Things We think make us happy : Good Job

And so, just to kind of have you guys brainstorm, some of the things that we think are going to make us happy. Some of the things that we think are going to make us have a successful life. What are some of the things that you think might matter? Like when you think about what are the kinds of things that you want to get out of this semester? What are some things that come to mind?

Just kinda call them out, yeah. Good grades. Good grades. Number one thing that comes out that Yale students want this semester. How about after this? How about this summer? What are things that you want to get out of the summer? Internships. Internships. Any kind of internship? Do you want it to be volunteer? Do you want to be paid? Paid. And what do you want — if you’re going to have low pay, high pay, where would you go for? High pay. High pay. So jobs, high pay. As you think about your life when you get out of here five years from now, what are some things that you would like to see in it? You feel like this would make a successful life. Grad school. Grad school like getting these kind of getting into things that you want to get into, things that you plan on?

Good friendships and relationships with family. Good friendships, relationships with family, having close connections with people. Other ideas? Although we’ll get to that one because I bet a lot of you are applying for internships right now. But I bet very few of you are putting as much time as you’re putting into your summer jobs into like making sure your friendships are going to be good next year. So, hold that one for a second. So jobs, good salary, getting into grad school, good grades, other stuff? How about like, do you see yourself as being in a relationship or married? People want that out of life. I think that’s important. A lot of nods, okay. So, we get all these goals on the table and what we’re going to do is we’re going to teach you guys all those things. Most of the things you said aren’t actually going to make you as happy as you think. So, this is the warning, is that you’re about to learn that everything you just thought was important for being happy is not. And I’ll again pause, in case anybody who wants to hold on to their false intuitions and leave here, so you keep working on your grades. Okay, good.

Okay, so what are these kinds of goals that we think are going to make us happy that are false? Well, the first one is one that came up, which is that you think when you get out of here you want a good job. In fact, some of the seniors who are finding this like a lot, when I talk to seniors here are thinking, oh gosh, what’s going to happen next year? I need to get a job and I need to get something that I care about, like is this really going to make us happy? And so there are all these jobs that I think Yalies think are going to be really important, right? Maybe the like tech thing or maybe, the consulting-y thing that you think makes lots of money. A lot of you, your seniors are nodding because you’re like getting emails about this stuff and thinking about this stuff and you do this stuff because you think it’s going to give you a good life and make you happy. Let see if that’s actually true. First off, let’s see if actually getting a good job is going to make you happy. Some of you when asked about the summer, said you wanted to get an internship this summer. How happy is it really going to make you to get the thing that you want as opposed to not getting it? Sadly, some of you, for better or for worse, are going to apply for these things and it may or may not actually work out, right? So, is this going to make you as unhappy as you think? Let’s sort of simulate it. So, pick the thing you most want to do this summer. Let’s say you apply, let’s say you don’t get it. How’s it going to make you feel? Well, in fact, Dan Gilbert and his colleagues actually did this. They actually set up college students with a potential job, a paid job that most college students found was really cool and they really wanted to get. And then they were to find out that they actually didn’t get the job. And they would predict how they were going to feel before and after this happened. And here’s their little scale, this is the scale that they use. One, you’re not very happy and then ten, being very happy.

So, let’s play along. First, your baseline. How happy are you right now on a scale of one to 10? Can you just yell out some numbers? More numbers, come on. Six. Seven, sixes. Right. So now, you get the call. I’m sorry you actually didn’t get the job. Now, how happy are you? What’s your numbers? Five. Fours, five, three, right, you guys really wanted this job, it’s great. So, this is what these students had to do, predict and then they actually find out and how does it work, right? And so, here is what Gilbert and colleagues actually found. So, what if you found out that, they looked at your qualifications and everything was fair and you just didn’t get the job. Like you just didn’t have the qualification to get the job. What’s your predicted drop in happiness? And so, they’re doing drops in happiness because as you saw people are starting with different numbers. Some were eight, some were six, whatever. We really want to see is what’s the drop? And what they find is that in that skill, people are predicting that their drop in happiness is going to be about two points. What’s the actual drop in happiness? Way less than a single point like, so it’s a drop, but it’s not as much of a drop as you think. The more interesting thing comes when people thought that the decision wasn’t fair, but was unfair. Imagine you get to think there was just something that happened in the interview.

I said something dumb. They’re not really looking at my qualification. Basically, all the kinds of rationalizations you would normally do if you didn’t get a job. What if it was a case like that? How would you feel? Well, the prediction is that you’re still going to drop in happiness just about as much as it’s still going to be about a two point drop. But in practice, if you actually look, the actual drop is nothing. As soon as you could justify it like they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re missing the best candidate they ever had in their life, whatever. As soon as you can do that, you get no drop in happiness. All your predictions about how you’re going to feel when you don’t get a job just not true in practice, right? So, that’s getting any job, but as you guys talked about what you want is a good job, you don’t want the like internship where you don’t make much money. You want the jobs with a lot of salary. That’s why so many students apply for these consulting, investment, banking gigs. They make a ton of money. And you can see that not just from Yale students, but a recent survey by LinkedIn talked to recent grads and said, what do you want in a new job? And here are the data they put forward, basically, the highest thing up here is this thing right here, compensation. People want a big, high salary. They want to feel like they’re getting paid a lot. And the question is, okay, that’s great, you want a high salary. But what is a high salary? What counts as enough? And here’s where we get to see that what we think counts as enough is kind of one of these visual illusions. It’s another kind of misconception. So, Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her wonderful book, The How of Happiness, we’ll see this book coming up a few more times, actually reported data about how much people really think is the salary they need and they looked depending on the salary you actually have. So, imagine you’re a person who gets out of here and you’re earning about $30,000 and I ask you, what’s the salary you think you need to be really happy to have all your needs met, to feel like that’s a job with a good salary. And those folks at 30,000 will say in US dollars, what they really need is about 50k, great. So, let’s say we ask people who are earning $100,000, what they really want? Clearly, they’re probably going to be fine, right? The probably like, I probably just use 50k, but you know it’s kind of nice to get the extra cash. They’re going to be fine, right? But no, in fact, they too are like nope, I’m not making enough. I should be making about $250,000.

That’s that salary I really need to feel comfortable, right? The point is that it’s not just some objective number that we think. What we think we need actually jumps up every time we get more. And so, this seems to be a problem for kind of finding a good job that’s going to give us a good salary.