How to be happy at work is a question many of us grapple with. I saw a film recently, Rosalie Blum, that explored this question in helpful ways.

Rosalie is a baby boomer who has experienced more than her fair share of disappointments in life. She runs a convenience shop, sings in a choir, and lives an extremely muted life on the fringes of the city. One day, a lonely young man starts following her, and Rosalie’s life suddenly becomes way more interesting. Rather than be alarmed at her stalker, Rosalie enlists the help of her niece, Aude, to follow the stranger to find out who this guy is and what he wants.

Millenial Aude is a university drop-out whose favorite pastime is sleeping all day. Without any ambition and tons of time on her hands, she seems a perfect candidate for this job. Little does Aude realize how much her life will be transformed as a result of stalking the stalker.

In fact, throughout the course of the film, both Rosalie and her niece become reacquainted with what gives them joy. Once they both reconnect with that, their lives and their outlook on the world improve significantly. The result is happiness, though in a most unconventional way.

Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness

The lesson we take away from this film is that in order to be happy we must do what makes us happy. Rosalie had more than enough money to be happy, but she wasn’t. Aude had more time than most, and yet, she wasn’t happy either. Contrary to popular misconceptions, endless amounts of time or money don’t buy happiness. Why is that?

The reason is discussed in a Ted Talk by psychologist Mihaly Csikczentmihalyi where he refers to a 43-year-long study on the connection between economic growth and happiness. In this study, it was confirmed that money does not buy happiness. Specifically, it was revealed that only 30 per cent of the people surveyed said they were happy. This means 70 per cent of the people surveyed were unhappy – even though the personal income for the vast majority of them had doubled or tripled in that same period.

So, if money isn’t what makes us happy, Csikczentmihalyi wanted to know what does. After 40 years of studying this question, he came to the conclusion that people are happiest when they do things that give their lives meaning and that felt worth doing – even if they didn’t receive any money for it.

Get Into The Flow of Your Passion

Csikczentmihalyi calls this condition being in a state of ‘flow.’ An example of this state in the film Rosalie Blum is when Aude is taking and developing photographs. When she does, she is completely absorbed in the process. Similarly, a CEO can experience this flow when she’s immersed in doing what she does best. In Csikczentmihalyi’s book Good Business, Anita Roddick, founder of BodyShop, puts it this way, “Look for your passion. What makes you excited? What turns you on? . . . When you spend 95% of your life in a work environment, it can’t be dour.”

The importance of doing work you love as a pathway to happiness is further explored by business consultant Marcus Buckingham. In a video of his, he talks about the startling statistic that an estimated 83 per cent of people are unhappy at their job. This is, according to Buckingham, because they are in environments that do not allow them to play to their strengths. Playing to your strengths means you are, as Csikczentmikhalyi puts it, in a state of “flow.” During this state, the world falls away, time is suspended, and you feel as though you are doing vital work.

Play to Your Strengths

It is a sad and startling statistic to realize that less than 20 per cent are happy in their jobs. Surprisingly, though, their happiness doesn’t stem from doing what they’re good at. According to Buckingham, it’s as a result of doing things that make them feel strong. Going one step further, his definition of strength is an activity that leaves you feeling strong after you do it.

For example, my best mark in high school was in accounting. Logic would dictate that as my strength, and that I should go into that field, right? But I did not because although it felt good to get high marks, what really made my heart sing was creative writing – creating stories that revealed the world in new ways – helping others see the world and themselves in new ways – enlarging the capacity in others to understand and appreciate this wondrous world of which we’re a part.

Put another way, I feel much stronger after I write an article of which I’m proud rather than after completing my taxes. See the difference? For you, it might be the opposite. The key here is to identify your strengths and then look for opportunities that allow you to use and express those strengths. When you do, you’ll experience that delectable state of being called flow, where you are all-consumed with the work you’re doing. Then you realize what real happiness is: doing work you love, that makes you feel strong, and lets you share your gifts with the world.

What about you? Are you playing to your strengths in life and business or not? Post a comment below to let me know.


Elizabeth Johnston is a published author, podcaster, and creativity coach who helps people gain clarity in their business messaging and facilitates their self-expression through writing workshops and private coaching.

Director of Practice and Qualitlinda-justin-imagey, Linda Justin talks about the career path that led her to Uniting, and why she is so passionate about what she does.

I haven’t spent a moment of my working life outside of the health sector, even during my time as a consultant; it was within the health and ageing industry. Originally from Ireland, I started out in pediatrics. Early on in my career I realised I wanted to do make a difference at a strategic level. A young boy in my care did well in intensive care and went home to have a normal life. But sadly two weeks later he passed away due to complications that were likely a result of failings in the health system.

After this, I realised that as a society we can do more to care for people and we can make a difference. The cycle of disadvantage can be broken, and we can provide support to the people most in need. We mustn’t conform, but instead transform – a daily mantra I choose to live by.

Relocating to Australia gave me the opportunity to be part of clinical system improvement, and three years ago I joined the team at Uniting as Director of Practice and Quality. I joined with a deep sense of wanting to make a positive impact in people’s lives, daily.

An imperative part of aged care is helping older people understand that they still have a good life to live. As part of the community, they have value to add, bonds to form and joy to experience.

When you begin a career in aged care, you believe you’re giving back. In reality it’s so much more. On a daily basis, I’m touched by the stories I hear from our clients. When they share their time with me, I’m able to be part of their lives. My life has been breathtakingly enriched by this exchange.
Over the years I’ve experienced incredibly traumatic yet equally beautiful instances. I’ve been engulfed with overwhelming sadness and complete elation.

Within our dementia care, we use a method called Doll Therapy, enabling people to be reminded of their lives as a mother, father or carer, to rekindle fond memories of parenthood. I remember there was one lady who would sit with the dolls, cuddling them for hours. You could see the immense joy and relief that this time brought; she cherished it. We spoke with her family to understand her story only to realise that she had never been able to have children of her own, but she had cared deeply for her nieces and nephews. Time with the dolls brought back memories of this time of love and nurturing for her. In this moment, she was a carer again, for children she adored – some of the happiest times of her life.

It’s a privilege to hear and experience such heart-warming stories. Knowing that you’ve honored someone’s dignity at such a vulnerable time is a humbling and rewarding experience.

Working in aged care is also about changing community attitudes. One of my biggest challenges is helping society to overcome the idea that people in aged care have already lived their lives. Through my role I am determined to showcase the indisputable strength in enabling joy, facilitating hope and crafting meaning in the life of another.

Not so long ago I was sitting with a 90-year-old mother and her 70-year-old daughter, who had been separated for more than 30 years. The mother, who came to Australia as a refugee, was moving into our services. Her daughter was there to help her settle. Sitting on the lounge, the mother and daughter spoke about their lives. They spoke of fond memories and the challenges they had endured in their individual lives. It was an emotional experience watching them reconnect after years of hardship. After 30 years apart, here they were sitting on a lounge, a cup of tea in hand, beginning a fresh relationship.

Within six months, the mother had passed. I still find comfort knowing that she left with a heart rich in her daughters love. Death is difficult. It never gets easier. Knowing that you’ve given someone happiness in their time of need, however, is infinitely rewarding.

As a society, we’re able to ignite change. We can bust stereotypes to transform our world into an inclusive place. I’m enriched by the stories of our clients each and every day – if you spent a day in their shoes, you would be too.

Think back to when you first chose your current career. You might have been young, maybe just out of high school and working part-time. You chose a field that interested you, completed your education from either a university or a TAFE institution and started working. Or perhaps your current career is actually your second or third career.

In either scenario, you once enjoyed your career, but now things are starting to look stale. That feeling of excitement you used to get from your work faded long ago. You might find that vertical promotions in your industry are limited or perhaps you’ve realised that what you’re doing just isn’t what you want to do for the rest of your life.

And you know what? That’s ok!

The truth is that people are changing jobs and career tracks much more than you might think. According to research from McCrindle, Australian workers are statistically destined to:

  • Hold 17 jobs over the course of their lifetimes (average of three per decade starting from part-time work at age 18 to retirement at age 75)
  • Work in 5 different career tracks over the course of their lifetimes
  • Work at each job for an average of 3.3 years before upskilling and moving on

So clearly, changing career paths is the norm, and if so many other people are doing it, then you certainly can too. Since 1975, young people under the age of 25 have had the greatest job mobility and the shortest job tenure (about one year and eight months, says McCrindle). They’re more likely change jobs, go back to school, upskill and move back home and around the country.

