I would imagine most people aren't sure what they want to do as a career for the rest of their lives when they come out of high school, university or whatever their last educational step might be. You can't know every possibility that is available to you, and you probably never will. I worked as an accountant, a teacher, a cinema usher, customer support and fruit & vegetable sales person. And those were all before I started my computer science degree. My point is that you won't always know what you are good at, what you find exciting or what you want to do for years and years, until you do it.
In this article I'll share some tips on finding your passion and making a living from it. Tips that have worked for me and that I still live by. Tips for using happiness as a career path, and not just as an occasional state of mind.
Do what you love
It is a cliche and you have probably heard the same advice from a hundred different people. "Do what you love and you will never hate your job". It isn't always as easy as that of course and I have had a number of jobs including fruit and vegetable sales person, accountants assistant, consultant, customer support and billing systems engineer, before I found what I really loved doing. Although I didn't love all those jobs on their own, I now acknowledge that they were all part of my journey to find the right work for me. Without those jobs, some more fun and interesting than others, I wouldn't have been where I am today.
In fact I would bet that a lot of people aren't entirely sure what they really want to do and a lot of the time you won't associate what you love doing with a viable way to pay your bills. But it is possible, and often it isn't in exactly the way you anticipated.
Don't try and please everyone
I am, at heart, a people pleaser. I want everyone around me, everyone I deal with to have a positive outcome from my interactions. I thrive on making other peoples' day better. Putting a smile on their face is what makes me tick. As a career, this doesn't work. More than once I have found myself worse off and the other party has left with the same state of mind. If you go out of your way to please everyone, more often than not you will be on the losing team. People will learn that they can just ask you to do something and you will do it to make their day better. They rarely fully appreciate it.
Please don't read this as "you should never do anything nice for anyone", but instead apply some dosage of objectivity on the situation. And this leads me to...
Make every situation a win-win
In my opinion every transaction needs to provide value for all parties involved. There needs to be something in it for me, when I provide a service for example. The other party is getting my skills to provide a service, and I might get paid for my work, I might get a stake in the project, I might get goods, I might get exposure. Whatever it is, it is a win-win situation.
If you always look to get the most out of a situation for yourself, eventually people will learn that you don't have their best interest at heart and will stop dealing with you altogether. If you keep taking, eventually your "credit of goodwill" will run out and you have to top it back up to use it again.
On the contrary, if you always give, the same thing will happen. People will keep taking until you have nothing more to give, and then you will be completely spent. Making every situation a win for all parties makes everyone happy, regardless of the situation.
Grab every opportunity
You know what happens when you say "yes"? It echoes. No, it really does. When people know they can ask you for advice, help, services or anything else and you will say "yes" if the situation is right (win-win, remember?), they will come back with more and more opportunities. A good friend of mine always says "the harder I work, the luckier I get", which means he grabs the opportunities coming his way that he can. The more you put yourself forward, the more will come your way. That is just how the world works.
Work hard, but smile
Nothing beats hard work. The successful people I know are all incredibly hard workers. However, none of them complain about it. They smile. Smile at the opportunities, smile at the challenges, smile at the long hours. If you lead with a smile and happiness, the hard work becomes less taxing. I know it isn't always that simple to smile about everything, but it is incredibly contagious. If you smile, then everyone else smiles and the chemical processes in your body makes you feel better and everything improves from there.
Spreading happiness as a way of doing business makes a lot of sense, and it is the best way I can think of shaping your career. Sure there are nasty and unhappy successful people as well, but they aren't exactly making the world a better place to be. I am certainly not going to be one of them.