A sympathetic ear and a skilful way with a pair of scissors are the tools of the trade for those who are truly content at work. Because when it comes to happiness at work, it seems that hairdressers are a cut above the rest.
Research by qualifications authority City & Guilds has found that almost a fifth (18 per cent) of people in vocational jobs are "extremely happy" with their lot, giving their careers ten out of ten on the happiness scale, compared to only 10 per cent of white-collar workers.
According to the City & Guilds Happiness Index, which is compiled annually to track the satisfaction of the country’s workforce, four out of 10 hairdressers rate themselves as "extremely happy", saying that they thrive on the creativity and contact with customers.
While head and shoulders above the rest, hot on the hairdressers' heels are other happy vocational contenders with chefs, beauticians and plumbers in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.
Of those who have taken a vocational path – mechanics, plumbers, builders, electricians and florists, for example - eight out of 10 (81 per cent) say they have absolutely no regrets – an increase of 10 per cent on to 2004 figures.
For those workers who take a more cerebral route, dog collars rather than white collars, bring the most satisfaction. Almost a quarter of clergy (24 per cent) are very happy with their jobs.
At the other end of the spectrum, only five per cent or less of social workers, estate agents, secretaries and lawyers are satisfied with their working lives, while bottom of the league table are civil servants (three per cent) and – perhaps surprisingly - architects (two per cent).
The 2005 Happiness Index also reveals a new trend for parity of pay satisfaction between vocational and white-collar workers. Half (52 per cent) of both white-collar workers and tradespeople (51 per cent) think they are adequately rewarded financially,
And as well as a healthy pay packet, vocational workers also seem to have plenty. Seven out of 10 appreciated at work, compared to 63 per cent of white-collar workers.
Camaraderie is also higher, with half of vocational workers reporting that they have a good social life at work, compared to four out of 10 white-collar workers.
Overall though, Britain’s workers are a pretty happy bunch and appear to be marginally more content than they were a year ago. Some 77 per cent of vocational and white-collar workers say they find their jobs rewarding, compared to 74 per cent (vocational) and 68 per cent (white collar) in 2004.
The Happiness Index is hard and fast proof that a vocational career can be highly satisfying and rewarding claims Chris Humphries, director general of City & Guilds:
"Nowadays true job satisfaction and happiness is about fulfilling your full potential, tapping into your own creativity and feeling that you can make a difference.
"More people than ever are swapping their desk-bound jobs for a vocation that enables them to be hands-on, use their brains and be in charge of their own destiny. As we spend so much time at work, it’s important that we enjoy what we do and build on the skills that we’re good at."