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When does a job make you happy? Happiness at work

When does a job make you happy?

When does a job actually make you happy? I think we all agree: Life is too short for a bad job. On average, you spend about 80,000 hours in Germany earning a living. Since your job is such a big part of your life, it clearly plays a crucial role in your personal happiness.

In this article, you will learn the 5 most important ingredients for happiness at work.

  1. 5 crucial factors
  2. Effort
  3. Power
  4. Colleagues
  5. Working conditions
  6. Objective
  7. Find a job that makes you happy

5 ingredients for a job that makes you happy

Practically every one of us would naturally love to pursue his or her dream job. But what does "dream job" actually mean? For some, it means a job that's easy to do and pays well. Others hope to find their true passion through a moment of deep self-knowledge and then earn money with it. Still others burn to positively impact the world around them with their work.

So is our personal dream job as unique as we are? Or are there specific characteristics that would make most of us happy at work?

During the last decades, a whole lot of psychologists have pounced on this topic and thoroughly researched it. With success. They have found five essential ingredients. Five crucial ingredients with which you can find out when a job really makes you happy.

1. your work challenges you

When does a job make you happy? Happiness at work

Research has shown that your actual happiness at work depends only to a limited extent on your income, status and the like. What really makes the difference is what you do at work, day after day, hour after hour.
Is your job so boring that you regularly drift off with your thoughts or do you regularly get the feeling that you are completely absorbed in your work and forget everything around you?

The latter is also known as the flow state. The flow state is a kind of rush of activity in which you experience intense feelings of happiness while completing a task that is right for you.

If you regularly get into a flow state at work, you'll automatically be happier with your job. But how can you tell that you can easily experience a flow state at your job? 
Here are a few characteristics of flow-enhancing work:

  1. You have a certain level of Freedom to decide how you do your work.
  2. The beginning and the end of a task is clearly defined.
  3. You have Variety in your activity.
  4. You get clear feedbackwhich shows you how successful you are in performing your work.
  5. Your work doesn't overwhelm you, but it's also not too easy so that it bores you. 
    Think of it like climbing a mountain: If the mountain is too flat, the climb bores you. If it's too steep, it frustrates you. To get into the flow state, the mountain has to be steep enough to challenge your abilities without overtaxing them. In this way, you get closer to your goal and feel competent enough to reach it.

    Applied to your work, this means that your sense of accomplishment in doing your job and feeling like you're making progress with your work are crucial to stimulating and happy work.

    The prerequisite for a sense of achievement in your job is, in turn, that you are good at your job. This leads me to the next ingredient.

2. you are good at your job

Being good at your job gives you a sense of accomplishment and competence, which is considered one of the main components of a happy life in psychological happiness research.

It also improves your prospects for getting other ingredients of a fulfilling job: if you do your job well, you are much more likely to have the opportunity to work on exciting projects, to get stimulating and interesting work assignments, or to be able to do your job more freely. If others appreciate your work, you will be in a very good position to ask for more favorable working conditions in return.

Therefore, your skills in a job are at least as important as your interest in it. This does not mean that you should only do a job that you are already good at. But you should at least have the potential to become good at the job. 

3. you have a supportive work environment

Even if you go from one flow state to the next at your job and have masses of feelings of success, the whole thing will have a bitter taste if you don't like the people at your workplace.

Since good interpersonal relationships are a significant part of a fulfilling life, getting along with your colleagues is important for a happy job. You don't have to love every single one of them, of course. However, if you can get along with at least a few of them, it will create a much happier framework for your work.

We basically like those people who are like ourselves or those who are like we would like to be. So if your work colleagues have similar values and philosophies of life as you, the probability that you will find each other likeable increases drastically.

At least as important as sympathy, though, is supporting each other in your job: according to studies, perhaps the most important sign of job satisfaction is whether your colleagues help you when you're having trouble at work.

