Man wearing a suit looking out onto a busy street

City & Guilds' Career Happiness Index asks what people in the UK consider to be the most important factors contributing to their happiness at work. Of the 2,200 workers surveyed, gardeners and florists topped the list of happiest workers, followed by hairdressers and plumbers. Meanwhile, bankers, IT professionals and HR workers are the least happy.

Some people argue that happiness occurs when we achieve our goals and those careers that came high up in the list are primarily goal driven. There is no doubt that achieving a goal, which makes our evaluative self happy, can feel pretty good. But even if the goal is achieved, these are only fleeting moments, and so we need other ways to be happier in our careers. In the survey it is also suggested that having a good working environment is important, with many saying the attribute they most associated with their job was getting on well with their colleagues. 

As a loose association, those who earnt more money tended to be less happy than those who earnt less. Students who are motivated by making money turn out to be greatly affected by whether or not they became wealthy later in their lives. If they did, they were satisfied with their lives, but many did not make as much they would've liked to, so there were not that satisfied. If you care a lot about money, you better make sure you get it! If you do not become rich, then being motivated by money will, unsurprisingly, lead to disappointment.

And remember

A desire for achievement may help in achieving a narrow set of goals but at the expense of the more important goal of happiness. It is good being motivated to be successful at work but not the cost of health and personal relationships. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in things that the attainment of goal becomes all that matters. Some people make extreme sacrifices to achieve them – like the many climbers who have died on Everest because they are obsessed with getting to the top.

On occasion, achieving more objectively might result in feeling worse subjectively. One study showed that athletes at the 1992 summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, who won a silver medal were less happy than those who won a bronze. While a silver medal winner is gutted that they just missed out on gold, a bronze medal winner is simply pleased to be on the podium.


It is certainly true that working towards goal can be a challenge in the short term and may make you feel less happy for a while but we stick to these because we think they'll make us happier in the long run. However, sometimes the gain may not be worth the pain. How much are you sacrificing compared to how much you are benefiting from fulfilling your ambitions? Future happiness cannot really compensate for misery now so you need to be pretty confident that any current sacrifices of happiness you make must be worth it in the long run.