Throughout my childhood and teenage years, it was drilled into me by well meaning adults that in order to be successful once I was working in the big wide world, I would need to get a good, stable 9-5 job in an office, preferably with a company pension.
Being happy at work supposedly went hand in hand with this vision. To achieve all this, I would need to work hard in school and of course, for the rest of my working life.
Some of this is obviously true. Working hard and earning a decent wage surely does mean that you have more chance of financial success. A company pension would be a great to have should you manage to get a job that has such a perk.
These well meaning adults were so proud of me when I actually did exactly this – worked hard and moved slowly up the corporate ladder into a position that paid well and looked good on my CV.
I should have been happy shouldn’t I?
Just because it looked like I was doing really well for myself, unfortunately didn’t mean that I was deliriously happy in my job. I felt the opposite in fact! For a long time, I worked in various clerical roles before moving into the Marketing field where the 9-5 working day became a tedious 8-8 slog.
This doesn’t happen to everyone working in Marketing by any means, but for me in my place of work, it did. There was an unwritten rule where once a person reached a certain level in the company, they had to stay as late or later than the boss. And more often than not, the additional workload made sure that we did have to stay late and come back in before breakfast.
Yes, I earned good money back then. But I was incredibly stressed and unhappy. I rewarded myself by buying ‘things’ and going on great holidays. Even though I earned good money, I racked up debt because it still wasn’t enough to fund the lifestyle that I wanted and needed – the ‘successful’ lifestyle that I did in fact seem to have on the outside! My family were proud of me on the face of it all. My teachers would have been proud of me too if they could have seen the career I was carving out for myself.
My last corporate job in the Marketing field was in a ‘good’ company to work for with all the right benefits. Training was readily available and I did make the most of that because I enjoyed learning the principles of Marketing, but the bottom line is that the corporate battlefield wasn’t for me! Despite everything looking rosy on the outside, I actually felt imprisoned by the choices I’d made so far in my working life. I seemed to have chosen the wrong path and I just wanted to be free!
At one point during this horrible phase I was going through and when the debts were at an all time high, I was diagnosed with depression. But I didn’t take any time off work. I had a 100% attendance record – I went in whether I was well or not.
I couldn’t take the plunge and quit my job; my defenses were weakened and I just couldn’t make the decision to do it. So I plodded on being unhappy and stressed. The hubby and I seemed to be broke ALL the time and the debts were becoming a massive burden. We didn’t seem to think or plan ahead for anything and kept putting off overpaying our debts because we never seemed to have the money to make any extra payments. This added stress meant that I felt like we were heavily dependent upon my well paid job.
Then, one fortunate day, we found out I was pregnant. We started to find money to save up to make sure we would survive when I was due for maternity leave. We cut out luxuries like Sky TV and shopped around to make sure we were getting the best deals on all our service providers. The thought of this little life inside me that would soon be very real just made us get on and start sorting things out!
Once my daughter was born, the hubby and I realised that we could in fact live on a lot less than we thought! We made a huge saving by not eating out/drinking out on the town. We didn’t have much time for that with a newborn plus we couldn’t afford a regular babysitter. I lasted a whole year on maternity leave with the savings that I’d tucked away whilst working.
Eventually, the time came for me to go back to work. The thought of going back to that job, the politics and bureaucracy, the daily grind and work overload was all I could think about despite the good wages – I was dreading it before I even had confirmation of my start back date. I knew that I would never be happy doing what I was doing before.
However, my inner strength shone through at last as my emotions had been repaired somewhat whilst I was on maternity leave. I figured out that my daughter was way more important than the stressful job I had and more important than the wage I was previously earning. I talked it through with the hubby who completely understood how I was feeling and was really supportive, so I made my decision and quit my job. I was supposed to work 3 months notice but I’d accrued so much holiday whilst being on leave that they just let me go. It was the third happiest day of my life!
I was still really worried about money and our level of debt was high when I made this decision. But I knew deep down that if I could earn a small amount of money to cover the bills, we would be able to survive because I’d spent a year practicing for it! Having my daughter made me realise what’s really important in my life. Being happy.
The importance of being happy at work
Success at work is not just about a good wage and a company pension. We spend so much time at work, so being happy at work is really important, not just for financial success, but for our health and spirit too. When I was feeling stressed at work, I didn’t want to exercise and eat healthily, in fact, I turned to junk food frequently and drank more than a little wine to escape from everything once in a while. Yet our health is what will really matter to us when we retire!
How can you aim to be both successful and happy at work?
- Figure out your passion – something that you really enjoy doing outside of work for example.
- Identify your key skills – what are you good at or have expert knowledge about?
- What environment do you work best in – on your own, in a team, in an office, at home or even the great outdoors?
- Work out what motivates you (other than money!) – e.g. flexible working so you can spending time with family, opportunities for learning or the chance to travel?
If your current job role/career means that you’re ticking off all the above points and are happy doing what you’re doing, that’s great! But if your current job entails something completely different to the answers you’ve noted for the above points and you’re not that happy at work, then it might be time to try something new. Out of your answers, highlight some words that stand out to you. Flexible working? Good at crafts? Like working independently? Google some of these terms and see what comes up. Start making a list of all the professions/jobs that incorporate your passion, your skills, your preferred environment and your motivation factor and go from there.
I spent a lot of time moving up the rungs of the corporate ladder before I realised that it wasn’t for me. But I couldn’t see the path that I wanted to take because by the time I understood that I’d made the wrong choice, I was up to my neck in debt and all of a sudden, I felt like I didn’t have another choice full stop! But I was wrong, because I did. It took the birth of my daughter to make me take a step back and really look at my priorities.
Nowadays, I have a small business operating from home. I’m not exactly where I want to be just yet but I’m a step closer and a lot happier now in my work than ever before. I love being self employed, it really does enable me to work flexibly and think about other options. I know that working for myself is what I want to continue doing going forwards and the great thing is that I can create multiple income streams if I try hard enough. That’s what I intend to do in the future!
What does being happy at work mean to you? What are the challenges you’ve faced so far in your career?
- How to stop wanting stuff that you can’t afford.
- Winning the lottery or making your own fortune, what’s your dream?
- Increase your happiness – and your wealth: just say No!
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net