How to Choose a Job That Makes You Happy

happiness quote

Do you know anyone who truly loves his or her job?

I’m not talking about the people who get a big, almost convincing but empty smile when you ask; they’ll stretch, yawn, scratch their nose and do anything but look you squarely in the eye when they say,

"I really do — it pays the bills and I’m happy."

A study from Forbes hits closer to reality.

71% of American Employees Hate Their Jobs. 

It’s a tough fact to face, but let’s embrace the truth — we suck at choosing jobs. And it’s understandable. We’re catapulted into the decision making process at a relatively young age. They say "choose a degree" and we choose. They tell us "you can always change your mind later", but when we do, we learn that only half the credits earned will count toward the new degree.

We dig a career hole that only gets deeper and deeper... and deeper, until the only way out is to start over completely, forfeiting the prize of credibility on a piece of paper. It only cost years of time, stress, effort and a tidy fortune.

So how do you avoid the poisonous mistake of an unhappy career choice?

This decision will stick with you for the rest of your life. Because it’s no small thing to spend nearly half of your waking day working at a job you despise. 

Here’s the first step. Ask yourself these questions:

What made me happy when I was a child? For me, fishing was something my dad and I would enjoy, and so I have a strong sentiment attached to it. I still enjoy fishing as much as I did then, so should I have become a charter boat captain and spent my days on the salty sea, pulling in prize marlin with people who spend thousands of dollars for the chance? Maybe. But there was another option that I went with that turned out to be my dream job. My dad is a writer, and he’d give me his rough drafts, scratched onto crumpled, ragged-edged notebook paper. I lost myself in the worlds he created, and reading became a passion. I quickly began writing on my own, but it didn’t occur to me until much later in life that I could make a happy career out of it.

The answer may not be so obvious to you.

You’ll need to write out every happy memory you can think of and ask yourself, "what made me happy?"

What activities satisfy me and fulfill my instinctual desires? This is the same as the activity above, except now you’re evaluating your current needs and wants. You may be surprised at how little they’ve changed from when you were a child. Jot down the memories you have where you were happy, and attach that emotion to a cause.

For example — my family didn’t get along for a long time. Some of them practically disowned me, and not entirely unjustly. One of my happiest memories is from my last birthday. Time has mended a lot, and we’ve grown closer. On my birthday I found myself surrounded by people who genuinely loved me. I could see it in their eyes and it felt great. What does that reveal about my career choice? That I would love to work with my family, maybe, but more realistically, I need a job that allows me to spend ample time with my family. Without this luxury I will be unhappy.

Am I a conformist, or do I cut my own trail? This is the number one reason 71% of Americans hate their jobs. They’re sheep. Sheeple. They’re taught that money and status is what matters in life, then wonder why their life crumbles to dust around them when they pursue those things at the expense of the things that really matter.

What really matters?

That’s your most important question.

If you say money, trust me, you’re wrong. Don’t take what I’m saying as the gold standard — do some research. Money helps, but only to a certain point (slightly above your basic needs) — then it begins to suck the life out you. There are studies all over the internet that support that statement.

Don’t trust the hype that companies build up to attract solid economic assets to drain the life out of.

Pay attention to the pitch.

If you’re chasing a job title, turn that around and chase a lifestyle. If the main perk of the career you’ve chosen is salary, ditch that mindset and replace it with a goal that revolves around values.

The grass is only greener until you eat the grass. If there’s any chance of working in a job with similar responsibilities to the one you’re pursuing, go for it.

Test drive as much as possible.

If you write out answers to all of the questions in this post, you’ll have decent blueprint to a happy career choice.