Are you new to the labor force? Or have you been in the same role for a while now? In either case, you might be looking for certain job opportunities that offer autonomy as jobs where managers are constantly looking over your shoulder and micromanaging you can be off-putting.
Perhaps you want a career where you have the freedom to work in a way that suits you. With autonomy at work, you get to decide how and when your work should be done.
Workplace autonomy will look different depending on the company you work for, your industry, and your chosen career. But no matter what job you’re in, you can achieve a level of autonomy that allows you to be productive, whilst still giving you the flexibility to do things at your own pace.
So, what does it take to get the autonomy you crave in the workplace?
Here, we discuss some top careers that offer you a greater level of autonomy within your role.
What Is autonomy in the workplace?
Given the stressful changes that have taken place amid the COVID-19 pandemic (and after), more and more workers are looking for jobs that give them a better quality of life and support their mental wellbeing. One way to achieve this is to only look for jobs that allow autonomy within their roles.
Autonomy in the workplace allows you to do exactly what you were hired to do. By allowing you to work the way that’s most conducive to your own best performance, your manager or supervisor gives you space and opportunity to thrive.
In a role that promotes autonomy, you’ll be a self-starter, you’ll get stewardship over your work and your environment, and get support from leadership, instead of control.
When you’re a part of an autonomous work environment, you’re in a place that fosters respect, trust, integrity, and a culture of accountability—not one of fear.
This means that management may give you a task and due date, but they’ll give you space to complete it however is best for you within that timeline, instead of imposing arbitrary schedules on you and imposing repercussions for failing to stick with them. As a result, you’ll not only feel less pressure, but you’ll also be able to give your best performance.
When autonomy is at the forefront of a role, you will experience a working environment that produces trust, integrity, and accountability. Whilst management may still set work tasks and due dates, you will have the freedom to dictate how you undertake that task, so long as you deliver within the agreed timelines.
Examples of autonomy in the workplace
If you’re in a career that boosts and encourages employee autonomy, you’ll notice many key elements that go into offering this element of freedom, including:
Flexibility: Offering flexibility is all about giving employees the freedom to make their own schedules and work remotely (if allowed). When you can choose how you work, you’re more likely to trust your employer and you’ll appreciate that they’re committed to offering autonomy in the workplace. Even if the industry you choose to work in doesn’t allow for completely remote schedules, your employer may allow a hybrid model or work in a flexible vacation policy.
Accountability: Often, employers that give workers a sense of accountability provide constant feedback and coaching, instead of criticism. This consistent, open communication helps you strengthen your relationship with management. As a result, you’ll have the confidence and determination to do your job to the best of your ability.
Ownership: A job role that gives you a sense of ownership and control is also key to building an autonomous workplace. If you don’t feel committed to the work you’re doing, you will possibly lack motivation and may drag things along. You might also be more likely to ask management for help, and not take the initiative to get things done in your own way.
Fulfillment: If you’re not fulfilled in your role, it can be difficult to feel a sense of autonomy. When you’re on a project you don’t care about and aren’t skilled in, it can be a challenge to do your best work. However, when you work in a role that allows you to engage in meaningful work, you’re more likely to succeed within that role.
Support: What happens if you’re expected to achieve goals without the right tools? You’ll likely feel disengaged with your work and lack the confidence to deliver. Access to the right tools, such as technology, training, and coaching, sets you up for success. This, in turn, encourages autonomy.
When you think of job autonomy, think of it as a more flexible way to work. For example, when working in an environment that promotes autonomy, your employer might allow you to exercise discretion in decision making. This means they’ll trust you with your judgement as well as your organizational and time management skills in setting goals and deadlines.
You might also have expanded duties, allowing you to act outside of your job role. With autonomy, you can perform tasks that may be related to your usual duties without the need to get approval or agreement from a manager.
Why job autonomy is vital to achieving success
Job autonomy is critical in achieving fulfillment and satisfaction in your career. When you have the independence to take ownership of projects, you’ll feel more in control of your road to success and growth in your career.
There are many other reasons why it pays to be allowed to act and think independently in your career, such as:
- Higher engagement levels
- The motivation to learn new skills
- Feeling more valued by your employer
- Greater productivity
- Greater sense of team and organizational culture
- Improved work-life balance
Best jobs for people who love to work autonomously
Autonomy isn’t about working independently and in isolation to others. It’s about having the freedom and flexibility to work in ways that work best for you.
