One of the best TED talks I’ve heard is by Daniel Pink, who wrote a book called “Drive.” In it, he argues that career fulfillment (and, ultimately, happiness) pretty simply comes down to having three things in your career: mastery, autonomy, and purpose.
I’ll let him explain the details behind each directly in his own TED talk:
And if you’re interested in a super cool animated version of the talk (whiteboard strobe animation with Daniel Pink’s voiceover), check out this version (which is probably even more powerful given the imagery):
I think this is a pretty insightful way of thinking about what drives human motivation, satisfaction, and happiness. In one form or another, I believe these three things are what all of us are searching for as we plan our careers and even switch our careers.
So as you contemplate your next potential career transition, ask yourself how much mastery, autonomy, and purpose your next career switch could give you. That will provide a pretty good indication of how happy you might be in your new role after you change careers.
More broadly, if you find ways to maximize all three axes throughout your career, — even if doing so doesn’t yield the maximum possible financial return — then your days of unfulfilling work will be behind you for good.