How to choose a job that will make you happy

There’s more to happiness on the job than choosing what you do. Here are some even more important factors to consider.

We spend a third of our waking hours on the job. If our job sucks, it’s hard to be happy. If our job is great, we have a pretty good chance of being happy.

But what makes a great job. How do you choose one that will bring happiness?

It is often said:

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Turn your hobby into a career.

While there is some wisdom to this, that wisdom wears pretty thin when put through the rigors of the real world.

Kat Boogard writes four reasons why this sentiment doesn’t ring true:

  • Work is not play.
  • Your number one passion is not always a realistic career.
  • No job is completely perfect.
  • The more you love your job, the harder you’ll work.

No job will ever be a hobby

To this, I would add one more really big reason. What makes a hobby enjoyable is often that you are in control. This is particularly true for creative people.

For instance, you might love to write. Your head is bursting with ideas. You have stories to recount. You have emotions to express. You have ideas to articulate.

Nobody wants to pay you for your stories, emotions or ideas. They want you to get that news release out tomorrow morning. They want you to interview employees on the new ride sharing program for the company newsletter. And that preliminary report for the Appropriations Committee is already past due, as the higher ups debate what should and should not be included.

The good news is that most people have a more realistic idea of how to choose a job. While they enter a field that interests them – not necessarily a hobby – they choose their job most on five criteria, according to’s 2018 Global Brand Health Report.

  1. Compensation and benefits
  2. Company culture
  3. Opportunity to learn new skills
  4. Challenging technical problems to solve
  5. Team

Job application factors

Money first. After all, that’s the main reason we have a job, rather than just hobbies or volunteering. That’s why we give control of what we do to somebody else.

Not surprisingly, that same report lists money as the main reason people leave one job for another.

Company culture. This is so important. Will I be working with somebody looking over my shoulder? Will my new ideas be valued? Do I have a say in my work hours or my approach to work? Do I have to work on my own or do I have to work in a team? This has at least as much affect on happiness as the “subject” of the job.

Learning. Yes, most people are eager to keep learning, to keep their skills current, to be challenged.

Problem solving. Again, people like to be challenged. This is also, by the way, the second most important reason people leave a job for another – to pursue new challenges.

The team. The people you work with make all the difference. Do exactly what you love with grumpy or back-stabbing people, and work will be miserable. Been there, done that – it sucks. Do something pretty dull with amazing people, and life’s pretty good. Been there, done that, too.

How you work can affect happiness most of all

There is one point mentioned above that I would like to highlight. I mentioned it under company culture, but it’s more than that. How you work is as important as what you do or with whom you do it.

You might like to work mostly with people or you might like to work on your own. You might like to have strict direction, or you might enjoy working with ambiguity. You might feel fulfilled documenting every step, or all that paperwork might drive you batty.

Some of that is part of company culture, but some of that is also the nature of the position.

Consider someone interested in psychology. They could become a therapist or a researcher. Or they could help develop policy or advise on educational processes or marketing campaigns or so much more. If they hate being supervised, therapist might be a good career. But if they don’t have the patience to work through individuals’ problems, therapist would a poor career choice.

The bottom line is that there is so much more to making a career move than just choosing to do something you love. Sure, what you do is important. But how you do it, with whom you do it and how you are challenged can make all the difference in how happy you will be in your job.


  1. When you are happy with your job you are passionate and motivated to do it. It is definitely amazing to work in a job that you like. Awesome blog by the way. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I am so so lucky! As a Wedding Videographer I have actually turned my hobby into my job! I work hard at it as it my love and passion!! Loving all the info!

  3. The fact is that the jobs and the institutions creating them today are not modelled to make anyone really happy at their job. Thus, I still support and go with the view of turning one’s passion to the job/income source or simply find jobs only related to it which will make it easier to over look some of the flaws in the company and focus on delivery as long as pay not missing

  4. This is a great article, but I do believe it is hard to put in to practice!
    I prefer to work for myself, which still presents challenges, but it is doing what I love and at the end of the day, that is what matters.

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