3 Keys to Being Happy at Work

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Have you ever felt trapped in your current job or career? I know I have felt that way in the past.

I met David at one of my resume writing workshops a few years ago. David had just turned 40, and was recently laid off from work. David was an engineer who had built his career working in technology companies. David didn’t like his job. But he had invested so much of his life into his career that he felt obligated to stay. He thought it would be too risky to even contemplate a change. So he had resigned himself to the idea that he was stuck there. He was never going to be the person who loved his job. It broke my heart to hear the disappointment and resignation as David talked.

There was a time when I, too, believed that it was too late to change my mind, and change direction. I now know that it is never too late for anyone to make changes to find happiness at work. The average person spends more waking hours at work than any place else, including time with family and friends. At the same time, the average person spends very little time thinking about how to love their job.

If you’re going to spend so much of your life and time at work, wouldn’t you prefer to enjoy that time? What if you could get up in the morning and look forward to going to work?

Here are 3 Key Elements to Being Happy at Work.

1. Daily Activities

What do you do at work? What are your main tasks and activities in an average week? Are you using your strengths? Are you using the strengths you love to use? Many of us fall into a job or career path, and find out as we do it that we don’t really like what we do. It takes far more effort to get out of bed and go to a job where you don’t enjoy the things you do every day.

David began his career as an engineer, and then because of his experience, he moved into project management. David loved the hands on problem solving work he did as an engineer. But he hated managing projects and people. He felt removed from the work.

If you are no longer doing work you enjoy, then it’s time to re-evaluate your career and look for work where you get to do the things you are great at, that you enjoy doing.

2. Core Values

This is one of the most overlooked or ignored elements to job happiness. What are your values at work and in life? What are the values of the company you work for? Your values don’t need to match, but they DO need to be compatible. If your values are in conflict with those of the organization you work for, you will never be happy there. You will always feel conflicted in some way. And you cannot change an organization’s values, nor should your try to change your own just to fit in.

In David’s case, he valued risk-taking and trying new things. He worked for a company that did not like to take risks on any project. They only wanted to follow the tried and true, proven methods. Neither value is inherently “wrong” – but they are in conflict. David wanted to try new approaches and solutions on his projects, and he was not able to do so. This left him feeling extremely frustrated about his work.

If your values are in conflict with those of the company you work for, then it is time to move on. And in order to increase your happiness at your next job, be sure to research the company values before you accept an offer.

3. Roles You Play

Are you part of a team? Are you the expert in something? Are you a manager or team leader? What roles do you play? And what roles do you want to play?

David loved being the expert on a team. He loved being part of collaborative team. In his last job, he was the project manager on the team, but he wasn’t involved in the project. He felt like he wasn’t contributing because he wasn’t in the role he loved most. He felt separated from the team, rather than part of it. In order for David to be happy at work, he needed to be a contributing part of the team, not managing it, but doing part of the work. That is the role in which he thrived.

If you find yourself in a role you do not like, that is something you can change by speaking with your boss. Let her know what you want, and ask her how you can move into a position where you serve in that role. If she says nothing can be done, consider transferring to another department.


As David began to use theses 3 keys to finding happiness at work, he was able to transform his career into one that he enjoyed. He is now employed at a company that he likes in a job he loves doing. Once you start asking the right questions, you too will discover what you can do to improve your own work experience.

Which key unlocks the mystery to being happy at work for you? I’d love to hear them on my blog.

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