Therefore, the careers we discuss below do require some form of collaboration and working with others. But they offer a degree of autonomy in the sense that you’ll feel more in control of your career and work responsibilities.
If you love working with numbers, an occupation in accounting or tax consulting can serve you well. With this type of work, you’re entrusted with helping people’s business tax, giving financial advice, and other important tasks related to finance.
Whether you are a junior accountant or a CFO, you must ensure financial records are accurate, assess the financial operations of a business, and provide insight to work within tax codes.
Why does this role offer so much autonomy? Because you’re a financial expert, which means people look to you for advice. As a result, you’re able to operate at your discretion, without having someone micromanage you.
The human resources (HR) department helps with the daily running of a company, and in certain situations, acts as the foundation for the company’s operations. Organizations often rely on their HR departments to help them stay afloat and achieve growth.
As a HR officer, you will be responsible for making decisions on recruitment for vacant positions. Just this alone shows how much trust companies put into their HR teams.
When a company has trust in a professional to get the job done, that professional will feel a sense of autonomy.
When you think of the leader of a school, you might think of a principal or superintendent, but in reality teachers are the ones who run educational institutions.
As a teacher, you are the head of your classroom and responsible for the students within the class. Sure, you might have regular check-ins with the principal, but you won’t have to worry about anyone looking over your shoulder.
You spend most of your day in front of your students and it is your job to teach them in anyway you sit fit to get the best possible results out of them. This job provides autonomy by giving you the freedom to teach in your own style to ensure the success of your students.
Nursing is another career that allows workers autonomy within their roles. For example, as a registered nurse, you will have the ability to think critically and take actions related to a patient’s care.
With autonomy in nursing, you have the independence and liberty to make decisions for your patients based on your judgment, knowledge, training, and experience.
This often doesn’t require approval from physicians or other members of the healthcare team. Of course, you’ll have to answer to management, but the people heading your department put their trust in you to do your job to the best of your ability.
In a consulting career, you have the autonomy to do your work in the best way that suits your preferences, personality, and work style. As a consultant, you’ll be the expert and businesses will turn to you for advice.
Whether you are offering consulting services in operations, marketing, management, or sales, you do not have to answer to others, instead you are offering your services in an advisory capacity and your clients trust and seek out your input.
In the purchasing and procurement field, you’re tasked with making purchases for an organization.
This involves sourcing, negotiating, and buying goods, materials, and services to meet the company’s operational requirements. To achieve true independence as a procurement officer, your employer must provide you with a good network of suppliers and the right technology to support sourcing and purchasing.
Having the right supporting technology and knowing how to use it to best service your work will make you successful in your role without having anyone to tell you how to do it.
If you’re looking to branch out into the marketing industry, you might consider becoming a market research analyst. This role is important because it involves helping companies make key business decisions based on consumer behavior, market conditions, competitor analysis, and other relevant trends.
As a market research analyst, a company puts their trust in you to help them understand what products people want, who will buy them and at what price.
In this role, you’ll have the autonomy to spend time researching market conditions so that you can advise a business on how best to market, design, and package their product.
The fact that businesses spend a lot of money to run campaigns with market research analysts shows how much trust they have in these experts. When a company trusts you to do your job well, you have the freedom and flexibility to do it however you see fit.
Information technology and services/network security
Love working with technology and analyzing things? A career in IT or data science may serve you well. As an information technology specialist, you will likely be spending most of your time working with computers, software, and technology. In this role, you won’t get much human interaction, unless you’re consulting with C-suite members on how to solve technical problems.
As an IT specialist, you’ll be taking ownership of all IT-related issues. What’s great about entering the IT field is the sheer number of job opportunities that are available in a variety of areas, including:
- Data management
- Software development
- Web design and application development
- Network administration
So, if you’re looking for a role that offers plenty of autonomy, you love technology, and want to work in an industry that’s consistently growing, then becoming an IT specialist may be the perfect fit for you.
Looking for more autonomy in your career?
If you’re looking for a career that offers autonomy in the workplace, there are many paths to choose from. Of all professions, knowledge workers tend to have the most autonomy. Whether you’re a market research analyst, IT specialist, procurement officer, or CFO, you will have extensive knowledge and a unique skillset that will set you apart from other workers. This is key to achieving autonomy in your role.