How to Find Professional Happiness
Professional happiness — it’s one of those phrases that is constantly doled out by career experts wiser than thou, but what does it really mean and how do you achieve it? Well, the answers to those questions will vary widely depending on who is responding. The truth is, your key to professional happiness is completely dependent upon your unique interests, values, and goals. No one is going to be better suited to define your happiness than you, whether dealing with your career or your personal life.
However, there are a few common threads that you will see amongst most everyone when it comes to charting a course toward career contentment. More often than not, those commonalities tend to deal with what to avoid. Your personalized version of professional happiness should be easy to attain if you are able to sidestep these three, universal misery-makers.
Unless you are brand new to the workforce, there is a high likelihood that you have had to deal with an omnipresent problem known to most seasoned employees: horrible bosses, and they are everywhere.
At Fortune 500 companies and small mom and pop shops alike, the horrible boss is an anxiety inducer that manages to turn up at every workplace. They are the number one cause of unhappiness at work, and they contribute to over 68% of Americans having at least one bad day per week. Horrible bosses are often easy to identify within a few short days or weeks of joining the team. Have you ever worked for someone who:
- Took credit for every success, but shirked responsibility when there was a shortcoming
- Viewed employees more like tools than valuable assets, and focused on what team members could do for them
- Showed little to no interest in providing proper support, leadership, and guidance
- Sowed discord amongst employees, then attempted to establish dominance by taking advantage of a disjointed, distrustful, and wary group
- Self-aggrandized and was unreceptive to constructive input from others
- Destroyed morale by being demeaning, dishonest, or inconsiderate
If any of these traits seem familiar, you probably were (or are) dealing with a horrible boss. Walking away from a horrible boss is often a first, major step toward professional happiness.
Some people are worried they won’t be able to find another job because they don’t have enough experience or their resume looks bad, but with the help of a resume writing specialist or career advisor, you can find yourself working somewhere else.
Accepting Whatever Is Available
While finding the holy grail of professional fulfillment may involve a certain level of luck, it is advisable to take an active role in charting your course toward career happiness. If you are already on the job market or planning to enter it soon, avoid the temptation to take the first opportunity that may become available just because there are no apparent alternatives.
Establishing professional happiness will require finding the right company and position for you. Follow these steps to avoid leaping onto an employment-related landmine:
Pay Attention to Turnover Rates
Very frequently, high turnover is often a direct result of subpar management. Although there is no exact percentage rate to define healthy turnover, employee attrition of approximately 15% or less is considered average. If your potential employer is dealing with a substantially higher percentage of employees jumping ship, think twice before joining a possibly sinking vessel.
Analyze the Interview Process Closely
The interview is not just the employer’s opportunity to evaluate your fitness for a position — it is also your chance to evaluate the company’s suitability for you. If the work atmosphere, company culture, and management personalities don’t feel right prior to day one, don’t ignore the warning signs. Keep looking.
Utilize Your Network
If you have acquaintances that are familiar with a prospective employer, don’t hesitate to ask questions, and encourage them to speak candidly. If someone you believe to be credible provides negative feedback on your future boss, take this under very close consideration before accepting an offer.
There is a vast amount of employer information available to job seekers online through employment-related websites. As with most internet content, you’ll need to take your findings with a grain of salt, but make note of recurring themes within detailed descriptions of employee experiences.
Also, don’t limit yourself to employer reviews. If your company has consumer reviews available online, read them too. Customer reviews can be very enlightening when you’re looking to learn more about a company. Ask yourself if what you’re seeing online makes you more or less interested in working for a particular employer.
Sacrificing Work-Life Balance for Increased Pay
One of the main factors deliberated when considering a particular position, or even selecting a career, is money. Sure, you may have other virtuous or more inspired reasons for your professional choices, but cold, hard cash is often at the forefront of decision making related to career direction.
A focus on money certainly makes sense to a degree — everyone has obligations and aspirations that come with a cost. In order to satisfy those responsibilities, the majority of the population sets aside their hobbies, families, and other interests for at least 40 hours per week to work at jobs that will allow them to pay their expenses.
A New Pay Structure
Once upon a time, securing a position at a single company, within which one would spend their entire career, was standard. One income from a decent employer could provide for a middle-class lifestyle, including a quaint home with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a dog — plus you’d receive a pension!
In today’s new normal, where daycare can easily rival a mortgage expense, grocery bills for a family of four may be a quarter of the monthly household budget, and the pension is becoming nonexistent, achieving a reasonable work-life balance has become quite a bit more complicated. Current circumstances force much of the workforce to ask some serious questions about how to achieve the proper equilibrium between growing their wages and maintaining their personal lives.
Unfortunately, many workers are failing to find a proper answer to achieving work-life balance, resulting in perpetual burnout, stress, and professional, as well as personal, discontent. A study by American Sociological Review found that over 70% of Americans struggle with finding a healthy work-life balance. Here are some tips to help with establishing a decent equilibrium and achieving happiness at work and at home:
- Use technology properly. Technology is supposed to make life and work easier for you. Ideally, it should increase efficiency and productivity, as well as simplify communication. However, if you don’t learn how to unplug at times, technology can quickly take a toll. Don’t allow technology and excess accessibility to drain you.
- Set boundaries. In addition to limiting technology, you may need to tactfully, but directly, let your employer and colleagues know that when you’re off the clock, you mean it. There’s nothing wrong with going the extra mile for work on occasion, but when every day feels like a marathon, you’re likely doing too much.
- If you have the opportunity to telecommute, do it. Even if it is only once or twice per week, take advantage of not having to head into the office for work, then use the hours you save wisely. Remember, time is your most limited resource.
- Prioritize your loved ones. The same way you schedule time for important work meetings and projects, you should also reserve time for your friends and family. Don’t try to squeeze your support system into whatever little time you have left when you aren’t working. Make time for them; they’ll be around even when the job is not.
- Forget perfect. Perfect does not exist — not at home, not at work, not anywhere. Trying to achieve it is a fool’s errand. Instead of chasing after what does not exist, make a point of doing your best within the time and other constraints to which you are subject.
- Create your own definition of success. Like happiness, success is a completely subjective construct — no one else can tell you exactly what it is or how to achieve it. Ask yourself the important questions: What is most important to you? What truly makes you happy? If being home for dinner every night is the key to your satisfaction, don’t feel obligated to live your life in the same manner as someone whose only goal is becoming an executive by 35.
Find Your Own Happiness
Determine your priorities, then chart your life and career accordingly. Uphold your values and follow the rules you set for yourself. Only then, will professional and personal happiness be easily within reach.
Jordan Perez is a HR professional with Resume Pundits. She enjoys writing about new developments in human resource management and ways to achieve a good work & life balance. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and traveling.