Good (Career) Wellbeing Promotes Good Financial Health - And It Just Makes You Happier, Too!

Posted by Michael Kitces on Monday, December 6th, 4:08 pm, 2010 in Human Capital

In the research on Wellbeing, nothing is more important than being able to wake up every morning with something to look forward to doing that day. The impact of having high Career Wellbeing on happiness exceeds even the benefits of having good financial health. On the other hand, part of the value of having a positive career is its ability to propel your financial wellbeing forward as well! Yet the research is also clear that while career wellbeing promotes financial health, it's not about how much money you make!

The inspiration for today's blog post is another chapter from the book "Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements" by Tom Rath and Jim Harter. As I discussed in a blog post last week on Financial Wellbeing, the book's researchers explore the results of a series of broad, globally based research projects that look at what brings about happiness and wellbing, that spans cultures, populations, and countries.

In their chapter on Career Wellbeing, the authors make the point of how utterly crucial Career Wellbeing is to our overall happiness. As they state:

'Do you like what you do each day?'

This might be the most basic, yet important, wellbeing question we can ask ourselves. Yet only 20% of people can give a strong "yes" in response.

Notably, this isn't just about how much money you make at your job. Career wellbeing exists at a more basic level; it's about enjoying what you do, and having a purpose in life. It supports your personal identity. It helps to bring about social interaction and community. There is evidence that it even impacts our physical wellbeing; higher levels of career satisfaction are associated with improved physical health, from lower cholesterol to a reduced chance of depression.

And the greatest key to having a positive career experience? Having the opportunity to focus on using your strengths; in other words, do what you do best is not only sound business advice, it's actually the foundation for personal happiness.

The upshot, though, is that while the impact of a good career experience is so crucial for personal wellbeing, it also happens to support financial success as well! Those who thrive in what they do when they wake up each day learn more, perform better, and are more engaged in their jobs - sound like any criteria that your boss might use to determine your advancement or your business might use to succeed even more? A lifetime of focusing on your strengths to enjoy your career means a dramatically increased likelihood of career advancement as well, and the financial benefits that go with it. And if you use those newfound financial resources the right way, your financial wellbeing and happiness go even further!

So what should you do if you're not high on the career wellbeing meter right now? Simply put - you need to find something new to do. No, that doesn't necessarily mean you should quit your job on the spot and put your financial health at risk. But at the same time, it does mean that finding a job that you look forward to every morning might arguably be the most important thing you can ever do to improve your life. Getting a job where you can use your strengths, have a boss who values you, and work with colleagues with whom you have a shared mission, will advance your life far more than the next clothing or television you buy, or the next vacation that you take.

I realize that it's not easy to just "get that dream job" - especially in today's environment - but make sure its importance is at the top of your list. If you have to save money to be able to afford to make a career transition, start saving. If it's going to take you a long time to find the right job, start looking. If you don't know what you enjoy doing in the first place, sit down for a few minutes and think about what your strengths are, and what you enjoy doing, or get help identifying those strengths if you need more assistance.

The most important point, though, is that earning a great income is a very minor factor on the list of what promotes great career wellbeing. Beyond having the financial wealth necessary to afford the basic necessities of life, having a positive career experience is far more important than having a high income career that just lets you "buy more stuff." And at the same time, being in the "right" job can leave you so engaged and successful in your work, it actually can be the path to greater financial wealth, too!

So the bottom line is that if you don't look forward to what you do when you wake up every morning, find something new to do. Because this really is the best way to have a better life, where your career - and the better income you may earn from it - can advance your happiness every day. But in the initial step, focus on what you will be doing, whether it ties in to your strengths, who your boss will be, and who you will be working with; those factors are all more important than how much you will earn, and they are within your control when you search for a job. Why would you put that off any longer?

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