What’s the Secret Formula for Career Happiness?

It’s not surprising there’s a growing buzz around career happiness – in your lifetime you will work over 90,000 hours! Who wants to spend that amount of time being miserable? It’s not that we haven’t been concerned about being happy at work before, it’s just never been on the mainstream agenda. Now, employers are waking up to the fact that contented employees are linked to productivity and performance. More importantly though, we are seeing the connection for ourselves between our career and our mental health.

There are huge benefits to being happy at work but do you believe it’s within your control? Many people wait passively for happiness to arrive, or not. They let fate decide whether they have a good boss, colleagues that they like or work that they enjoy. The good news is that you can be proactive about creating your own career happiness.

Firstly you need to be intentional. You need to be focused on creating the right conditions to achieve career happiness and be prepared to make changes if you can’t get it in your current job or company. You must be 100% in control of seeking it.

What’s the secret formula for career happiness?

There is a formula to guide you, created through years of work with career changers – understanding why people are unhappy at work and what they seek in order to change that:

CAREER HAPPINESS = (Freedom + challenge + balance – stress) x meaning

Let’s break it down:

  • Freedom:

How much choice do you have, and do you want, in how you do your job? Autonomy over the nature of the work you do or your style of working is so important. And not having the routine of a 9-5 or working in an office setup can also play it’s part. Look for a supportive manager who trusts you and gives you freedom of choice.

  • Challenge:

Too little challenge leads to boredom, and your job can become mundane and dull. Too much challenge leads to stress. But the right amount of challenge, combined with a sense of competence allows you to perform at your best. Imagine how it would feel to have that sense of ‘flow’ everyday! Look for opportunities to step out of your comfort zone.

  • Balance:

There are never enough hours in a day but if you’re spending too many of them working then you can feel out of kilter. Having time to think or reflect boosts your wellbeing. Make time outside work to be with people you love, engage in creative pursuits or do some exercise.

  • Stress:

Some stress helps us to perform well, but pressure, overwhelm and overload delivers negative stress. High stress levels on an ongoing basis leads to anxiety and burnout, and this can wipe out career happiness in one fell swoop.

  • Meaning:

We all want to feel what we do is meaningful. Meaning can be opportunities to learn and grow or seeing a tangible result to what we do. It can be working for an organisation having a positive impact in the world, or working in a role that directly makes a difference. This is a key component of the formula and, without meaning happiness can be hard to find.

What about money?

Money of course is important – we have to live but money in itself does not bring happiness. If you’ve had a job where you’ve chased money over meaning then you’ll know this is tough to sustain for a long period.

We need to move away from a model that suggests money = success = happiness because we never reach the happiness bit – we’re always striving to be more successful before we can focus on happiness. We have to achieve happiness in the present – in the here and now.

How can you increase your career happiness?

  • Do a review – use the formula to be specific about what’s missing and work out how to increase each area or minimise the stress component. Make a plan – remember you are taking control of your happiness at work.
  • Talk to your boss about what you need to change at work, or be prepared to move jobs if there’s no prospect of achieving career happiness in your current role.
  • Build in regular checks to keep an eye on the formula and adjust things if you need to.
  • Develop a positive mindset – the way you see the world influences your happiness levels. Look for ways you can be curious, learn from or help other people.
  • Spread the love – emotions are contagious, particularly negative ones, so surround yourself with positive people and focus on the good things you can share.

This article first appeared in Psychologies magazine.

If you need help boosting your career happiness, and getting more from your work then get in touch for a discovery call, or download my free e-book on Career Happiness.

10 steps for a successful Career Change

Is career change on your mind at the moment? Are you excited but also a bit nervous that you can actually pull it off? It’s big and complicated but it’s also what your heart and gut are telling you is the right thing to do. Based on my work with clients over the last 10 years, these 10 steps are the key to making your career change a success.

1. Embrace the Unknown

You know your current career inside out. You know what you’re going to do on a daily basis and what the future holds. Your change may currently be unknown, you may not even have named what it is. Not knowing can be scary BUT it is part of the process of moving to knowing. So dive in and live with the not knowing for a while, certain that what emerges will be more rewarding and satisfying than the present. How to stop doubting your career change.

2. Create a new Identity

You have probably invested quite a bit of time and money in your current career – training, qualifications and development. Perhaps your identity brings quite a bit of status – you may enjoy describing yourself as a ….. when you meet someone new. The people you love may also quite like your existing identify too. Your ties to it are strong, and it can feel hard to give it up. You have to believe that your new identity will be rewarding so make a list of all the benefits your new identity will bring you, and start to view yourself in a different way.

3. Know your Value

You’ve already accumulated a vast array of skills and experiences which will be useful in your new profession. Don’t feel like you are the equivalent of a brand new graduate because you are starting something new. You will be contributing a lot to your new employer and new career even if your specific competencies may be different. hold onto the value you bring and know your worth. this can allow you to fast track your self in your new career and will also increase your confidence during the change. And don’t let Imposter Syndrome kick in.

4. Turn anxiety into excitement

You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel some anxiety about the change. The key is to not let the anxiety paralyse you and prevent you from taking action. The feeling of excitement is very close to the feeling of anxiety so you can reframe it to reflect an excited anticipation of something new rather than a fearful trepidation. You will need to work hard at doing this – click here for extra support.

