Professional Resume Writer, Career Writer and Career Coach
Do you ever feel like your life is like one of those rom-com movie scene openers? You know, the ones where the main character rolls out of bed, awakened by a casually upbeat theme song, sulks their way to the coffee pot, and then trudges toward their computer to begin yet another boring day at work?
Unhappiness at work is common these days. Nearly every workplace study warns of the repercussions of being unengaged, bored, and burnt out. Luckily, figuring out how to find a job that makes you happy is not that difficult. Below, we’ll discuss the reasons behind your workplace dissatisfaction and what you should look for in your next job for sublime happiness.
Why Are People Unhappy About Their Job?
As kids, we think we’ll grow up to be astronauts or marine biologists, embarking on cool trips with even cooler equipment armed to uncover the next big “thing” — all while depositing lots of money in the bank, of course. Then, 15+ years later, we find ourselves in a cubicle staring at a monitor, unamused and unhappy about how things turned out. How did we get here?
It’s easy to place blame on other people or things out of your control. But when it comes to our careers, many adults can tie their unhappiness back to three key reasons:
- You don’t believe in the work you’re doing.
- You don’t receive the recognition you feel you deserve for a job well done.
- You don’t feel supported by leaders properly trained to communicate, problem solve, and mentor.
You can find happiness in all sorts of jobs (yes, even corporate accountants and security guards report happiness at work). The key isn’t to get caught up in the exact job, but to focus on the values and cultures that are important to you.
What’s the Secret Formula to be Happy at Work?
Myers-Briggs concluded that workplace well-being is greatly determined by five factors. If you want a job that makes you happy, look for these five things:
- Work tasks that interest you
- Work tasks that make you feel positive
- Learning something new at work
- Taking breaks when needed
- Attempting challenging work that adds to your skills and knowledge
Keep in mind that happiness at work is not solely dependent on finding your dream job — you can be happy in a similar role that doesn’t make a lot of money or come with a prestigious title.
Every year, Gallup asks working adults to gauge their happiness at work. In 2021, nearly 87% of participants said they were somewhat or completely satisfied at work. Their reasons? Coworkers, values, and a sense of accomplishment. Among other things — a sense of accomplishment, recognition for a job well done, and work-life balance — you can be happy at work if you focus on the “why” rather than the “what.”
11 Tips for Finding a Job that Can Make You Happy
Figuring out how to find a job that makes you happy can seem as elusive as finding true love, and yet, true love exists for us all. When searching for the perfect fit, prioritize these eleven things.
1. Uncover the True Meaning of the Job
Although this seems obvious, be intentional during the interview and ask targeted, specific questions about your role. Job advertisements are notoriously vague, and you’d hate to get stuck performing day-to-day tasks you never wanted. Get clear answers about what’s expected of you and what the job entails. If it’s not something that makes you happy, continue searching for one that will.
2. Define Your Non-Negotiables
When the excitement of a new job wears off, what do you need in your job to keep you there? Long-term happiness is more likely if you work a job that aligns with your needs. So when deciding how to find a job that makes you happy, one of the first things you should do is define your non-negotiables. These are the factors that must exist or must not exist in your next gig.
For example, is remote work more important than salary? How about access to a caring supervisor or professional development opportunities? Writing down these deal-breakers before you dive into a job search can help ensure you land where you’re meant to.
3. Earn a Salary That Works for You
Long story short, money buys happiness. To find a job that makes you happy, you can’t be shy about making income a part of the equation. Research suggests that our happiness is tied to our ability to buy the things or experiences that make us happy. Pinpoint what that number is for you and brainstorm a plan to get it.
4. A Decent, Well-Trained Boss
A good boss is one of the highest drivers of employee happiness, but not all bosses are ready to coach up and engage their team to drive performance.
Look for these indicators of a good manager:
- They make company goals clear and leverage team ideas to achieve them
- They don’t assign blame, they inspire action
- They problem solve and maintain productivity
- They are transparent and prioritize regular feedback
- They understand the industry and the overall goals of the company
5. Opportunities to Learn Something New
The day-to-day can feel rather mundane, but the happiest workers enjoy variety. But finding the perfect balance between new tasks and standard tasks can be tricky. The constant switching can feel haphazard and stressful, but having access to different longer-term projects can increase job satisfaction.
