’m going to examine the needs in terms of your job or job opportunity. We’ll look at the needs and see how a job meets that need and, finally I’m going to share six questions that will help you think about your job in terms of helping you achieve self-actualization.

Physiological and Safety

 Physiological and Safety needs are the first reasons why you have, or need, a job. If you don’t have these needs met, in today’s world, a job is the primary way to meet them. They’re the tangible reasons to accept a job.

tan·gi·ble: perceptible by touch

These reasons include:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • Personal (and Financial) Security
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Personal Safety

Belonging and Esteem

Assuming your tangible needs are met, whether through an existing job, spousal income, or other assets, you have flexibility to accept other job opportunities. These are your intangible reasons.

in·tan·gi·ble: unable to be touched or grasped; not having physical presence.

Some of the most common intangible motivating reasons for a job include:

  • Social Acceptance
  • Belonging
  • Self-Respect and Esteem
  • Prestige
  • Attention


At the top of the list is self-actualization. It is, according to Maslow, the pinnacle of human achievement. Self-actualized people are living creatively and fully living up to their potential. (For more on self-actualization, check out this Wikipedia article.)

Self-Actualization Questions

Regardless of the tangible or intangible why behind our jobs, if we don’t pursue self-actualization we won’t ever be fulfilled or completely happy. We do need to consider other motivating factors, but we also need to continue to pursue our full potential.

The following questions will help you consider if your job will push you in the right direction. While you can’t always use these questions to decide your next step in life, knowing the questions, and answers, will help you gain perspective.

  • Will this job help you in your personal development?
  • Will this job help you grow?
  • Will this job help you learn?
  • Will this job help you have transformative experiences?
  • Will this job grow you become who you want to be in 10-25 years?
  • Will this job give you a sense of mission for your future? Hint: it’s something that’s HUGE!

Answering the Why

Hopefully, your job can help you achieve all your needs:

  • It provides resources so your basic needs are met.
  • It provides a great working environment where you’re respected.
  • It will help you achieve your full potential

If not, you might want to begin looking for your next job!

Let me know what you think!