5. Plan it

“Action conquers fear.” Break your change down into manageable steps with actions that drive you forward and it will appear more achievable and less daunting. Be realistic in your planning and look for someone who can help you stay accountable. Use the technique in Why you need a Road Map for your Career to structure your plans.

6. Plan your finances

A drop in income could be on the cards as a result of your career change, and this may put you off. Some planning around this in the early stages of your change thinking can be really helpful in not letting money become a blocker to your change. Review your current spending and outgoings and look for ways you can save money. Think about what is essential and what you can compromise on. If necessary, work out what you can save now in order to fund your change whether that is to retrain, cushion the initial salary drop or fund qualifications.

7.  Talk to people

Your network could be incredibly useful to your during your career change – some of them might end up being your cheerleaders and giving you moral support, and others may help open doors for you. Stay connected and keep talking to friends, family, colleagues and connections about what you are looking for and what your dream is – you’ll be surprised how many people will be keen to help.

8. Learn and grow

Take opportunities to upskill or gain new experiences that will help you move closer to your dream role. Think widely about what could help or what gaps you may need to fill. Perhaps taking on a Trustee role, doing some volunteering, taking a course, reading or work shadowing could help you feel more confident that you can make this change happen.

9. Don’t settle for less

Follow your dream and stay connected to why you are making this change, and what you want it to give you. Don’t take the easy route – make sure your decision is robust and that your new career will give you the meaning, enjoyment and happiness you are looking for.

10. No regrets

You won’t regret changing your career, but you will regret staying in a career you don’t enjoy. Live your life in the way you want to.

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Why we should talk about stepping off the career ladder

As a child I loved the game ‘snakes & ladders’. The best bit was the thrill of climbing as many ladders as possible to win the game. Little did I realise it reflected society’s message that to be successful I had to keep moving up the career ladder. And in my early career that’s what I did. I chased promotions until I achieved the lofty pinnacle of Director. I admit, at the time it kind of made me happy. I felt I had achieved something and the status made me feel  recognised for my contribution. I never contemplated stepping off the corporate career ladder even after a break to have my kids. It only became an option once I realised my job was full of stress and wasn’t making me happy.

I wish I’d known sooner that choosing to travel along a ‘snake’ could open up possibilities rather than take me back to the beginning. The world of work is changing and there are alternatives to the corporate career ladder – we just need to view success differently.

So why step off your career ladder?

Don’t get me wrong, for some people, who are driven by achievement, then climbing the career ladder can very rewarding but there can be pitfalls.

Travelling up the ladder can mean you become trapped on the Hedonic Treadmill. A concept developed by 2 psychologists, Brickman and Campbell. They suggest that, regardless of what happens to you, your level of happiness returns to your baseline happiness after the event. For example, if you get promoted you get an initial spike of happiness and pleasure but then you return to your general level of happiness. The reason it is called a treadmill is that it can lead to you constantly chase these little spikes of pleasure, pushing yourself to achieve more, buy more, and have more, but ultimately not increasing your happiness quotient.

This can also provide fuel to your inner critic who may use the message ‘it’s never enough’, or, ‘if you want people to think you’re successful you must have more, do more, be more’ and this can be very stressful. Get help with managing your inner critic by developing your inner coach.

What’s the alternative?

The alternative is to seek Eudaimonic Wellbeing. A concept first discussed by Aristotle, who believed that realising human potential and leading a good life brought well being rather than fleeting spikes of happiness.

Feeling that your life has purpose and meaning (and remember the definition of which is personal to you), and that you are growing and developing can be a good starting point to consciously step off the treadmill. You can then choose to pursue a life that is more enriched and rewarding. Need help? Read my blog on finding meaning at work.

How do you step off the career ladder?

  • Who are you?

Get back in touch with yourself. What do you want from life? What are your needs? What are the values that drive you? Why do you work? Be clear about your career identity.

Answering these questions lets you take stock of where you are right now and reflect on the compromises you may have made along your career journey. Be clear about your career needs. Make a Career Vision Board to help you focus on the future.

  • Design your success criteria

It is intrinsic reward that brings joy and satisfaction at work rather than salary, job title and benefits. Identify what you need in order to feel successful at work and in your life.

If you can focus more on the intrinsic elements of success and think about how you want to feel when you are successful it can be very freeing, and allow you to feel more fulfilled at work. Being able to let go of the belief about what other people think is also important.

So how do you work out what your definition of success is going to be? Try asking yourself some of the questions in my Success Definition blog and see what emerges.

  • Give yourself permission to step off

This can be challenging as your identity and self expectation can tie you to the need to climb.

Stepping off doesn’t have to mean changing career and starting again, although it might. It can also be about doing things differently based on your success criteria.

It could be making a flexible working request, taking a secondment or even a career break. Maybe it’s staying at your current level for a while and really honing your expertise and knowledge, or focusing on some specific challenges that will give you meaning and enjoyment rather than pushing upwards. Consider how a career plateau can help your career.

  • Be Mindful

Prioritise time to check in and get perspective on where you are heading. Sideways might be more engaging than upwards for a while but check in every 6 months or so to review your trajectory. And whether that is up, across, down or in a different direction altogether make sure it’s a conscious and mindful decision that fits with what you want from your career life.

Need help working out what direction you want to travel in, get in touch for a FREE clarity call.

kaboompics.com Be happy always - Why we should talk about stepping off the career ladder

Join my FREE 10 day Career Change challenge

If you're unhappy in your career or at a crossroads but feel stuck, take part in my CHALLENGE to move closer to a career you can love.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash