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Are you really happy?

“What kind of a question is that? And what’s that got to do with my career plans? Don’t try to get all spiritual now. That space is already overcrowded with Swamis & Babas. Just stick to your regular career guidance fundas and tell me how I can get a better job, better salaries, international placements.”

If that was your initial reaction, you are justified in thinking that way. Everyone and their dog knows that unwavering focus and keeping your eye on the target is very important. The same is true for career planning too.

But it’s equally important to take a step back once in a while to evaluate if you’ve chosen the target well and all that furious running you’ve been doing so far is in the right direction.

Don’t worry. There’s no spiritual angle to this, if that’s what you were suspecting. But there sure is an introspective flavour.

Are you really happy?

Simple question. But it might be the most important one that you ask yourself. And this might be the single most important post you read on this blog.

So disconnect yourself from whatever you are doing, my child, and close your eyes…er, on second thoughts keep them open as you need to complete reading this post.

Every single word in that question is relevant. Let’s take up each word and understand it better.

The Tense: *ARE* you really happy?

What you’ve done in the past might have made you happy. Maybe it happened long time back in school or college. Or maybe it was when you got your first job and the prospects of how you could change the world got you all excited. But that was your past.

Right now, the shiny next toy you want to play with is the MBA. Things might change after you get an MBA, the next promotion, a career change. But all that will be in the future, and no crystal ball (!) will tell you the state of mind you’ll be in at that point.

So the question isn’t ‘Were you really happy?’ or ‘Will you really be happy?’

We are talking about NOW. So ‘ARE you really happy?’

The Subject: Are *YOU* really happy?

As a child you made your parents happy.

As a student you tried to make you teachers happy.

Since you’ve got your job, you’ve been trying to make your boss happy.

Over weekends, you throw parties, crack jokes and try to make your friends happy.

Guess who might be missing all the fun in that ‘Everyone around me is happy’ story. You!

The emotion: Are you really *HAPPY*?

Alright, let’s assume you aren’t as selfless and innocent as we assumed. Maybe you have been focussing on your interests too.

But the feeling that you get when you get that promotion or a pay hike, is that happiness? Or is it just a fleeting high that you get for a few minutes/days after the good news is delivered?

What if someone says you’ve won a lottery? Or you win an all expense paid trip to Switzerland?

Let’s not confuse euphoria with happiness. The former is a short-lived spike that’ll disappear soon. The latter is something that’ll persist for longer, even if there are small incremental changes on a daily or weekly basis to your life.

Perception vs Reality: Are you *REALLY* happy?

If you are a Facebook fan, you’d be able to better relate to this. According to statistics, if Facebook had been a country, it’ll be bigger than many real countries. Now let’s try to form a perception of how happy citizens of this country are.

A huge number people have happy pics and personal videos uploaded. They post pictures of their vacations, their new cars, the new house. Your friends post status updates about the MBA admit from a top business school, or current students posting images from the previous evening’s booze party. And you’d think, wow, such a wonderful world out there. Everyone else is having fun, and they are all happy.

There’s a huge difference between perception and reality. Not many post about their financial, health, personal and professional problems. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we assume they are all REALLY happy.

So there you have it. The relevance of each word in that question. Think about how you would like to interpret and answer the question.

That was one hell of a vague, confusing post, right? Or was it? Let me be the guinea pig and try to answer that question.

Am I happy?

It’s been almost 2 years [edit: 5 years now] since I left my corporate job to focus full-time on MBA Crystal Ball (though I was managing it on a part-time basis before that).

That’s why the “Are you really happy?” question came up in my mind and I thought I should share it with you too.

For me, happiness (let’s focus on professional happiness for now to keep the discussion focussed) does include the regular ingredients – an interesting role, stimulating work culture, good money, scope for growth, top notch colleagues and clients.

But apart from these, it also has to do more with freedom. Not the patriotic flag-waving types, but rather about having better control over my career. About having a better work-life balance. Reducing my exposure to working environments where negativity (in the form of office politics, rivalry, stress) is rife.

