Not Happy at Work? Three Questions to Ask Before Seeking a Change

Not Happy at Work? Three Questions to Ask Before Seeking a Change

“A state of well-being and contentment; a pleasurable or satisfying experience” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of happiness.

Happiness is an elusive concept and means different things to different people and changes over time. Volumes have been written happiness for centuries. Sometimes it feels like understanding happiness can be as challenging as actually experiencing it. In our work lives there are many paths to happiness (and unhappiness) and those paths are different for different people. The key thing is to be aware of why you make the choices you do in your life and to understand the impact those choices have on you happiness.

Do I want (or need) to earn more money?

Making money is the main reason most of us work the way we do. Upward mobility through increased income is a key part of the traditional “American Dream.” The recession in the United States that started in 2008 still reverberates through the job market today. People with jobs often experience very little growth in income, raises are small and promotions are infrequent. Job switching within the same industry is now the best opportunity most of us have to earn more. If you like the kind of work you do but need more income to cover basic needs and provide for your family, then consider a job change.

Does the work I do have purpose?

Purpose in work means feeling connected to something outside yourself, bigger than yourself. Humans are social by design and we need to be with others to thrive. The feeling we have of purpose often depends on the impact our work has on our community, nation, or world at large. Feeling confused about your purpose is extremely common. Our minds become habituated to certain patterns of thought that can make it more difficult to see new opportunities. Defining your purpose and aligning it with your existing work skills and experience is challenging to do alone. Put together a support team of friends, family, co-workers, and experts who can help.

Is my life balanced?

Work/life balance is something we all want and usually find difficult to achieve. Part of the difficulty is in recognizing that “balance” changes over time. It is a moving target. All of us decide to make sacrifices to meet immediate and medium-term goals (e.g., send the kids to college). The challenge is to find a balance that provides you with a satisfying and fulfilling life. We know when the balance is off – work is draining, all consuming – and leaves little left for your family and activities you enjoy. Like purpose, you may have some ideas about how to reset the balance point. But knowing what specific steps to take and when to take them can be elusive. This is another area where your support team can help.


Self-awareness is the main outcome of these questions. Know yourself, be aware of your circumstances and the choices you have made. If you need support developing this awareness and in putting together a plan for change, please consider our career counseling services. Contact us at We have proven methods to help you make career changes so you can be happy, however you define it.