Career Happiness: Myths and Realities

Truisms, clichés, myths. They come from the movies, magazine articles and even our families, career myths over time take on the patina of truth. Sadly, these myths hold us back from viewing our career in a way that allows us to achieve happiness, satisfaction and recognition.

Myth: The more money we make, the happier we will be.

Let me tell you a story. Two years ago, Jason (age 32) came to see me.  He had gone to law school to, in his words, “make money and not have his own children go through a tough life like I did with my father being a janitor.” Unfortunately, Jason hated law school and hated practicing law even more. He hated working for a firm that had strict hours and requirements.

Reality: Truth is, people who make a lot of money are not necessarily happy.  Most research shows that wealth is like health. Its utter absence can make you miserable. But once your real needs are met, having more provides diminishing emotional needs. A boost in income can make us happy temporarily . But soon we adapt and begin lusting for a bigger fix.

Finding a satisfying career is more important than earning a lot of money, and career satisfaction comes from knowing your abilities, skills, values and interests – and developing your own definition of career success.  When we are in the right career and the right company, with colleagues we like, doing work we at which we are talented and skilled, we are inwardly satisfied, want to do better and are more motivated.  For many people, its important to do work that makes one feel worthwhile.

Myth: There is a perfect job out there.

Reality: No job is perfect!

When we look for all aspects we want from a job like good salary, job satisfaction, great boss, lot of vacation time, great hours— it won’t happen!  We have to pick the three most important things we need.  Are there benefits, stability, intellectual stimulation, values, salary, vacation time, or…? If a position fits these top three criteria, we can consider it a good fit, and note that our needs may change over time.

Myth: If I go back to school for more education after my bachelors’ degree,  I will find a great job.

Reality: Its important to do all your homework . For example if you are going back to school, talk to recent graduates and do research about the economy and upcoming trends. Its important not to set your expectations too high.

Nowadays, there is no guarantee that any further education will assure a job.  Most self-made millionaires or entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates claim they started their businesses because of their passions in a certain area.

If you are considering an advanced degree, ask yourself:

  • Does the degree match my values and passions?
  • Will it offer me positions that I could see myself working in for the next 10-20 years?
  • Does the economy have a need for my new skills or knowledge gained?

What about certificate programs?

Certificate programs that are short and offer condensed courses , for example in technology, can be very useful and practical for those who do not want to spend years in school.

Finding a suitable career or making a career change is a challenge and takes lots of work.  Persistence and motivation can never be stressed enough to go forward in life.