Simply put, the more equipped you feel to be productive and focused on a variety of tasks, the better.
6. Dedicated Time for Regular Feedback
Most of us don’t need a study to tell us that feedback — good and bad — affects our mood at work. Poorly delivered feedback can leave you confused and stuck, but intentional feedback can empower you and boost your mood.
Look for companies who build feedback loops into their processes. Positive feedback paired with constructive criticism will help you grow and feel more connected to your colleagues.
7. Maintain a Healthy Work Balance
Work-life balance is not an elusive myth. If you feel overwhelmed with pressure to keep working beyond regular business hours, your happiness will suffer. Overworking also has negative impacts on your health, which will eventually lead to burnout and resentment.
In your next role, get clear answers for how work is tracked and compensated, as well as the processes they use to encourage time off and employee well-being.
8. Consider Your Options Carefully
While we love to encourage job seekers to listen to their gut and trust their intuition, job changes are big changes, so take the time to think over your next move. Odds are you’re leaving your current role due, in some part, to unhappiness. To make sure you don’t find yourself in a cycle of doom, avoid making any rash decisions. Rushed decisions tend to be one of the biggest barriers when it comes to being able to find a job that makes you happy.
So, consider your options and ensure they satisfy your needs before accepting an offer. That way, you don’t end up in the same predicament.
9. Opportunity for Good Coworker Relationships
Working alongside colleagues you like and respect does wonders for your mood. Even more, jobs that allow you to help your coworkers increase satisfaction.
It’s tough to gauge who you’ll work with during the interview process, but look for people who share similar core values to increase the likelihood of good relationships. Collaborative team environments are a known mood booster, too.
10. Learn How to Deal with Conflict
Conflict is scary, especially work-related conflict that feels like it could impact your company standing. Still, healthy conflict helps breed better relationships, more productivity, and greater understanding. Learn how to openly address work conflicts and resolve them with positive communication and clear goals or next steps.
Plus, having the courage to stand up for what you believe in can help increase happiness at work because you’re more likely to feel proud of yourself and content with your choices.
11. Prioritize Humanity Over Perks
Free food, ping-pong tables, and happy hours had their place when we worked in offices, but, these days, people want more than surface-level perks; they want benefits packages that focus on support. The SHRM Employee Benefits Survey suggests that employees want health care benefits and retirement savings plans more than lattes and free swag.
Above all, you are a human being. Look for companies that consider employees as assets and drive strategies to support them physically, mentally, and emotionally.
What Professions Can Make You Happy?
When considering how to find a job that makes you happy, you’ll have to consider that your answer to this question will change as you do — what’s important to you at 25 is not the same at 45. If you need some general direction on the happiest jobs, there are a few that rank highly in several recent studies.
- Software Developer
- Business Development Manager
- Human Resources Managers
- Information Security Analysts
- Physicians Assistants
- Speech-Language Pathologists
- Heavy Equipment Machine Operators
- Event Planners
- Sound Engineering Technicians
Frequently Asked Questions on Finding a Job that Makes You Happy
1. Is it normal to be unhappy at work?
Unhappiness at work is actually quite common, but many struggle to pinpoint what exactly makes their job turn dull. Dissatisfied workers often feel bored, unappreciated, stuck, and overwhelmed.
In fact, Gallup suggests most workers don’t find their work meaningful or feel hopeful about their future. Only 21% of employees feel engaged at work and just 33% consider their well-being to be in a thriving, healthy state.
2. What is a fun career?
Studies that rank jobs as fun assess careers for their earning potential, job satisfaction, and job openings. Engineers, healthcare professionals, and construction workers tend to feel most happy in their jobs.
3. How do you find a job you really love?
To find true work-related happiness, define what is most exciting about your work and what ideas you’re curious about. Then, envision a few future short- and long-term goals and brainstorm a plan to develop the skills you need to get there.
Finding true happiness at work is not impossible, but it does require introspection and thought. Once you’ve pinpointed what makes you happy (generally), take steps to make it happen. Seriously, just put one foot in front of the other. The path to happiness is full of baby steps and minor pivots toward the life you desire. When you’re ready to start looking for a job you love, make your way to JobSearcher to find some of the best jobs in your area.