Six factors that can ensure happiness in your next job


You can seek and evaluate which opportunities will bring you the most joy—and there are plenty of variables that make a difference. These are the factors that are especially significant and can move the needle on your level of happiness at work.

1. Look for Culture
One of the first things to consider when you’re looking for happiness on the job is a constructive culture. Every culture is slightly different, and the match is key. Your ideal culture will be different than others’, so pay attention to whether you feel aligned with what the organization values and how they get work done.

For example, a culture may be hard driving and pushing toward excellence in everything. It may be deliberate and analytical in its approach. It may embrace risk taking, creativity, innovation and uncommon thought. A culture may be more buttoned down—or more free-wheeling.

Any of these cultures can work for you, depending on your own preferences and priorities. Just be sure you know what you’re getting into and feel in synch with the people and the organization.

In addition, you can assess elements of culture that are important no matter what kind of character it has. Overall, organizations will make you happiest when they have a strong vision, mission and direction in addition to meaningful ways for employees to participate and get involved.

In addition, the cultures that are most effective tend to have clear processes and norms to handle conflict, as well as the ability to learn, adapt, grow and change over time. In any kind of culture, look for these traits and you’ll increase the chances that you’ll be happy with working there.

2. Look for Your People

Feeling connected to your colleagues is one of the primary factors that drives happiness at work. You don’t have to be BFFs with your co-workers, and you don’t have to always get along—after all, disagreements are natural and can be constructive. But when you respect colleagues and feel respected in turn, it affects your satisfaction significantly.

As you assess your next position, get to know team members, and ask questions about how they work, how they interact and what they value about the team and the organization. These will give you important clues about the people and behaviors you can expect.

In addition, you can increase your happiness by building relationships with your co-workers—no matter where you’re working currently. Ask them questions, listen to what they’re going through, share things about yourself that you have in common, invite them to coffee and invest in getting to know them.

Being more familiar with people and knowing them better tends to increase understanding and acceptance—as well as feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you will have greater joy and wellbeing when you feel more connected with even just a few people.

3. Look for Growth

Another way to find happiness at work is to look for jobs where you’re challenged today and can grow tomorrow. When you’re seeking your next position, prioritize roles where there is a problem to solve or an innovation to develop. Especially consider jobs in which you can bring your own sense of curiosity and creativity to how the work gets done—and express your individuality in the role.

In addition, look for jobs where you don’t know everything already. Give greater consideration to roles where you’ll need to stretch in order to perform effectively. Pursue a role when you’re 70% ready for the responsibilities—not 100%—so you have room to grow and develop.

Also look for work where you’ll be able to grow over time. Some organizations are especially good at providing a path for your career or having a predictable progression for promotions.

Look for companies where people tend to have longer tenure and move throughout the organization during their careers—advancing across different jobs and departments as well as levels.

4. Look for Leadership

An additional factor in your happiness is the leaders who surround you. We all want to be inspired and motivated to engage in where the organization is going. Look for leaders who are energized and who energize others.

As you’re considering your next role, assess the hiring manager and whether they are someone you connect with. Look for someone who demonstrates they value and appreciate you—and who will set clear expectations and then provide the just-right amount of coaching and support for your efforts.

Also look beyond your direct boss to full group of leaders who are providing direction, advancing the company and shaping the future that you’ll be a part of.

5. Look for Alignment

You can also help ensure you’re happy at work by pursuing the set of responsibilities that align as much as possible with what you like to do. It’s a myth that you can find a job that you’ll love every minute. Instead, you’ll positively influence your happiness when you have greater overlap between what you love to do and what you have to do.

Ask questions about the content of the role and how much time you’ll spend on various tasks or responsibilities. If a huge part of the job is analytical and you can’t stand detail, it won’t be the role for you. But if the role is mainly creative with just a bit of analytical work as well, you may enjoy it very much.

Think about proportions—how much time you’ll spend on different types of work. If the job is mainly a match, then jump in.

6. Look for Work that Matters

Another key to happiness is feeling like your work matters. You don’t have to be solving world peace or world hunger (although if you are, we thank you)—but you need to know that what you’re doing makes a difference to someone else.

As you’re assessing your next role, consider how your responsibilities contribute to the team, the organization, the customers or the community. Choose opportunities where there is clarity about how the role matters within the organization and in which you can see the bigger picture and how you make a unique contribution to it.

Find a job where you can make a commitment and dedicate yourself to doing your best. And look for employers in which there is a culture of appreciation and recognition.

Happy Choices

No situation is perfect, and every job will have things you enjoy and things you don’t. Your team will have people you click with and those you don’t. And the organization will always have things you appreciate and it will have warts as well.

But you can invest in doing your best, staying optimistic and then assessing your next move—so you can create the conditions for the greatest happiness as you advance your career.


Tracy Brower, PhD
I am a Ph.D. sociologist and I write about happiness, work-life and the future of work. I am the author of The Secrets to Happiness at Work as well as Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work. In addition, I'm an advisor and coach for the Center for Leadership at Hope College and an Advisory Board member for Kids Food Basket. I'm also an Executive Council member with the CoDesign Collaborative, as well as an advisor for the Michigan State University Master of Industrial Mathematics Program. I am the vice president of workplace insights for Steelcase and I am on the faculty for CoreNet Global. In addition to my Ph.D. and MM, I hold a Master of Corporate Real Estate with a specialization in workplace. My work has been translated into 22 languages.

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