What Drives Your Career? Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivators

At Communicate, we're all about matching the right finance professionals with the right career opportunities. But when it comes to understanding what truly motivates those looking to progress their careers, there are multiple drivers to consider. Are they looking for higher salary? The success and prestige of a high-level position? Or are they seeking something deeper, like a sense of fulfillment or purpose in their work? Each candidate we work with has different drivers, and whilst we are mostly told it is based on extrinsic motivators like salary and benefits, usually when it comes down to signing the contract, our candidates are sold on a mix of both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.

In a recent LinkedIn poll asking senior tax and finance professionals in our network what their main motivator was, 55% reported to being intrinsically motivated, highlighting the necessity for workplaces to consider how they are accommodating these needs. In this blog post, we are diving into the elements of job motivation and exploring the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that impact a candidate's decision to make a career move. So whether you're a job seeker, hiring manager, or looking to progress your role, let's take a closer look at what makes us all tick when it comes to our careers.

What is an extrinsic motivator?

An extrinsic motivator is an external influence that drives your behavior and motivations. Extrinsic motivators in careers are typically rewards or incentives provided by your workplace. Some examples of extrinsic motivators are:

Higher pay

Desire for higher pay is often a key driver for seeking a new job. It is a common experience to have been at a crossroads of having job satisfaction but not having a salary which reflects the role being undertaken. It could also be that your salary has been stagnant for a long period of time, and hasn’t increased over the years as it should. There is no denying that money is a significant factor for many. After all, financial compensation is one of the most tangible ways in which an employer can show appreciation for an employee's work.


Like salary, a new job opportunity may offer better benefits, such as health insurance, gym memberships, pension plans, or more annual leave. Having access to these benefits can in turn create a better lifestyle, without the added cost outside of work.

Career advancement

Opportunities for career advancement, such as a promotion or a more senior position, may also be an important motivator for seeking a new job. It shows a company’s willingness to invest in your future. In a 2022 survey on ‘the great attrition’, the top reason for employees quitting their job was a lack of career development and advancement. Many senior finance professionals are highly driven, and want to see the potential to climb the corporate ladder, earn promotions and raises, and ultimately reach the highest levels of organisations (such as CFO or CEO). The ability to take on new challenges and responsibilities is a powerful motivator, and needs to be communicated clearly.

Company culture

Whether it is micromanagement, unfair workload, workplace negativity, or a lack of support - you may be feeling undervalued and burnt out. A positive company culture, such as a more supportive work environment or greater opportunities for collaboration may be another motivator for those seeking a new job.

What is an intrinsic motivator?

Do you have a strong sense of purpose, achievement or are you continually seeking personal growth? You may be more intrinsically driven. Unlike external motivators, such as rewards or recognition, intrinsic motivators are not driven by external factors or incentives. Instead, they are self-motivated and are derived from your beliefs, passions, and values.

Personal fulfillment

Does you current workplace align with your values? If not, it may be time to either look for an opportunity which you are able to feel deeply passionate about. Aligning on values allows for personal fulfillment, and a desire to make a difference in the industry.

Learning opportunities

You may be more willing to move jobs if an opportunity for greater learning and professional development arises. This could include new skills, experiences, or exposure to different industries. According to Accenture’s 2022 Future of Work Study, fewer than 1 in 3 workers are confident their skills will be relevant in 5 years’ time. With the rapid growth of AI technology, automation and financial software, upskilling is crucial to providing value to your career and future in finance.

Work-life balance

A better work-life balance may be a key driver for those seeking a new job, such as flexible schedules, remote working, or reduced working hours – in fact, in a 2022 post-COVID report – out of all employees surveyed who were currently working in a hybrid model, 85 percent wanted it to be retained going forward. This was a strong preference across industries, geographies, and demographics.

Autonomy and control

Jobs which provide greater autonomy allow you to feel like you have the ability to make decisions and take ownership of projects. A Deloitte Insights article on skills-based organisations, highlights when it comes to autonomy in the workplace, half of the 1200 workers they surveyed said they are more likely to be attracted to and remain at an organisation that grants them more agency and choice in how they apply their skills to work. You may be looking for an opportunity which allows you to offer your contributions and portfolio of skills, and feel valued for it. 

It's important to note that usually you aren’t motivated by only extrinsic values, or intrinsic values, but in reality a combination of both. Striking the right balance and prioritising your drivers is what a recruiter can help with and be a sounding board for. Matching the right personalities and values is what we do every day. Someone who may be drawn to higher pay and the opportunity to work on forward thinking projects may be open to different prospects than someone who is more focused on a hybrid work structure with remote working as their number one priority.

Ultimately, regardless of what motivates you, job satisfaction is key in whether you thrive in your role or seek out a new one.

Considering a new opportunity? Get in touch today.

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