I enjoy my current role as an MBA admissions consultant and career counsellor more than any other official corporate designation I’ve held. I get to work with some of the best & brightest folks (like you) who also help me grow as a professional by sharing their diverse experiences. There’s ample scope to expand the venture, but we’ve kept it small for now to retain the boutique & personalised feel.

Plus there’s tremendous freedom to do what I want, when I want, and if I want to do it. No bosses peering over the shoulder.

It allowed me to do crazy stuff (like becoming a rapper and a book salesman) that I might’ve shied away from if I still had to live up to society’s expectation and keep pulling the baggage that comes with a heavy corporate designation.

Who knows what the future might have in store. But yeah, I think I am happy right now.

Once you get the basic framework to address that question, you’d have a very powerful tool in your hands. Use it frequently to get a reality check to give your life the appropriate push it requires in the right direction.

I’ve tried to ask myself that question frequently and the answer has resulted in 4 career changes for me (more on that later).

I hope you don’t look at this post as a distraction from your aspirations of getting a better designation, a bigger salary etc. Think of it as a compass (or Google Maps if you prefer something more practical) in your hands that’ll keep showing you if you are taking the right path.

This time, instead of bombarding your Facebook and Twitter friends with the regular Happy New Year messages, use the social media buttons on the left and share this question with them. They might appreciate it more than the ritualistic posts that flood their Twitter feeds and Facebook walls each year.

Now, throwing the question back at you.

Are you really happy? Who’s willing to bare their soul in the comments below?

Also read:
Finance Career Coaching for jobs in the financial services industry

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

13 thoughts on “Are you really happy?”

  1. That is really an important part, I can say based on my experience. I would like to share my experience about a situation and am sure that many among MBA aspirants are having similar dilemma or they have never thought about it. Here I go….
    I was very sure that I wanted to do an MBA (in India though) and being an IT professional, was knowing what I do not what to do rest of my life (Coding, testing etc). I thought it is sufficient why I want to go for MBA considering the things I do not want to pursue & I never thought that what kind of business function that I would want to take up post MBA and there caused dilemma. I tried figuring out my interests, the industry which I would want to join etc. Interacting with seniors, alumni, professors made this thing easy and had given me the what kind of job functions/roles that are performed post MBA. Therefore, I was able to combine my interests, current skills with the available options. During my MBA, I worked on such specific skills to enhance my expertise and tried learning about such business functions/roles etc which I want to go for. And I am glad that these things have paid off and I was able to secure the job function which suits my interests, aligns with my skills and helps me to face the challenging tasks and many more.
    I hope this will help aspirants to resolve such puzzles prior to seeking an admission internationally & nationally otherwise. It’s your own interests, choices, skills that will make you happy and help you to get equipped against the challenges. All the best for the season.

  2. Hi.. First of all its a very interesting post sameerji.. Thank you..

    And as for your question is concerned, professionally I need to achieve more, have to scale to different heights.. I just dont want to follow the crowd hopping one job to another for a pay hike… I am considering MBA as a pit stop for my career goals and I am sure that this is the year I will move towards my goals and will achieve them.. ( Definitely, will make MCB as my partner for success).. All set and clear.. Eyes only on the target.. Its now or never.. MBA, MBA and MBA from one of the best B school is what my heart saying..

    By the way Happy New year to you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Thanks Ruturaj and Naveen for sharing your thoughts.

    Both stories seem to have an MBA degree as an integral part of the ‘happiness quotient’.

    I’d be keen to hear from others who don’t consider an MBA as the mandatory stepping stone to professional happiness.

  4. Very nice article. We may not control over the unhappiness caused by external xyz factors but we can at least work hard to do something that makes us happy. So always decide what you want to do, especially during school search do not go for ranking before you finalize your list. MBA, especially abroad, is not a placement machine but a sacred learning place !!

