Finding Work You Enjoy

Crystal recently asked if folks would take a pay cut for happiness. Not surprisingly, many people said that they would. In fact, Kevin went ahead and did it.

While I’d also be willing to take a pay cut to increase happiness, I’d rather take a pay increase, and/or make my job more enjoyable. In other words, I think there are usually other options.

People often have the idea that the only kinds of jobs that are enjoyable are low-paying, or that you can’t be happy at a high-paying job. I happen to think that it’s entirely possible to be happy at a high-paying job. It’s also often possible to be happy at your current job, even if you hate it now. (Not always of course, but it might be.)

You see, the things that we like and dislike about our jobs may have very little to do with the type of work we’re actually doing. Often, it has more to do with our personalities and the personalities of our coworkers, or with the work environment in general.

For example, if you’re a social person, you’re not going to be happy sitting in a cube at a company where no one ever talks to one another. If you’re not a fan of chitchat, you’re going to love coming in, doing your job, and leaving without being bothered by inane chatter and useless questions. Same job, different personalities, different results. Beyond a certain point, the pay is irrelevant.

If you hate your current job, there are things you can do to find work you enjoy.

First, figure out what it is that you dread about your current job. Is it the people? Maybe you hate being micromanaged. Is it the work itself? Maybe it’s mind-numbing and repetitive. Make a list, and be specific.

Then figure out what it is that you like about your current job. (There’s got to be something, besides getting paid.) Maybe it’s close to your house. Maybe the hours are convenient. Maybe you like the food they serve in the cafeteria. Try to find at least 5 things.

Now, think about jobs you’ve had in the past that you’ve enjoyed. What did you like about them? Think about the things you enjoy in general as well, and add those to your list too. Maybe you like talking to people, helping people, organizing, working with headphones on in your own little world, having time to think, flexibility, a standard schedule, having time to surf the internet, etc.

What do all of the things that you like have in common? What about the things you dislike?

Once you have those nailed down, you can figure out ways to increase the things that you enjoy, and decrease the things that you dislike. Sometimes even small changes can make a big difference. For example, you might be able to adjust your hours, work on a different team, take on extra responsibilities, start a social group, etc.

If it turns out that improvements are not possible at your current job (or if you’d just like to do something new), set up some informational interviews at local companies to see different types of environments and to meet with people at different kinds of jobs. Finally, look for jobs that incorporate the aspects you enjoy, at companies with a culture you’d feel comfortable in. Don’t be afraid to aim high, or to have a big wish list.

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4 comments

  • “You see, the things that we like and dislike about our jobs may have very little to do with the type of work we’re actually doing. Often, it has more to do with our personalities and the personalities of our coworkers, or with the work environment in general.”

    Exactly. I think we also have a rather childish approach to work–a Disney dream of the “perfect job” (which we’ll get right after we get the perfect partner, the perfect house, blah blah blah) where we are blissed out all the time, because if we just have happy thoughts about stuff, it’ll magically appear in its perfect form! Le sigh.

    I could bitch endlessly about my job, but it would be pretty idiotic to do so. I get paid more than the medium income for a family of four out in LaLa land to type words on a screen. When I hear people complaining about how awful their usually cushy gigs are, I generally tell them: Go tell it to a migrant farm worker.

    Attitude is everything in the land o’ privilege.

  • There definitely needs to be a balance. Enjoying what you do and getting paid for it is good. Even if you had a job you loved, it wouldn’t be awesome to get paid only minimum wage unless you truly enjoyed it that much or you knew you could leverage it for something more in the future, like my chef friend is doing. At the same time, I don’t think I would take a high pay in combination with 60-70 hour work weeks and a bad work environment. So, like anything else, balance is key, and if you can find a place where you get both the high pay and the work you enjoy as well as a great work environment, then why not. :)