Conclusion: When we think about our dream job, we often only think about the work itself. But the people you work with is another important consideration. Just as frustrating colleagues and moody bosses can ruin even your biggest dream job, if you work with the right people, you can still have fun with less exciting tasks. When choosing a job, ask yourself if your future colleagues share your values to some degree and if you would feel comfortable working with them. And most importantly, does the work culture there encourage you to support each other?  

4. you have the right framework

For your job to make you happy, it should fulfill your basic needs. That means things like:

  1. Reasonable working hours: Working very long hours can cause you to neglect important areas of your personal life. Not having enough time for family, friends, relationship partners, hobbies and the like can throw your life out of balance. In addition, if you feel that your job conflicts with your personal life because you work too long, you will probably find it less fulfilling. If, on the other hand, your job is compatible with your personal life, you will automatically feel more satisfied with it.
  2. Security of your workplace: Numerous studies show that when job insecurity is higher, people experience less satisfaction at work. If you are constantly afraid of losing your job, the resulting stress will significantly affect your work. Not only can your performance suffer, but also how happy you are with your job.
  3. Fair Salary: If you make less money than you think you actually "deserve," your job satisfaction is likely to suffer. For example, if people who do the same or a similar job as you earn more, you will most likely feel unfairly treated. Therefore, in any case, make sure that you are paid appropriately, including special payments such as capital-forming benefits.

Although these points seem fairly self-evident, they are repeatedly overlooked. The negative consequences of working too long, for example, can undermine many positive aspects of an otherwise attractive job. 

5. you work for more than your paycheck

More and more psychological research shows that help others is a major component of a fulfilled life: Doing favors for other people makes people happy. Namely, especially the person who does the favor. Moreover, people who do volunteer work are healthier and less depressed. What does this tell us?

First of all, of course, that it makes us feel good to help others. If you do a job that helps other people, it will significantly increase your chances of being happy with your job. For example, a generalist nursing training meet with the best job opportunities in nursing or daycare. But it goes even further.

We humans want to experience our lives as meaningful and significant. When you help others with your work, you are contributing to something bigger than yourself. This makes you feel part of a greater whole, which can give your life exactly this meaning and significance. 

You can have all the other four ingredients, but still find your work meaningless. If you see a deeper meaning in your work (whatever that may be), then you will feel a deep sense of fulfillment from your job.

So a job can make you happy

To be happy in your job, do something that makes a positive difference in the world. If you are good at your job and others see your work as valuable, many career opportunities will open up to you, giving you the best chance of finding a dream job (if you don't have it by then) with all the other ingredients: stimulating work, good colleagues and the right environment.

If you put making a valuable contribution to the world first and "give back" in this way, you will develop a passion for what you do. Also, other people will feel inclined to support you. People with such a "giver mentality" are so often among the most successful people. On the one hand, because they get more help and, on the other hand, because they are driven by a greater motivation due to the feeling of meaningfulness of their work.

But one big question about "jobs that make you happy" is still unanswered:

How do you find jobs that make you happy and help society?

You don't even have to search long for it. Under the tab "Jobs" you will find the new sustainable job portal at CareElite.

Whether you want to help people, actively shape society, or you simply want to work in a sustainable company: here you can use some available filter functions to search specifically for a sustainable job that suits you.

If you make a positive contribution with a sustainable job, you will directly or indirectly help other people, making their lives better and perhaps happier. But as we learned earlier, your positive contribution will probably make you happiest yourself.

Do you have questions, tips and your own experiences with happiness on the job? Then I look forward to your comment under this article.

Many greetings,

PS.: In the Work & Finance Blog you will find more valuable tips for a happy everyday life. For example, use the Tips for more energy in everyday lifeto be more alert, focused and successful both professionally and privately.

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate links. If you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, because I get a small share of the sales revenue - and of course the product price does not change. Thank you for your support and best regards, Christoph!


Jonathan Horn

Hi, my name is Jonathan and I'm an aspiring psychologist. My goal is to help people overcome the hurdles in their lives and hit the ground running. To that end, I serve up life-changing psychological insights on a light-hearted blog video silver platter here at CareElite.

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