Smarter Working

How to Know If You're Happy in Your Job

A litmus test for if you’re in a rut or really need a change.

“Do you like your job?” 

It’s a question that some people can answer swiftly and honestly: “Yes, I love it!” Or, “No, I need to get out.”

But for many others, the answer is somewhere in between. Maybe your job made you happy once, but you’re not sure anymore. Maybe you like your job well enough, but have the nagging feeling of wanting to do something else. Maybe you’re so stressed out you haven’t even thought about it lately. “Job satisfaction is a multidimensional topic that isn’t always easy to understand,” says Jennice Vilhauer, manager for Korn Ferry’s Search Assessment practice. “Someone can be satisfied with one aspect of their job but very dissatisfied with another aspect.”

Of course, it doesn’t help that almost anywhere we look, we hear that we should be happy in our jobs. But defining whether or not we’re truly happy isn’t so clear-cut. So we grilled career professionals to try to create a litmus test of sorts to figure out the answer to this confounding question. Below, four questions that can help you decipher a smiley face from a frown. 

How serious are my Sunday-night blues?

It’s normal to feel a bit bummed that the weekend is coming to a close, but when that feeling becomes dread or even physical nausea, career experts say it’s time to examine what’s going on. Jonas, a former marketing professional, realized he was miserable in his job when he would shun all friends and family on Sunday nights—even his live-in girlfriend—to go wallow and binge on YouTube videos all night. “It was almost like I was prepping for a funeral,” he says.

Do I feel appreciated by my boss and coworkers?

One of the major predictors of job satisfaction is the relationship you have with your colleagues and your boss. After all, the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs is because of their boss. Ask yourself how you feel about the people you see every day: Are you learning from them? Do you feel you can trust them? Do you find ways to laugh together? Career professionals say your answers will help you gauge your own happiness. 

Do I enjoy what I do at least 80% of the time?

You’re bound to have a bad week here or there, but if you find yourself feeling constantly drained and frustrated, that’s a sign something needs to change.

An important piece of all this is determining whether your uncertainty or doubtfulness about work is stemming from burnout or deep unhappiness. One way to figure that out is to get some distance in the form of a vacation or staycation. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but the key is to disconnect, preferably for at least a week or two. “I don’t think people plan their vacations strategically,” says executive coach and career strategist Lindsay Broder. “Most people don’t disconnect. They don’t give their brains a rest.”

Another piece of this puzzle is determining whether you need to switch out of your role—or company—in order to be happier. If you think your supervisor might be receptive to making changes that could help, it’s worth a conversation. “Situations that allow us to express natural talents and tendencies help us feel engaged,” Vilhauer says. “If you’re a highly creative person, for example, but your job is mostly tactical and operations drive, you might feel your creative side is being stifled.”

Do I actually care about the work I’m doing?

Observe yourself during the day. If you hear the little voice in your head constantly saying, “I don’t really care if this turns out good or bad,” that’s a sign there is a problem. Another way to tackle this is to write down the tasks you do each day and rate them from 1 to 10. If you find yourself giving lots of eights or above, great. If you find that most of your tasks fall below that, then it may be time for a change.

take our career resiliency quiz
take our career resiliency quiz