  5. One of the most meaningful posts that I have read on this site (not that others are any less meaningful, but this one really struck a chord). I in fact asked myself this question a few days back, and when the answer was not to my liking, I decided to take more control on my life and the things that I wanted to do, in contrast to remaining in my safety net which is safe, but seemingly mediocre in my opinion. Incidentally that’s how I landed at your site! Thanks for the great work! Will look forward to more such posts from you…

  6. @Gurpreet: Rightly said about the ‘not a placement machine’ but not too sure about the ‘sacred’ part 🙂

    @Arvind: Good to see that the message within the post resonated with your current state of mind. I hope your decision to move away from your comfort zone pays off. Just ensure that you take calculated (rather than blind) risks.

  7. Dear Sir,

    Myself Ashish C. Parab, have passed B.E.(Mech) in 2009 from mumbai university. After passing out, I worked as a QC Engineer from June 2009 to May 2010. Then I worked as a Design Engineer from June 2010 to March 2011. Then I left my job for mba entrance exams, gave exams and a got decent marks but didn’t get any college of my choice. In that year, I didn’t take admission for mba college. Again I started working from June 2012 . I appeared for cmat 2013 exam. got Guru Nanak Institute of management studies, matunga.
    but now I am confused that I should do mba or not because its been 4 years, after passing out in 2009. And my pappa is going to retire in 2014 which means after one year only.
    please guide me , that i should opt for mba or not. or I should continue with my job and try part time mba.
    my current package is 2.3 lacs p.a.
    Waiting for your reply.


  8. Ashish: If your family can take the financial risk at this stage, probably you should carry on working and saving.

    GMAT based MBA in India and abroad can come up a few years later as well.

  9. Hi Sameer,

    I am prasad working as consultant with oracle technologies ,as you say I am not happy with my
    current job ,My dream is two become good professor than to become Corporate guy,I am planning
    to do part time MBA for same and then PHD to work as professor through out life ,please give me
    guidance how will be carrier growth MBA as faculty guy ?



  10. @Prasad: Be prepared for a long struggle to get to that goal, and then a drastic drop in the salary and a very slow progress in jump from one post to another.

    If you are ready for these (and a host of other aspects linked on teaching jobs), then go for it.

  11. Hello all I know i knew i am pinging up the same dilemma question regarding MBA, please do help me out understanding my exact scenario.

    I am a Mechanical engineer (2014 passed out). Currently i am working for a corporate organisation as a software tester since last may-14. The kind of job that i have been trough is not at all satisfying me. I am not able to figure out what to choose for my higher studies either to go with MS or MBA or to stick to the profession that i am into. In case of MS and MBA which kind of one either with Job Experience or not?.

    Can some please help me out in knowing or figuring out what exactly i am supposed and would like to do. All I could figure out about me is that I give a greater priority to the financial stability than to that of the job satisfaction.

    Gopi Krishna

  12. A very interesting and amazing read!!!

    I would say that the happiness quotient varies from person to person and in true sense it cannot be measured.
    How can we measure our happiness?
    Yes, a good role at a big organisation and a good salary determines a part of the happiness measurement but overall we truly cannot measure happiness because it is defined by several parameters.

    Are we satisfied ? should be the right question here. Just my thoughts!!.
    Some people find pleasure and happiness in what they do and are really happy with their life, but some try to find the one thing that will really keep them engaged and satisfied – a new jib, higher salary, freedom etc.

    By the way, I am a Software Engineer working for a multinational consulting firm. My day job includes coding something that has already been coded, debugging a set of code that has been designed by some other person and similar idiotic stuff. Sometimes, out of the blue we get to learn something but overall I am dissatisfied with my work and therefore, I can say that I am unhappy.

    When I entered the field of engineering and especially computer engineering, then I always thought that whatever we do will impact a lot of users at the end. My created codes will be useful for people in improving their lives, their conversations etc.But boy, I was wrong. Similar is the case with many IT professionals and I do hope that they can relate with this.

    Thanks Sameer for sharing the post. Amazing Read !!!!

  13. Kudos to you for the honest confession, Ashim, and for raising a very valid reason that plagues many professionals.

    As a former software engineer, I was in your shoes for many years. So I can relate to what you are saying.

    Beyond the role, the salary and company brand, most yearn to have a real impact outside the confines of their cubicles. But it’s often tough to see where all those hours slogging away behind a computer are really going.


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