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Money vs. Happiness: How To Decide On A Career

by Leanne Hall
Posted: August 25, 2016

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When deciding on the “best” job or career it can be impossible not to be influenced to some extent by well meaning friends and relatives. In fact, it can make the process both frustrating and confusing, writes Clinical Psychologist and TV Presenter, Leanne Hall.

Why would you want to study that, there are no jobs in that area.” 

That doesn’t pay very well does it?

Can you REALLY see yourself doing that long term?

Sound familiar? Although sometimes these types of money vs happiness questions can be really helpful, at other times they can steer you off course from what could be the perfect career or job choice for you

Money vs. happiness: What's more important?  

Girl with big hair and red jumper looking up and wondering how to decide on a career

Should you go for something you enjoy that doesn’t pay well? Or should you think first and foremost about job prospects and financial reward?

Sometimes it’s helpful to think about the answer in terms of what motivates you. If you are motivated by outside factors (extrinsic rewards), then financial reward is likely to be one of the things that helps you on how to decide on a career or job. 

Alternatively, maybe internal factors are more motivating? As such, enjoyment or happiness may be more of a motivator. Either way, having only one motivator can be a slippery slope!

Consider what happens when things get tough and work isn’t as “enjoyable” as it used to be. Or if you miss a pay rise and begin to feel that you are not being adequately financially compensated for your work? 

So how should you decide on a career? 

Money vs. happiness - what's the answer?

It’s really about knowing who you are and what makes you tick. So with that in mind, here are five questions to ask yourself before making the final “decision”.

1.    What are my strengths? 

Many people forget that reflecting on your strengths can sometimes lead you directly to the right decision. After all, research shows that if you are “good” at what you do, chances are you will enjoy it more (and be more successful!).

2.    What do I enjoy? 

Although this is related to the point above, reflecting on what you enjoy doing can also provide a good guide. Consider the active fitness fanatic contemplating an office job. If enjoyment is minimal or non-existent, and/or the job requires you to give up what you enjoy, then even the most attractive pay slip isn’t enough to stick at it!

3.    What do I know about the particular job/career? 

Do your research and speak to people currently working or studying in your chosen industry. The more informed you are, the more likely it is that your decision will be the “right” one for you.

4.    Is it realistic? 

Be honest with yourself. If you’re unsure, go back to number 1!

5.    What are the longer-term job prospects? 

It’s not a deal breaker, but it is something to consider. If the answer doesn’t look good, think about how transferable the skills/experience you gain will be.  


Two male coffee shop owners in green aprons

Never feel that any decision you make about a job or career is permanent. It’s extremely common to move around and change careers a little bit before settling on something that “fits”.

This is because as your personality develops, your priorities and goals in life shift and change. Sometimes your job and career preferences will shift and change too. Remember that your job or career must fit in with your life, and not the other way around!

Still need some help choosing a career? Get a better understanding of the career areas that you would be best suited to and take our Career Quiz: Personality Test. It takes less than 5 minutes!


Leanne Hall

Leanne has been transforming lives for over 15 years as the mind and body expert for Channel 10 and as a practising clinical psychologist. Leanne Hall motivates her patients to achieve a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle using positive psychology and “mindfulness” techniques, holistic nutrition and exercise. Leanne's expertise covers everything from how the beauty myth impacts women's self-esteem, mental health and fitness.

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