What makes you happy?

Not too long ago, Forbes.com published some of the results of a survey (65,000 people responded to the survey) by CareerBliss.com that attempts to tell us what the “Happiest and Unhappiest Jobs” are. Even before I read about this, the title alone made me uncomfortable. How can there be a list like that? We all have such different criteria for what makes us happy at work that I couldn’t imagine I would agree with their findings about “happy” jobs.

You can peruse the list of happy and unhappy jobs on the CareerBliss.com site and decide for yourself if you think these jobs would make you happy, but what I want to talk about today is the way that they established the list. On their website, they have the following explanation for the methodology behind their survey:

The CareerBliss data evaluates the key factors which affect work happiness, including: work-life balance, one’s relationship with their boss and co-workers, their work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture, company reputation, their daily tasks, and job control over the work that they do on a daily basis. The data accounts for how an employee values each factor as well as how important that factor is to the employee’s overall happiness. Each review is given an average score indicating where the company places between one and ten. All assessments are derived from April 2011 – April 2012 employee generated reviews. The CareerBliss data also analyzed job opportunities at companies that require military experience, ranking the top 10 companies with the highest number of job openings and highest bliss rating.


What does this really tell us? Well, the list of criteria makes a lot of sense, but I’m not sure how that helps since each factor is weighted according to “how an employee values each factor as well as how important that factor is to the employee’s overall happiness.” What we end up with is a list of jobs that a lot of people like, or don’t like, because of some combination of factors that we can’t really decipher. Thus we can’t compare ourselves to the people who responded to the survey because we don’t know which criteria led to a high “bliss rating.”

I may not be making myself clear, so perhaps an example will help. The top rated job is Real Estate Agent. If it were me, the things that I would like would be having a somewhat flexible schedule (depending on who you worked for, how long you had worked there, and how productive you were) and the direct relationship between effort expended and compensation. But for many people, the lack of a regular (predictable) income, the inability to keep to a regular schedule, and the variability based on geographic location (great job if you’re in a growing area, but pretty terrible in a depressed market), would take away from any “bliss” that you might feel.

So I guess my final thought is: Take these survey results with a grain of salt. Think about what makes you happy, do research on jobs that may be of interest, and try to find a career that is going to provide the specific elements that comprise your vision of happiness!