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How to find a career that makes you happy

by Susan Muldowney
Posted: October 22, 2020

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**This is an updated post**

Ah, the age-old golden question - how do I find a career that makes me happy? Ask yourself, what does purpose at work mean for you? Today, we’re seeing more people choosing jobs or changing their career to find greater personal fulfilment in charities, not-for-profits and ethical organisations.

Jane Hutchison had been working as a lawyer in Sydney for more than five years when she realised that something was missing in her career. She was paid well, she liked her colleagues and most of her clients were quite pleasant, too. What was there to be unhappy about?

It took Jane months to realise it wasn’t the ‘what’ that was missing in her career. It was the ‘why’. She’d been going to work every day without a sense of purpose.

The pursuit of happiness

Times have changed. People today want a job that can offer them not only stability and growth, but fulfillment, too. An increasing number of job-seekers today?are looking for a career that contributes to more than their bank balance. 

Fuelled by your values and driven by your passions, a career with purpose provides a sense of fulfilment, which can help satisfy one of life’s greatest desires – happiness.

Jane understands this well – she left her legal job to join Cancer Council Australia, where she now helps increase the sponsorship funds that assist the organisation in reducing the impact of the disease.

“I realised that I wanted to achieve more satisfaction from my job,” Jane says. “I know that sounds clichéd, but it was about delivering more purpose into my career and my professional life.”

When Jane Hutchison realised that her job was no longer fulfilling her, she decided to find one that would.  

Related: A quick guide to working in the not-for-profit sector


 Instagram: @cancercouncil / Image via 

What do employees want from a company?

Deloitte recently published ‘The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020’. This is an interesting survey to deep dive into, because it shows responses from Millenials and Gen Z taken before and after the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic across the globe.   

The report found that 76% of Millennials and 74% of Gen Z respondents surveyed said that the Covid-19 pandemic had “reinforced their desire to help drive positive change in their communities”. Positive change, social justice and being community-minded are important issues for the younger generations. Millennials and Gen Z are conscious of their individual actions and how they affect the world around them. Working for a company whose ideals match their own is important, whether or not that company is a NFP.  

In addition, the report also found that while younger workers were satisfied with their employers, this did not necessarily mean they had an overall positive view of them.  

The report states that: “In the primary survey (pre-Covid), barely half of millennials (51%) said business is a force for good, down from 76% just three years ago and 55% last year… Only 41% of millennials (and 43% of Gen Zs) in pulse countries (post-Covid) agreed that business in general around the world was having a positive impact on wider society.” 

What kind of career path do you want to follow?

What’s in it for you? 

If you’re dedicating years of your life to a career, why not choose one that makes you happy? This is a recurring question within the job market.  

Millenials and Gen Z believe more strongly than any other that a career should bring fulfillment and?meaning to life.? 

Pam Macdonald, Director of career coaching and training organisation, Broadspring Consulting, says younger job-seekers are driven by purpose because that’s how they were raised. “For many people who started work in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was a time of Gordon Gekko greed and some people found that quite unsatisfying."

"I think that generation has raised their children to believe that there’s more to life than just money. People are being driven more by altruism and wanting to give back.”

But it’s not just young job-seekers who are looking for purpose in their career. David Lang,  former Trainer for Human Resources Management at Open Colleges, says older generations are beginning to seek it, too.

“A lot of these people have been working hard for decades and they’re beginning to ask themselves, ‘For what? What’s in it for me?’ More companies are also realising that this sense of purpose is an important motivator for employees.”

More and more people are searching for career paths that are fulfilling, and with companies’ whose values align with their own. 

What makes you tick?

Most people know what makes them happy in their personal life. Translating this to your professional life often requires help. “What does fulfilment look like to you? Is it providing an important service, solving a problem or working for a valuable cause? These are questions you need to be able to answer so you can understand your purpose,” says Pam Macdonald.

Before you start thinking about a specific career, work out what makes you tick. “The first step is always to ask yourself what you enjoy doing and why it makes you happy,” adds Pam. “Define your purpose first, then target the career that will serve it and start narrowing down the jobs.

"It may not be in the non-profit sector. You might find a more fulfilling role with your current employer. I think some people are looking at roles where they might be at the edge of helping a company to change, and that that can be a very satisfying thing.”

Volunteering can also help you narrow your focus. 

Nearly one-in-five people volunteered in the 12 months prior to the 2016 Census, the data found.  

“It might even be possible to do volunteer work within your company,” says Macdonald. “Some of the big corporates are looking at issues of staff turnover and retention, and are realising that employee volunteer programs can help with job satisfaction.” 

Many happy returns

One-time lawyer Jane Hutchison says she couldn’t be happier with her new role as the Cancer Council Australia’s National Corporate Partnerships Manager.  

“It’s a cause I really believe in,” Jane says. “We’ve all been touched by cancer in some way, so it’s something that resonates not only for me, but for a lot of people in Australia. 

"Working with other people who believe passionately in the cause also makes the job so satisfying. We have a clear purpose and we’re working toward something that really matters.” 

If you’re looking for a job that will help make a difference to the lives of others, then take a look at some of OC’s online courses in Community ServicesHealth and Education and Childcare.  






Susan Muldowney

Susan Muldowney is a Melbourne-based writer and editor specialising in business, design and architecture. When she's not working she spends her time plotting her next holiday.

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