Throughout my late teens and early twenties, I battled long and hard to find some semblance of a career direction.
My mind had absorbed several conflicting bits of information — “Follow your passion!” — “Follow the money!” — “Who cares what job it is, as long as it pays the bills?” — “Find a job you enjoy doing, so that you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” — “Work is drudgery–get used to it.” — “It’s the 21st century: quit your job and start your own business.”
I was great at hoarding information, which led me to continue dragging my feet with finding the right career path. I went round in circles as I tried to make my way out of low-level jobs where I felt stuck and uninspired on a daily basis.
Things began to change in my late twenties when I became more focused and intentional with my career goals. After tons of books and articles, wise advice from family members, and persistent planning, I eventually landed a dream job and found career happiness at work.
Finding meaningful work may not be your utmost top priority, but work is certainly something that you spend a good part of your day on. It’s common sense that you should strive to be happy with your career if you’re spending a lot of your time and life on it. It brings to mind the recent Harvard study which showed that those who value time are happier and more satisfied with their lives and careers.
To create more career happiness, there are 7 factors you can keep in mind when it comes to finding fulfilling work:
1. Your Skills
The right role is one where you can apply some of your biggest strengths and skills. If you’re great at constant communication and interacting with others, a job that’s heavy on data and spreadsheets is going to leave you in a constant state of dissatisfaction even if it pays well.
Applying your skills and having your contributions recognized raises your self-esteem. If you feel a sense of dread creeping up anytime someone asks “what you do for a living,” you might want to think about what exactly needs to change in your career.
No, you shouldn’t let others dictate how you feel or let their opinions affect you. But at the same time, you need to be honest with yourself if you don’t feel like your unique skills are being acknowledged or utilized in your current job.
2. Your Environment
As an introvert, I LOVE working from home and HATE having to waste time on commuting.
Your environment plays a big part in supporting your daily routine. Think about how a decluttered and organized home makes you feel. Peaceful? Relaxed? You want to feel a sense of productivity when it comes to your work setting. It should be a place where you can focus and keep distractions at a minimum.
Is your workplace a tad too far from your home? Is your workplace too quiet or too noisy for your liking? Look into ways that you can improve your environment within reason.
3. Your Needs and Expectations
There are plenty of articles or COL calculators out there on the true cost of living. How much you make matters less than how you budget and save.
Be realistic about your lifestyle and how much you need to sustain this lifestyle. And if you’re doing a job you love but not getting paid enough for it, ask yourself how much of an impact this is genuinely having on your happiness.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to live very frugally, or live more extravagantly in a world class city with swanky apartments or posh cars. You just need to know how much you’ll need to earn, so that you have a clear idea of the type of income you need to cover your living expenses.
4. How You Feel When You Wake Up
If you need a job that does more than pay the bills, a key indicator as to whether you should be looking for a new job is how you feel when you wake up in the morning.
Do you have to drag your feet out of bed? Do you fantasize about hitting the snooze button for the next hour or two? Ask yourself if it’s because you dread going to work, and if so, what it is exactly about your job that’s causing you so much grief. Which brings us to the next point…
5. Your Boss and Coworkers
It’s nice for an organization to have a mission statement or clearly laid out company culture. It doesn’t mean much if your boss isn’t supportive of your professional development or unreceptive to your ideas and contributions. It’s even worse if your boss or coworkers are toxic people to spend your work day with.
I used to have weekly meet-ups with one of my neighbors not too long ago. She worked beside a colleague who was rude, fickle, and two-faced. I watched this neighbor go from sunny and upbeat to drained and worn down when she was working in close proximity to this colleague. Life is too short to waste on toxic behaviors, whether you experience it in your workplace or in your relationships!
Side Note: I’m happy to share that said neighbor got a new job this year and is doing much better than before.
6. Your Approach to Setting Goals
Whether you’re thinking of a career change or working on a side hustle, planning helps you create a clear roadmap to refer to. Be persistent with setting your goals and giving yourself specific deadlines to complete them. Remember to be realistic and practical because you can’t make quantum leap changes overnight. Just be consistent with following up and being committed to continuous learning and improvement.
7. Your Personal Growth
An ideal career is one that offers you positive momentum and growth. It could improve your life financially or in other ways such as work life balance. It enhances your life in a significant way instead of being nothing but a source of stress.
If you strongly feel that your job is something you should derive meaning and purpose from, be sure to include that in your personal list of “non-negotiables” when it comes to a job.
By no means are the points above an exhaustive list. The goal is to keep asking yourself what you need out of a career to be happy with your choice. To be able to wake up, look forward to, and be grateful for the tasks you’ll be spending your work week on.