The 4 Key Traits for Career Happiness, with Scott Barlow

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Before you spend countless hours applying to the wrong positions, companies, or even industries, have you taken time to figure out what your Signature Strengths are or what exactly career happiness looks like for you?

On today’s bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, Scott Barlow, Founder of Happen to Your Career and host of the Happen to Your Career Podcast, identifies the four key traits that lead to career happiness. Scott also illustrates how clarity in these areas builds a framework for a successful job search.

The four key traits you must have to find career happiness and fulfillment are:

  1. Helping people — Most people want to know how the work they do helps others.
  2. Your basic needs must be met.
  3. Your work must be engaging, and you must have a clear understanding of how you are doing.
  4. You must have supportive co-workers and a leader.

Scott and his team know that a happy career starts with targeting opportunities that allow you to spend the majority of time in your strengths. To help with that process, they’ve shared The Ultimate Guide to Using Your Strengths to Get Hired. Check it out and let me know what you think.


Mac Prichard: 

Hi. This is Mac, from Mac’s List. Before we start the show, I want to let you know about my new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. I’ve been helping job seekers find meaningful, well-paying work since 2001; and now, I’ve put all my best advice into one easy-to-use guide. My book shows you how to make your resume stand out in a stack of applications, where you can find the hidden jobs that never get posted, and what you need to do to ace your next job interview. Get the first chapter now for free. Visit

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, find a career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, founder and publisher of Mac’s List.

The first step in finding a job you love is to have well-defined career goals. Without a focused goal, you end up wasting a lot of time, energy, and emotion chasing after every opportunity you find. Even if you land a job with this “spray and pray” method, you might to end up in a position that doesn’t fulfill your passions or interests.

So before you spend countless hours applying to the wrong positions, companies, or even industries, you need to figure out your Signature Strengths and identify what a fulfilling career looks like for you.

On today’s bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, we’re bringing back one of our previous guests, Scott Barlow, from the Happen To Your Career podcast. Scott will share a strategy for getting clear on your career goals. He identifies the four key traits that lead to career happiness, and illustrates how clarity in these areas gives you a framework for a successful job search.

Here’s Scott Barlow, discussing the four key traits for happiness in your career.

Scott Barlow:

Hey, thanks so much to the Mac’s List team for inviting me to come on the show and share with you the six areas you need to have for happiness in their job. Before we do that, though, I wanna throw a quick question out: do you already know exactly what is going to make you happy and fulfilled in your next role?

‘Cause, here’s what we find: we find that most people are looking at jobs online or they’re trying to network, or updating LinkedIn profiles, even spending time going on interviews, but, the problem is that, a whole bunch of us don’t even know exactly what a fulfilling career looks like for us.

Now, here’s the particularly tricky part: we, as human beings, are pretty terrible at determining what will actually make us happy in the first place, and, this is what I’ve found over the last ten years, in researching a whole bunch of this stuff and a whole bunch of experimentation, is that there’s really four traits that we all must have – four key areas that we all must have in our career – that apply to everybody, and then there are two parts that are incredibly unique to who you are. So I want to share those with you, here, but first I want to cover those four key traits that you must have in your career in order to have any level or chance of happiness and fulfillment.

So, number one -this is probably the most obvious one, although people don’t realize that it’s a must-have. I think a lot of people feel like it’s unique to them – and that’s: helping people. You wouldn’t believe how many people email me and tell me, “if only I were helping people, then I would be happy.” Or, “I just think I should be a counselor, because it’s helping people.” Or, “I’m just one of those people that really needs to help others.”

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Helping people, I get it.

There’s a ton of research out there to corroborate that it’s not just you. Helping people is something that we’re all looking for, and – here’s the catch, though – if we don’t directly understand how we’re helping others, then it’s less fulfilling.

I think every job out there is helping people in some way, so you’ve gotta have that direct connection. So you’re role is to figure out what are those direct connect type pieces for helping people.

Ok, so here’s another one. If you remember Maslow’s hierarchy from Psychology 101 in college? Well, if you don’t have your basic needs met, then you’re never going to get to the next level. In today’s society, your basic needs, just above food and shelter and water, are pay that you feel is fair, a commute that isn;t long enough to make you gauge your eyes out, and not working 10-14 hour days all the time and obscene hours. And these things are nearly true for everyone, except for that one crazy person that just can’t get enough of that two-and-a-half-hour commute, whoever you are.

But another big piece of this puzzle, that we all need and must have, is work that is engaging to us. So this is number three, here. This can mean a lot of things, but really, the commonalities are having the freedom to decide how you do the work. Because, I’ve yet to meet anyone that’s like, “hey, I love micro-management, it’s so awesome.”

Another one, here, is – another piece of engaging work is having a clear understanding of how well you’re doing and how well it’s going. That’s something we all must have in order to feel like we’re getting and having fulfilling work. And that’s why you start to see how your boss is so important, too; if you don’t have a leader, who’s making these pieces easier, or supportive coworkers, then some of the other pieces might not matter as much. So, that’s actually number four: supportive coworkers and boss.

So, basic needs, clarity of work, a boss that doesn’t suck, and helping people. Add these to your list if you don’t already have them on there; these are things we all must have for any level of work happiness. And none of these are going to come as a surprise to you. We all know those intuitively, but here’s where it gets complicated: the last two pieces aren’t as black and white, and this is where most people get caught up. It’s also where nearly everybody is doing it wrong or slightly confused.

It’s also where misguided advice creeps up, just like “just follow your passion.” So instead, here’s one of the methods that we teach.

When my son Grayson was two years old, he was sitting on the floor trying to put together a puzzle, and he was grabbing at the nearest puzzle piece and trying to jam it together with another piece that he had in his hand, and then he would give up on one of the pieces – he’d throw it away and he’d grad the next closest piece, and then try to just mash it together with another, and I watched him for a few minutes, really getting frustrated with this, and then I’m like, okay, I’ll show him how to do this. So I went over, sat next to him, and tried to show him an efficient way to put together the puzzle, and if you’ve ever put together a puzzle, you know there’s an easy way to do it and many, many incredibly difficult ways.

So the first thing, of course, is you take all the corner pieces, you can easily identify them and there aren’t too many of them. And next you gather together all the edge pieces, and you can start to see all the different colors on the edge pieces, ‘cause they got the flat edge on them, and then you can pretty easily assemble them into a frame. And then, once you have that frame, the funny thing is, you can actually start to see what the picture might be, and you can begin filling in the pieces. And when you can start filling in the pieces, you can realize that you don’t actually have to have the whole entire picture to start to see what it’s going to be. So, even if you don’t have all those pieces, it still works.

Now, most people are approaching their careers the same way that Grayson was – they’re taking two random pieces and trying to jam them together or put the puzzle together from the inside out, and much like a two-year-old, it’s pretty frustrating. I’ve done it this way, too, by the way. And it leaves you looking at online job postings, depressed and wondering why all these jobs don’t look interesting, or why the ones that do look interesting, require 27 years of experience.

Now, if you do it differently, just like the efficient way to put together a puzzle, it’s so much easier to identify a picture of what can be a great situation for you. And you can start with the corner pieces, ‘cause these are your strengths, right? They’re what you’re great at, or what you have the potential to be great at. And next, the outside pieces are what you want in your life and what you value in your life. And the really interesting thing is that, when you’re very, very clear on both your strengths and what you value the most, then now you’ve built out a frame, just like the frame on a puzzle, and you can begin to see what the picture in the middle might be. And I can start to get a picture of what my destination looks like at this point.

So if I know that it’s incredibly important to me to be able to work out in the middle of the day, then I have to work in a job that’s going to allow me to do that. Or, if I can’t stand details, and I’m a big picture strategy person, then I know the role that I’m in can’t have most of my time picking apart details, because that’s going to drive me insane.

So these may seem like small things but when you identify all these, it helps you create a picture. That’s what we call your Ideal Career Profile, and that’s what acts as your destination. And now, you have something you can actually do something with. You have information that you can actually do something with this. And much like taking a trip, once you know your destination, that’s where you can begin figuring out the best path to get there, and that’s where you can focus on only those companies and opportunities that really make sense for you. So that’s what I would encourage you to do, is begin spending time on the difficult work to identify those pieces that are ultimately going to make you happy, so you know where to look for them.

Hey, thanks so much, Mac’s List team. I really, really appreciate you inviting me on and this has been a ton of fun.

Mac Prichard:

I know from my own experience, and from talking with countless job seekers, that setting goals can be the toughest part of the job search process. The tricky part is that most people aren’t very good at knowing–or admitting–what will actually make us happy.

Scott and his team at Happen To Your Career know that career happiness all starts with targeting opportunities that allow you to spend the majority of time in your strengths, so they’ve created The Ultimate Guide to Using Your Strengths to Get Hired. You can download this resource, for free, at