Changing Priorities: How Professionals Now Choose Between Dream Jobs or Higher Salaries

July 10, 2024


A woman sits in front of a laptop, holding a coffee mug, and a man reads through printed reports behind her.

When you ask someone, ‘Would you rather have your dream job or high salary?’ you might think they would always choose more money. However, things have changed from how they used to be. People’s career choices now depend on many different reasons other than earning a lot.

Even though financial security is still important, professionals are increasingly prioritizing aspects beyond just paychecks. This change is because the workforce is different now–work styles are evolving, and people care more about their overall well-being.


The Passion Vs Money Debate

In the past, getting a high salary was a big reason why people chose certain careers, especially in societies focused on money and buying things. The “American Dream” was all about making lots of money and moving up in life, usually by getting high-paying, respected jobs. For many, having a good-paying job meant climbing the corporate ladder, taking care of their families, and saving for a comfy retirement.

A recent Fishbowl survey gives real-world insights into this traditional view. One person said, “It definitely depends on the salary difference. If it’s substantial, I’d take the higher paying job because if you’re struggling to get by financially, you’re going to be miserable regardless.”¹

However, the idea of a “dream job” has also always been attractive. These jobs are often a mix of what people love and their passions, which gives them a sense of purpose. Many find that their dream jobs can give them more than just money, like creative joy, matching their personal values, and chances to grow. In the same fishbowl survey, another person said, “Dream job 100%. I’ve had miserable jobs before, and the amount of anxiety and distress I felt day in and day out was not worth any amount of money.”

These different views show how career priorities are changing.


Passion or Career? 4 Factors Contributing to Changing Priorities

Whether it’s choosing a dream job or high salary, workers make career decisions that are largely influenced by:


1. The Increasing Focus on Work-Life Balance and Mental Health

In recent years, more people are paying attention to mental health, which has changed the way they choose careers. Just recently, it was reported that workers are complaining about unfair treatment at work because of mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and PTSD.²

Studies have also found that stressful jobs with long hours and too much work can lead to serious problems like burnout, anxiety, and depression. These issues can make people miss work, affecting not only personal health but also workplace productivity.

Zippia reports that one million Americans miss work each day because of stress, causing businesses to lose up to $300 billion each year.³

Because of this, many people are looking for jobs that better balance work and life, where their well-being is important, even if these jobs don’t pay as much. In fact, a survey of 2,000 people showed that nearly 90% would take a pay cut if it meant doing work that feels more meaningful.⁴


2. Gig Economy and Flexibility

The growth of gig work and the increase in freelance and remote work have really opened new opportunities for many people. Now, professionals can enjoy more flexibility and still make a good living. They can shape their careers to better match what they want in life and work. For example, someone who is skilled in marketing might work part-time at a regular job for steady pay and benefits, while also taking on freelance projects that let them be more creative and meet new people in their field.

This approach helps reduce the risk of depending on just one source of income and makes work more satisfying by offering a variety of experiences. It also allows people to adjust their work according to changes in their life, like needing more money or having other responsibilities. As more companies become open to hiring freelancers and as online platforms make it easier to find these kinds of jobs, professionals can create a work life that not only pays the bills but also helps them achieve a better balance between work and the rest of their life.


3. Changing Economic Realities

Rising costs of living and economic uncertainties, especially in cities, are changing how people think about their careers. As people chase financial security, what counts as a “good salary” is changing too. Psychologists from Purdue University and the University of Virginia looked at data from the World Gallup Poll, which included 1.7 million people from 164 countries, and compared their incomes and happiness.⁵

They found that an annual income of about $95,000 is best for overall life satisfaction, while happiness peaks when earnings are between $60,000 and $75,000. Earning more than these amounts often leads to less increase in happiness, a concept called the “income satiation point.” This means that after a certain point, making more money doesn’t make you much happier. This has led many to reconsider high-paying jobs that require long hours and high stress, preferring jobs that offer better balance and quality of life instead.

