Why Job Happiness Still Matters -- Even in this Economy

by SixFigureStart | March 18, 2010

What's happiness got to do with finding a job? A fair question in an age where the career focus for many has shifted to the simple act of finding a salary, rather than a fulfilling position. But given the choice, most of us would choose to do something enriching rather than simply punch the clock in exchange for a paycheck, and it pays to keep higher ideals in mind when conducting any kind of search or career planning.

Throughout 2009, the Happiness Project's Gretchen Rubin posted regular blogs on Slate--one of which I stumbled across today, and which touches on the concept of finding the 'yes' in any given situation.

The central conceit of the post concerns learning a life lesson from actors: when they're given a scene with a negative event—for example a fight with a partner, or an argument with a boss—they have to figure out what's motivating their character to stay there and continue the scene, rather than walking out on it. In other words, they're "finding the yes." Taking that approach, says Rubin, is one way to avoid dwelling on the negative aspects of a situation in your life. Sure, you might be miserable at work, but there are probably reasons that are keeping you there.

The obvious corollary to Rubin's point is that sometimes the "no's" of any given situation greatly outweigh the "yes" moments. Compare, for example, a situation in which you hate your colleagues but love the experiences you're gaining at work to one in which you hate the type of work you do, but continue showing up to collect a paycheck because you've got a mortgage to pay. In each of those cases, there's a "yes" to balance out each "no," and therefore an understandable reason to continue showing up at work—especially in the current economic climate. But as far as career happiness goes, only one of those situations has any kind of payoff that would tempt most people to continue in the position if another opportunity presented itself elsewhere.

As I suggested in the opening paragraph, the act of finding a job has of late become little more than that for many people. It's worth bearing in mind, though, that the "any port in a storm" mentality can have serious career repercussions further down the line. To stretch the metaphor a little, when the storm abates, you don't want to find yourself in a port with no route—or an incredibly long one—back to where you'd like to be. While times may be tough, then, keeping an eye on the happiness quotient in your professional life is still an activity worth pursuing.

--Posted by Phil Stott, Vault.com


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