3 Keys to Career Happiness

A difficult boss. Frustrating co-workers. Long hours. Despite what you might think, none of these typical complaints are the primary reason people are unhappy at work. In fact, the top reason has nothing to do with the day-to-day annoyances of a job, but rather, something much bigger. 

That’s right, the #1 reason actually involves people not living a professional life that they want, and instead, living someone else’s expectations of what they should do for a living. 

How do I know this? Lots of research! I’ve interviewed over 100 professionals for my blogs and podcast series on the topic of professional fulfillment and what it takes to find true joy and meaning in their careers. 

The main theme that emerged is that people got into careers based on other people’s definitions of success versus their own. Whether it’s consciously or subconsciously, we wanted to please our parents or fit into society’s norms by going into traditional fields like law, medicine or accounting. 

Then, many of us stayed in those unfulfilling careers because we consciously or subconsciously worried about what family, neighbors, coworkers and peers would think if we didn’t have the same title, status or material things associated with the profession. Taking a step back would also put us “behind.” Staying in something unfulfilling can feel easier than the unknown.

Oh, and did I mention I went through this myself too?

Creating Career Happiness

What I’ve learned time and again from my podcast guests and my own experience is that only once people take a stand and do the hard work of looking inward, do they find work that brings them joy and meaning. It’s critical to define what you want to do with your life and what success means to you. The challenge is, you have to take bold and creative steps to get there.

Ultimately, to be happy in your career, it must align with your inner motivators:

  • Your personal passions – things that simultaneously intrigue, motivate and challenge you
  • Your personal values – characteristics and behaviors that motivate you and guide your decisions 
  • Your strengths – things you do well and come easily to you vs. skills which are learned or developed 

Anything else, including your boss, co-workers, commute, salary, company culture and more, are external considerations. While nice to have, they are not must-haves to be happy at work. 

If your work aligns with your passions, values and strengths, then you can be more forgiving and still find joy and meaning at work even with bad external considerations. But, if you don’t have alignment with your passion, values and strengths, even a little misalignment with external factors will make you miserable.

What to Ask Yourself

Doing the work of looking inward to define what matters most to use in a career is easy, but takes time. It is worth the time. Here are some reflection questions to get started:

  • Your personal passions – What did you love to do as a child?
  • Your personal values – Who do you admire and why?
  • Your personal strengths – What do you do well that other people compliment you on or ask for your help with?

I want to walk you through each of these questions in more detail! Enroll in my course, Getting Clear on Your Career to Love What You Do for a Living, to take a look inward and determine how to pursue a career that makes you happy.

Let's Connect

Beth believes a positive, connected and committed organizational culture is critical to business success. That’s why she combined her 25 years of corporate leadership and management consulting experience with her expertise in diversity and inclusion and positive psychology to launch, The Brimful Life, a consulting firm that works with executives to strengthen their leadership skills and transform their leadership teams and organizational cultures to better support the organization’s vision and strategic goals. In addition, The Brimful Life podcast series, keynote presentations and workshops inspire and equip leaders to put people and culture first.

Beth has lived and worked in London, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Bangkok, Boston and New York City. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of Virginia, a MA in International Relations from Tufts University and an MBA from Columbia University.

Beth lives a brimful life by spending time with her husband and three kids and with running, speed skating and watching cooking competition shows on TV which is ironic because she hates to cook.

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