This shift has big effects on how people plan their careers. In crowded cities where living costs are high, earning a salary within the happiness range is important but can be tough. So, many are looking for jobs in less traditional fields or in smaller cities where their income and happiness are better matched. Companies are also changing their compensation and benefits packages to attract and keep employees.


4. Generational Differences

The way different generations think about work is changing, especially with Millennials and Generation Z leading the way. Unlike Baby Boomers and Generation X, who often focused more on salary and job security, younger people are looking for jobs that are meaningful and match their personal values.

Research shows that Millennials and Gen Z are not just working for money; they want jobs that give them a sense of purpose and let them make a difference. For instance, a Deloitte survey found that 86% of Gen Z and 89% of Millennials say having a sense of purpose at work is very important for their job satisfaction and well-being.⁶ Also, 75% of both generations think a company’s community involvement and impact on society are important when considering a job offer.


Balancing Financial Security and Personal Fulfillment

While choosing between dream jobs and higher salaries can be tough, many professionals are finding ways to balance these priorities. Here are some strategies they use:


1. Crafting Portfolio Careers

A portfolio career means having multiple jobs or projects that bring in money. This way, people can follow their passions and stay financially secure. For example, someone might work part-time at a high-paying corporate job while also running a small business, freelancing, or doing creative work. Having different sources of income not only reduces financial risk but also offers chances for personal and professional growth.

2. Strategic Career Planning

Another step is to consider both short-term and long-term goals. This involves looking at your current financial needs, future dreams, and chances for career growth. By setting clear goals and being open to changes, you can make better career choices. A good example is someone who takes a high-paying job for a while to save money for a future job they’re passionate about.


3. Continuous Learning and Skill Development

Another way professionals balance their career priorities is by always learning and developing new skills. When you keep learning, you can switch between different jobs and industries more smoothly. This flexibility lets you chase your dream jobs when they come up but keep working in well-paying jobs when needed.


4. Benchmarking Employer Benefits and Culture

Nowadays, lots of professionals look for companies that offer perks like flexible hours, the option to work from home, good health benefits, and chances to learn new things. These perks are especially appealing to people who want a good balance between work and life and who care about liking their job. Employers that create a friendly and fair workplace can bring in and keep employees who care more about feeling fulfilled than just making money.



At Raso360, we connect employees with the best employer and help find their ideal positions quickly. Our services cover staffing from nearby, nearby countries, and far away, so businesses can find exactly what they need. Whether you’re looking to boost your career or build a stronger team, come chat with us!




  1. “Would you rather have your dream job with a lower salary, or a high-paying job you dislike for the rest of your life?” Fishbowl, Accessed 30 May 2024, www.fishbowlapp.com/post/would-you-rather-have-your-dream-job-with-a-lower-salary-or-a-high-paying-job-you-dislike-for-the-rest-of-your-life.
  2. “Dream Job or Higher Salary? For Today’s Workers, the Answer is Changing” WJS Career and Leadership, 6 Nov 2023, www.linkedin.com/pulse/dream-job-higher-salary-todays-workers-answer-dxa0e?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_android&utm_campaign=share_via.
  3. “40+ Worrisome Workplace Stress Statistics [2023]: Facts, Causes, And Trends” Zippia, 11 Feb. 2023, www.zippia.com/advice/workplace-stress-statistics/.
  4.  Achor, Shawn et. al. “9 Out of 10 People Are Willing to Earn Less Money to Do More-Meaningful Work” Harvard Business Review, 6 Nov. 2018, hbr.org/2018/11/9-out-of-10-people-are-willing-to-earn-less-money-to-do-more-meaningful-work?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=hbr.
  5. “Money only buys happiness for a certain amount” Purdue University, 13 Feb 2018, www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2018/Q1/money-only-buys-happiness-for-a-certain-amount.html.
  6. “2024 Gen Z and Millennial Survey” Deloitte, 2024, www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/at/Documents/presse/at-deloitte-global-gen-z-millennial-survey-gesamte-studie.pdf.

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