They say work is what you make of it, but actually it seems to be what others make of you at work that matters.
If only careers advisors made that a lot clearer.
My experience suggests that happiness comes down to just five factors: politics, bravery, support, listening, hinterland. Understanding their significance may be the key to being cheerfully fulfilled as opposed to merely miserably occupied.
Politics first. Every company claims to have little or no internal politics. Ha! Frankly, the Moon is more likely to be made of cheese. Every organisation is riven with plays for power or position.
The best advise for dealing with the politics-that-are-not-there is to remember at the outset that power does not always lie with the job title, you, or wherever else it should. Observation and information are key.
There can also be simmering resentments within a company which can only be teased out through sometimes counterintuitive meetings, which preferably take place before signing employment contracts: Down the pub, for example, or over a coffee. And instincts need to be trusted if tensions are detected.
Bravery, which is also known as admitting a bad choice after signing on the dotted line. Sometimes we join organisations because they want us, only to find our values to be completely different, or our expectations some magnificent self-delusion; and this discovery is frequently made within a few days of starting work.
We know deep down that we need to step away, but press on anyway. The dawning prospect of leaving a job quickly and having an awkward employment record seems too big a risk.
But take it. Far better to leave a job where you may either be forced to compromise, feel unfulfilled, or be bored into incapacity, than hang on and be tainted.
One of my professional mentors advised this: "Contacts will respect you for taking the brave decision and will follow you." He was right.
Support: Yes, you do need it. There is a temptation to think strong-minded means right-minded. Not always. I have had to learn to take challengers and the advice others with better grace than my instinct sometimes would have allowed.
Listen: Sometimes we don't. I have been the same, rushing to decisions and not respecting those who take longer to get there. In other words, it pays to respect the tortoise, not just the hare.
A hinterland: Which is what you need to work best. This is that precarious space between labour and life outside that we sometimes ignore or leave overgrown and neglected. The result can be burn out, lack of perspective, depression and panic. We all need to remember that a job is better performed, enjoyed and developed when other aspects of life are in some sort of harmony.
So, I recommend holding an honest mirror to your job, not a distorting one. Happiness in work is not entirely in our gift, but greater awareness of our work certainly is and certainly helps.