We have all heard the cliché that life is too short. In a world where time is finite, we must ask ourselves why we spend our entire lives in careers that do not make us happy.
Happiness has baffled and intrigued us, which explains why the World Happiness Index is based on diverse metrics. Its prominence in career decision-making is quite recent.
Several studies over the years provide evidence that happy people tend to be more successful – and it stands to reason why people are increasingly opting for career changes or downgrades in pursuit of well-being.
This fundamental shift has prompted people to rethink their approach towards their professional lives, also known as the Great Reflection.
CHASING PASSION AND PURPOSE
A job’s primary purpose goes far beyond climbing the corporate ladder or chasing a hefty paycheck. Full-time employees in the UAE spend an average of 35 to 40 hours a week at work. For many, the realization has set in that pursuing a well-paying job does not always equate to success or a fulfilled life.
Millennials, in particular, lead this transformation, embracing uncertainty and witnessing the hardships and sacrifices made by previous generations in pursuing demanding careers.
The importance of being happy and satisfied with what you do cannot be overstated, and people are now actively seeking a sense of fulfillment that results from careers aligning with their values and passions.
Mehreen Baldoni, Creative Director of Mehreen Baldoni Interiors and former head of human resources and talent acquisition at one of the largest global banks in the UK, embodied this change by starting her entrepreneurial journey.
“The job I had demanded long hours and was challenging. I felt stuck in the corporate rut and did not feel fulfilled. Banking was something I just fell into because of my circumstances. Like everyone else, I had bills to pay. I wanted to do something which would not only get me excited but also something that would bring joy to others. Interior design ticked all those boxes. I had a flare for it and an undeniable passion, too.”
For Yasmin Rose, Founder of Rise Birth Centre, the decision to change careers arose from seeing an opportunity in an area she was passionate about. “I had enjoyed my corporate life, but working on something you find exciting does contribute to an overall feeling of well-being.” Prioritizing her passion, her version of success is being content. “I define career success as making a positive impact. The meaning of success is different for everyone, but the things that give you purpose may well make up your definition.”
Seeking fulfillment from work is self-driven and rooted in the desire to serve others. “I wanted to do something which would not only get me excited but also bring joy to others,” says Baldoni. “When you start your own business, the stakes are high. However, the benefit of this is that you see a bigger and much more direct impact of your hard work. My greatest happiness is my clients’ joy when they walk into their homes and love how everything looks and feels. That feeling makes all your hard work worth it.”
A SHIFT FOR THE BETTER
The quest for happiness is good for the economy as well. According to the latest State of the Global Workplace report, almost six in ten employees have resigned to quit quietly. Low engagement costs the global economy $8.8 trillion — 9% of the global GDP.
One of the most striking aspects of the workplace shift is the generational difference in career approach. Baby boomers and Generation X were raised to prioritize commitment to their careers, often driven by a risk-averse mindset. In contrast, Gen Z and millennials no longer adhere to traditional narratives. They view career changes or downgrades as opportunities for growth.
Shalaka Paradkar’s journey, currently Head of English Content at BPG Group, encapsulates this shift. She says, “After completing my five-year architecture course, I worked as a junior architect for a few years. While I was miserable at that job, I enjoyed exploring Mumbai city, studying heritage buildings, and talking to people who lived there. This motivated me to pitch the idea of a column on urban architecture to an editor at a top Indian newspaper. With passion and enthusiasm for the subject, I worked at some of the best media houses and learned a lot on the job.”
HOW TO DO BETTER
Companies are mindful that monetary compensation or job titles alone can no longer entice or retain employees. They recognize employee well-being’s importance and increasingly offer remote work options and mental health support.
Samar Mallah, HR Director Middle East at Savills, highlights this change in corporate thinking. “With over 70% of our regional workforce aged under 40 years, we realize that the notion of work-life balance in the corporate world can mean very different things to every generation, and the key for us is to recognize individual preferences and keep a flexible approach where possible.”
Pursuing individual passions does come with its share of challenges. Financial considerations and societal expectations often deter people eager to take the leap. However, individuals like Asavari Sehgal, Press and Communications Manager at Ishara Art Foundation, have shown that with the right support and determination, one can overcome self-doubt and find fulfillment in one’s career.
“I think it is also crucial to understand yourself and your needs at a particular time. No growth happens without sacrifice or putting yourself in uncomfortable situations.”
She succinctly says, “If you feel passionate about something, you will find a way to succeed and go up the ladder regardless. So pursue what truly makes you happy.”
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