Massey University CareerplaNZ

Career and student learning issues brought to you by Massey University’s Careers Service – New Zealand

What makes you happy?

Posted by John Ross on October 1, 2007

Following on from my first posting, it appears that happiness is pretty much on top for quite a few of you in your careers.  Well – happiness or the lack of it that is!  What makes you happy is a question that I (and my colleagues) often ask people who are looking for help with choosing (or changing!) their career.  We do so with a keen sense of awareness that happiness is rarely found through working long hours or – for those above a certain income – through earning more money.

Career choice is difficult for many people – often because they ask themselves the wrong question.  It’s impossible for us to know all about all the possible jobs out there yet it’s common to think that there’s one ideal job for us and that everything else will be ‘wrong’. Instead of saying ‘what job could I do?’ try asking what are all the things that make me happy?”  Then, look for the ‘threads’ in the things you’ve found fulfilling.

Career happiness means different things to different people – all of us have an idea of what motivates us and what we think we need.  Knowing your wants and needs, and knowing ‘what makes you come alive’ could be the first step on your road to career happiness.

For example, is salary; status or security your primary motivator?  Are you seeking responsibility; respect; autonomy; a sense of ‘belonging’ or a feeling that you are ‘making a difference’?  Is your career making you unhappy or are you bringing your unhappiness to work?  What are your realistic options – changing career; changing employer; changing role; changing location; or finding fulfilment through other aspects of your life than work?  Remember too that these can change over time.

Think about your relationships too – what sort of person are you and what types of people do you want around you at work?  Generally, people who are ‘socially embedded’ live longer and get over illnesses quicker than those who are more socially isolated. This embedding can be achieved inside and/or outside of work – what’s important is to be motivated, active, engaged and to see progress in whatever you do.   


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