Written by Robin Reshwan
Think fulfilling careers require your employer to offer free food, massages and pay better than the market? Think again. You don't need to work for a unicorn tech company to find happiness at work. Research shows that true professional satisfaction stems at least partially from factors within your individual control.
Read on to learn about three things you can do today to increase your joy in your job.
Think about the big picture.
Being intentional is essential to achieving goals and feeling satisfied about your accomplishments. Part of being intentional means taking a big-picture view of daily tasks and responsibilities. Doing so can boost happiness at work by underscoring their value and putting the time they require into perspective, according to research by psychology and marketing professors Jennifer Aaker, Cassie Mogilner Holmes and Hal Hershfield. They write that "this elevated perspective involves optimizing one's weeks, rather than any given moment."
With a larger purpose in mind, you can turn convert tasks from mundane to meaningful. You may already have productivity goals created with your manager, but you should strive to set one or two each month, quarter or year that are exclusively for your own development, then look for ways to reach them through your daily work.
Maybe you want to strengthen your public speaking skills. With that in mind, the short departmental update you have to give every week can turn into an opportunity to get closer to your goal by engaging your audience and shifting co-workers' perspectives of your value.
Look for opportunities to learn.
Lifelong learning is beneficial for your career. Its value extends to employees and also to their organizations, which reap the benefits of a better-educated and better-trained workforce. Additionally, using your brain to grow and learn raises your engagement at work.
Only 32 percent of employees are very satisfied with the commitment their organizations demonstrate toward professional development opportunities, according to a 2017 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management. Luckily, your employer does not have to be the gateway to your professional development. You can take matters into your own hands to get the same (or even better, customized) results.
Learning doesn't have to be expensive or consume a lot of time. It can be as simple as trying out different tools or seeking new environments. You can sign up for online courses, listen to podcasts, participate in webinars or attend professional association conferences. Consider taking a tutorial class to learn an advanced feature of any of the technology or productivity tools you use at work.
In short, you have control over your knowledge. Look for opportunities to strengthen it regularly.
Connect with a community.
Getting outside perspectives and having others to learn from are critically important to building fulfilling careers. Yet according to the 2019 Marketer Happiness Report, "Only a quarter of us are meeting regularly with others outside of our own companies to exchange ideas. We're often trapped in our own bubbles or echo chambers."
Seeking and building a community can be very simple. Find others in your profession who work outside of your team, then follow them on social media, schedule phone calls or attend events with them. If you aren't doing this at all, start by doing it once a year. Or you can increase the interaction frequency to quarterly, monthly or even weekly depending on your needs and goals. The effort is small, but the benefits are enormous.
Alleviating your feelings of being unhappy at work does not have to be a difficult, expensive or time-consuming process. Start with a big-picture plan, layer in learning and lean into your community. That will put you on your way to increased professional satisfaction.