How to choose a job that makes you happy

Monday, October 19, 2020

It’s important to choose a job that makes you happy. After all, you spend an awful lot of hours, days and years at work, so let’s look at some of the factors you should consider when making that choice.

What’s making me unhappy at work?

I know I can do the work, I’ve got great skills, I know the work and I do a great job, but I’m sick of it. I get no satisfaction any more; I’ve lost enthusiasm and I don’t believe what I am doing is important. At the end of the day I go home thinking that what I did today did not do anything of value for anyone. I need to change my life!

Sound familiar? It’s the story I hear so often from my clients who are good at their job, but that is not enough any more. Simply changing jobs doesn’t always provide the answer. Some clients have moved 30 or more times, but happiness eludes them.

How did we decide on our first job?

We usually select our first job, or others advise us for it, based on factors like

school results, skills, interests, family preferences, career guidance tests or personal experience. Personal values are usually not a big factor in that decision.

While some of these factors can be helpful, they do not guarantee you will get a job that makes you happy. There are other things to consider, such as doing something you value; something that you can home from each day feeling you have done something worthwhile.

If you are not happy you have the right to change jobs at any point in your life. Some life events can force you to think about that change. Things that are out of your control often make you think seriously about how you want to spend the rest of your life. Some of these events could be redundancy, redeployment, the boss from hell who makes life intolerable, being overlooked for a promotion, a sudden illness, the death of someone close; a parent or partner, or a divorce or breakup. Any such event can shake you up and motivate you to change the way you live and work.

Work cannot be separated from life

Work is a vital part of life. You spend the prime hours of your day and the prime time of your life at work. You are at your mental brightest at work and you spend more time with the people at work than you do with your family or friends. It is important to be happy in what you do in those hours, days and years, so think about the things you should consider whom making that choice.

Choosing a new job

Let’s think about your life/work values.

Work values are life values and they change as you grow older and more experienced and are subjected to outside pressures. What made you happy at 20 might not make you happy at 40 or 50. At 30, with a family to support and a mortgage to serve, making money might have a high value, but at 50 these financial pressures could have eased and your values could have changed. Now you might value independence much more than money, and not having independence in your decisions about your daily work is making you dissatisfied.

At one stage of your life you might put great value on how much money you can make, how independent you can be, how prestigious your job is seen to be, how stable the work is, how much or little pressure you are given, if you are helping people or society in general, the enjoyment you get from working in a team or alone, fast-paced or relaxed work, having responsibility or interacting with people, but your circumstances and your values have changed and these things are no longer important.

Changing your job to the same sort of work will still not meet your new values, so you need to look for something different; where what you do every dayis meaningful to you. There are exercises on determining your work values on the Internet. Spend 15 minutes doing this and a lot of what is making you unhappy will be made clear.

When you are about to apply for a new position look carefully at the duties of the position and ask yourself if carrying out these duties will meet your current work/life values. Also, does the organisation have similar values to you? You can’t be happy working for an organisation that does things you totally disagree with no matter how much they pay you.

If not, keep looking, because if most of your work values are not going to be met you will get no satisfaction from doing that job day after day and you will still be unhappy.

What you do hour after hour, day after day, year after year must be enjoyable and satisfying. You only have one life – and having work that is satisfying and meaningful should be everyone’s aim.