Think You Need a New Job? You're Probably Wrong

Last Updated Jan 6, 2011 2:59 PM EST

If landing a new job is on your resolution list, I'm encouraging you to scratch it off. Most people want to change jobs for the wrong reasons-namely, to solve non-work problems. Here's why that's faulty thinking:

When it comes to careers, there is not a right answer.
There is not one, certain kind of job that is right for you. There are lots of jobs that are a good fit for your personality, and it's likely that you are doing one of those jobs already. The problem is that many people think they should be doing something else with their life - people often have an idea of who they should be that is different than who they are. And this is what makes people think they should change careers.

My favorite career guide is Do What Your Are, by Paul Tieger. Tieger is a psychologist who specializes in matching people's personalities with jobs. He says you should spend the effort figuring out who you really are and what drives you so that you can land a job that let's you use your strengths. This book taught me that every job is fulfilling to someone; it's just a matter of proper matching. And what makes a job fulfilling is not about the company you're at, or the perceived quality of your career path.

I bet you are thinking, "Well, some jobs are definitely bad: coal mining would be too much for me." That might be true, but the same is true with being a lawyer: Both jobs totally suck. The reason is that you need only three things to make any job good:
  • Control over your work environment
  • Control over your workload
  • Challenging goals you can meet
If you have these three things then your job will not prevent you from being happy. Coal mining does not give you control over your environment, so you constantly fear for your safety. Lawyering does not give you control over your workload, so you have to cater at your client's whim if you want to keep your income stream.

So why do people continue to talk about the perfect job, the best job, the most successful, and on and on? I think it's because it's so hard to turn inward, and to admit our limitations. Isn't it easier just to chase a new job?

So what will make you happier?
If you're not married, refocus your search from jobs to a spouse. Sound crazy? It's not. The biggest factor we can change to improve our lives is our relationships with other adults. I know this is not politically correct, but married people are happier, by a long shot, than unmarried people. Sure, this might be self-fulfilling: people who are happier find a mate; people who are more optimistic get married. But whatever the reason, your happiness will go up significantly if you get married.

If you are married, instead of dumping your job, dump your plans to have kids. I know, I know....but here's the deal: Kids do not make parents happier. Really. There is research to show this. It's not that they make you unhappy, but on balance, they take up all your time and energy and make marriage more difficult.

Changing a career is so time consuming and emotionally challenging. Maybe you'll get a job, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll like the new career, maybe you won't. What about taking all that energy you were going to expend on your work life, and teach yourself to meditate. The research behind meditation is so overwhelmingly positive that meditation is now mandatory for marines. So much of life is playing the odds: I say, gamble on meditation, not your job.

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