Finding Career Happiness

Throughout the course of your career there are bound to be moments of dissatisfaction and even unhappiness. When you think of your career as encompassing the work, learning, and leisure activities you are involved in throughout your lifetime it only makes sense that as you grow and change as an individual what you need to give to and get out of your work will change. It also makes sense that as your life roles change so will your employment needs. Careers are unique and ever changing. They require ongoing attention. Where and how you find happiness will change throughout your career.

Most inquiries about my services are due to people feeling discontent or dissatisfied with some aspect of their career. Work role changes have them doing less of what they love and more of what they don’t. Their situation has them feeling uncertain about their future. They are stuck, overwhelmed, or underutilized. The plethora of job titles, occupations, and educational programs available is making it difficult to choose the “right” one. One lady described spending almost four years in a post-secondary program only to discover she didn’t want to do the work that was related to her field of study. A gentleman told me he had never planned to do the work he was doing but that he didn’t know how to do anything else and felt it was too late to do what he really wanted to do. A young man who had been employed in odd jobs was disappointed that he was never given the opportunity to use his talents at work. These stories are not uncommon.

Your relationship with work is just one of many relationships you will have throughout your lifetime. Does how you evaluate your relationship with work share any similarities with how you evaluate your non-work relationships? How do your expectations of your relationship with work compare to your expectations of your relationship with family? What do you do when you have moments of dissatisfaction within your family relationship - do you determine that you need to find a new relationship or do you find ways to improve the existing relationship? If your family relationship is a little rocky do you connect more with other relationships that bring you joy and keep you grounded? Spend some time thinking about your relationship with work in comparison to your non-work relationships and how you deal with dissatisfaction or unhappiness in them. Perhaps there are some lessons to be learned.

What are you dissatisfied about right now and how is it affecting you? How long have you been unhappy? Is it within your control to change it? What have you done to try and resolve the issue? Could you eliminate the dissatisfaction by changing your work role or would it persist?

What are you satisfied with right now and why are you satisfied? Are there other opportunities to do more of what you enjoy and makes you happy in your current work role or in a different role? People often cite work-life balance, autonomy, clear expectations, support / sense of belonging, and recognition as contributing factors to work satisfaction in addition to doing tasks they enjoy and are reasonably good at. Money, while important, is most often not directly linked to happiness. People regularly tell me that they are very satisfied and love their volunteer roles for which they receive no monetary remuneration but that no amount of money could help them to love a job they hate.

Whether you are looking for the “right” job, the “right” life partner, the “right vehicle”, the “right” home, or the “right” vacation destination you need to know what “right” is for you. What are your considerations and criteria given your current situation and circumstance? One of the biggest challenges many people face is being able to articulate what they need and want out of their career. Another challenge is accepting that what is “right” today may not be “right” in a few days, months, or years. The vehicle that was “right” for you when you were young and single will not likely be “right” for you when you have a family of six to transport. The job that was “right” for you as a student won’t necessarily be “right” for you when you have a family. What you need and want from your work changes throughout your lifetime just like what you need and want in other areas of your life changes. Be prepared for ongoing evaluation and assessment of what is important to you and what you need.

Self-awareness is the key to finding the “right” relationship with work at a particular point in time. Knowing yourself – your personality, skills, values, motivators, and lifestyle priorities – is a great place to start. Until you can identify and articulate these things, as well as what makes you happy and brings you joy, you won’t be able to evaluate the options that are out there to determine what might be the best fit for you. Assessment tools might be an option but you might get even more out of some simple self-assessments like asking yourself what subjects or classes you most enjoyed and why, what you like doing for fun and why, what work tasks you most enjoyed and why, or what activities you get lost in and why.

Before you commit to doing something completely new and different why not find someone in your field of study or work to talk to. A mentor can coach you in dealing with a challenging situation, help you to articulate your interests, or help you shed some light on other programs, occupations, or industries that might be a good fit for you. Job shadows, information interviews, work experience opportunities, volunteer positions, LinkedIn groups, and Meetups can be great ways to explore your interests. Use LinkedIn and other social media tools as well as people in your personal network to seek out individuals who are working in your field, or field of interest, about their career paths. Remember to keep an open mind. You will be presented with information that supports your perceptions and ideas as well as contradicts what you believed or expected. Confirmation is great but new information and a new direction to explore might be just what you need!

Consider the questions and activities throughout this article as part of the research that will help you to make the “best” decision at this particular moment in time. Perhaps you are more satisfied than you thought you were and there is a simple solution to a particular situation that will get you back on track. Maybe there is something going on in another area of your life that is impacting your relationship with work – once it is resolved perhaps your level of satisfaction will increase. After thorough research and careful evaluation it could very well be time to make a move to a new job, occupation, or industry.

Committing to ongoing self-assessment and exploration / research as part of your career development won’t ensure your continued happiness but it will help you to evaluate your level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction and to take action toward your happiness. A simple formula for finding career happiness is to do more of what makes you smile and go the extra mile and less of what makes you frown and brings you down.

Here’s to your happiness,


For a FREE 30 minute job search consultation please feel free to contact Paula directly at or 780.589.2245.

For a FREE 30 minute consultation please feel free to contact Paula directly at or 780.589.2245. Connect with Paula on LinkedIn or Facebook.

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