In a perfect world we would all have a dream job that’s not only enjoyable but meaningful as well. A job where we’re also happy and satisfied....while making millions of dollars. That's the life, right?
When asked, 38 percent of U.S. employees reported that they were very satisfied with their current job. So is that dream we are searching for something that can actually be achieved?
Absolutely -- if you follow these tips on how to have a happy career.
1. Don’t just “follow your passion.”
While passion does play a part in having a happy career, it’s not the key ingredient. Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean that you’re going to have a successful and fulfilling career.
For example, I recently caught an episode of Chopped: All-Stars. The celebrity contestants were excellent chefs. Being truly great at what you do doesn’t mean that you have the passion or talent to open your own business. These chefs are fantastic, but they maybe shouldn't open their own restaurants.
Passion will only get you so far if you don’t have the skills or market to cash-in on what you love.
2. Do what you’re good at.
This segues into my next point. Do something that you’re actually good at - or at least have the potential to be good at. The reason? It gives you a sense of achievement that allows you to negotiate things like salary, flexibility and benefits.
Again, going back to Chopped. The celebrities exceeded my expectations, but that doesn’t mean that they could go toe-to-toe with an acclaimed chef.
3. Do work that’s engaging.
According to the job characteristics model job satisfaction is largely determined by how engaging the job itself is. The model breaks engaging into five main variables: variety, sense of completion, autonomy, feedback and a sense to contribution that your work affects people’s lives.
4. More income is better - to a point.
While it’s been said that money can’t buy happiness, higher income does lead to higher feelings of happiness. This makes sense since having a decent paycheck alleviates the stress of worrying about money concerns.
However, this only remains true up to a certain point. A study from Princeton calculated that once you reach about $75,000 in annual income more income doesn’t actually make you any happier. The study was based as a single earner and would be about $83,000 today.
5. Help others.
Evidence has found that helping others leads to life satisfaction. People who volunteer are less depressed and healthier, while random acts of kindness makes the giver happier.
According to a global survey, those who donated to a charity are just as satisfied with their lives as the people who earn twice as much!
In some careers you’re engaged at work -- think doctor, nurse or firefighter, careers that are obviously meaningful to the world. But maybe your work doesn't seem meaningful to you and feels like it's just your job.
If you aren't that your career is meaningful, consider starting or joining a company that is socially conscious. Find one that gives back to the community. Alternatively, you can start volunteering.
6. Work-life balance is key.
Spending more time with your friends and family, and less time in the office, is a key component for satisfaction, even if said friends and family are a pain to deal with.
Less demanding work is becoming increasingly popular, especially among millennials. Having a healthy work-life balance prevents you from creating burned out and keeps you energized.
You need time and flexibility to enjoy your life, tend to your personal affairs and take a much-needed breather from work to recharge.
7. Find variety by merging education, autonomy and security.
There is no satisfaction in doing the same thing every, single day. Consider if the security is worth being so bored.
People who have even a little variety in their work are happier. Those who have the opportunity to learn new skills or develop their existing skill set regularly report higher levels of happiness, saying overall well-being benefited from the variety.
Additionally, having more autonomy makes you happier at work. Research has found that people “were nearly two and a half times more likely to take a job that gave them more autonomy. People were offered ways to gain more influence and still chose the job with autonomy."
Studies show that if you believe that your job puts you in danger your happiness at work is going to decrease. I am not sure this is true. The police and firefighters I know seem really happy to me, and their lives are in danger quite often. Other studies show that men and women in these jobs have a high value placed on camaraderie -- which also gives satisfaction.
However, those who feel that their jobs are in jeopardy are not too happy nor satisfied. Jobs that are stable and safe are the ones that result in higher levels of happiness.
8. Work with people you like.
This is pretty obvious. If you don’t get along with your colleagues or boss, you’re not going to be happy at work. After all, nobody wants to spend 40-plus hours a week with people that they can’t stand.
Having friends at work keeps you engaged, productive, and happy.
9. Eliminate the negatives.
To be happy at work you also need to eliminate or lessen things that make work unpleasant. Maybe a long commute. If you can't change the long commute, make it more pleasant in some way.
Long hours, unfair pay and job insecurity are not going to help you achieve your goals. These issues will not help you feel better with a work/life balance.
This may sound obvious, but we’re so focused on a career with positive factors that other goals are often overlooked. You may have a meaningful job that pays well, but the commute and long hours may outweigh those positives.
Related: Quitting My $97K Job Saved My Life