How To Be Happier At Work: 5 Ingredients for Career Satisfaction

We are often defined by what we do (e.g. I'm an... entrepreneur, analyst, engineer, pastor, etc.) Our jobs consume our most valuable time, attention, and energy (and a lot of it since American's work 25% more than Europeans). If you dread going to work everyday life can be pretty miserable, and you wouldn't be alone as 70% of Americans are unhappy with their jobs? We are overworked, stressed, anxious, and bored. We are demotivated, disengaged, and continually questioning ourselves and our life's path. We've hopped from job to job, career to career, and still the problem persists. 

Yet, aren't we suppose to 'love what we do?' And then we'll never work another day in our life? Aren't we just suppose to 'find' our 'passion', our 'dream job', and something we are 'interested in' and everything will be OK? In a world of work with ping-pong tables, kegerators, flexible schedules, and team-building, shouldn't we be happier? Something is seriously amiss. 

This article we will explore some of the grim workplace happiness and satisfaction statistics,  overview the 5 researched based components of career satisfaction, and pose another approach to being happier at work (and it's not about finding your passion). 


  • Less than half, 47.7%, of Americans are satisfied with their jobs and a whopping 
  • Only 33% of employees are engaged at work (meaning about 70% feel disconnected to their work and are only doing the bare minimum).
  • 51% of people are currently looking for new jobs. 
  • 77% of people do not directly use their college degree or have a job related to their major. 
  • Millennials change jobs every 3.2 years, holding 10-15 different jobs throughout their professional career. 


Have you thought or said these before? Career theorist, John Krumbotz outline the 7 dysfunctional career beliefs that suck the joy from our professional/academic lives and make decision making really difficult:

  • "Career development involves only one decision."
  • “If I change, I have failed.”
  • "I must be absolutely certain before I can act.”
  • “My work should satisfy all my needs.”
  • “I can do anything as long as I’m willing to work hard enough.”
  • “If I can just do this, then I will be happy.”
  • “My worth as a person is integrally related to my occupation.”
Centennial Life Coaching


  1. MEETING BASIC NEEDS (INCOME): Think of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, if we do not make enough to afford food, shelter, clothes, transportation, etc. then happiness goes out the window. Earning enough money fortifies our day-in day-out emotional well being (up to a certain point). Check out this map to see how much you need to make state by state. 

  2. CONNECTION: We can do some pretty crappy jobs if we love who we work with. A sense of connection, belonging, and trust is critical to being engaged at work. This is why work place 'culture' is so important. 

  3. AUTONOMY: Having a say over what you do, when you do it, and how you do it is essential to controlling our own destinies at work.  Autonomy (essentially having choices and freedom) increases a sense of trust, responsibility, and self-efficacy.

  4. MASTERY: We need a sense of accomplishment, growth, and progress in order to be satisfied in our careers and life. We motivated when working on tasks that are not too difficult (getting frustrated and quitting) nor too easy (getting bored and quitting), rather having a job that challenges us for growth and improvement and mastery. 

  5. MEANING: Working towards something that is bigger than ourselves, having a sense of purpose, is critical to happiness and is at the core of motivation. When we know that our job is going to create an impact, make a difference, or change something for the good, we can keep going on the toughest of days.


"Finding" a job that provides the 5 key ingredients is really rare. People spend hours, months, and years chronically job searching and career switching, hoping the 'next job' will make them happier. We spend our lives 'searching' for our 'passions,' 'interests,' and what we 'love to do' which only increases frustration, anxiety, and longing for something more.

The best way to predict your future is to create it. - Abraham Lincoln 

I believe there is a better way. I believe that we can create, cultivate and construct our careers. I believe we can increase confidence, control and clarity in our lives. I believe we can sketch out more happy, healthy, successful lives. 

Denver Career Coach

Sketch Your Future Today

My name is Scott Treas, I provide life coaching, career counseling and therapy for teens and young adults struggling in LifeSketching an engaging, exciting and meaningful career. For over 12 years I've helped young people design plans for more happy, healthy, successful lives; while developing the skills, strategies, and techniques that make change possible. As a licensed professional counselor, I provide life coaching and therapy for young men in the Littleton Colorado area.