So clearly, changing career paths is the norm, and if so many other people are doing it, then you certainly can too.

Now McCrindle’s research shows that older employees are doing just the same with great success because of the shifts in markets and the needs of the workforce. With the demands of parenthood, elder care and other obligations, employees at all ages are feeling more empowered and less dependent on their employers. They’re going after more temporary or part-time jobs as well as self-employment options such as contractors, freelancers and business owners. The workforce is exhibiting a confidence that puts workplace power in their hands and compels companies and entire industries to offer more competitive salaries and benefits to keep quality workers for longer periods of time.

From McCrindle’s research, we can conclude that industry and role hopping is not only common, but also a major benefit for the companies. Hiring someone with experience in other industries can be enlightening, and bringing in a fresh perspective can help companies locate oversights in their day to day work and make improvements that will ensure lasting success for the company.

Though you may feel apprehensive about changing careers or job roles, know that you’re not alone and you can create the career you’ve always wanted for yourself. No matter what skill set you currently have, you can market your skills and promote yourself in such a way that will make industry employers excited to meet you and interested in your skills.

Want to learn how? Check out this complete guide on how to sell your skills to a new industry or role.

Research Your New Industry

To be successful in a new career, you first need to know exactly what it takes to be successful in that new field. You’ll want to know what kind of training you’ll need and what skills are highly valued by employers. Knowing about your industry’s key players and the most recent developments will show employers that you’re dedicated to learning as you go.

The best place to start is to speak with people currently working in your preferred industry or job role. More than likely, you probably already know people within your preferred industry, so don’t be afraid to make connections and start networking early. These current professionals will be able to offer all sorts of insights into the industry and give you a leg up on what you need to know to be successful.

If you don’t already know someone in your preferred industry or role, ask friends and family members. Chances are they may know someone and can help you make a connection.

If you don’t already know someone in your preferred industry or role, ask friends and family members. Chances are they may know someone and can help you make a connection.

When speaking with a current industry professional, make sure you discuss:

  • What skills are highly regarded and what certifications and degrees are necessary
  • Typical day-to-day tasks you’ll be performing
  • Potential job advancements or other positions you could hold within the industry
  • Flexibility of the industry
  • Current job market and overall industry health

Even if you don’t know anyone in your industry or job role, you can find a wealth of information on the internet. University and TAFE institution websites have ample information regarding certain industries and career tracks. Use these sites to get an idea for what skills and possible certifications you’ll need to be successful or move up to a certain job level in an industry.

Tailor Your CV

You may already have plenty of skills that translate easily to many different job positions across multiple industries. When applying for jobs, you need to tailor your CV to match what the job is looking for and highlight how your current skills and work experience could be a valuable asset to the employer.

When submitting a CV for a job, follow this simple checklist:

  1. Read over carefully what the job position is describing. Pick out specific keywords (multi-tasking, teamwork, flexible schedule) and make note of any specific skills (Microsoft Office proficiency or customer service knowledge) or jobs you will be required to perform.
  2. Give a succinct overview of your career, but if you’re changing industries, don’t feel like you have to offer a lengthy explanation as to why you want to do this. Be brief and to the point.
  3. Include any degrees or certifications you do have. Even if they don’t fit the industry, it’s good to show your education history.
  4. When listing out your previous work experience, focus on the keywords and skills you highlighted earlier. List out the responsibilities that pertain to this new position you want. If an experienced beauty therapist is looking to score a spa general manager job, then she might highlight previous business and bookkeeping experience as well as customer service work rather than focusing solely on her beauty therapy work.
  5. Choose referees that can speak to these specific skills. You don’t have to use the same list of referees for every job. Have a list ready and choose referees based on what they can tell your potential employer about your skillset.

You don’t have to use the same list of referees for every job. Have a list ready and choose referees based on what they can tell your potential employer about your skillset.

Remember, you should be tailoring your CV every time you submit it for a job position. Not all companies will value the same skills or call for the same types of experiences. Go back through the checklist above for each job that you apply for and make sure you are tailoring them specifically.

Check Out Education Options

In some instances, you may need to go back to school to become certified in an industry before you can begin working fully in it. Working as a beauty therapist in a salon, for example, requires certification. If you’re coming from a completely different industry, then you will need to earn your certification before you can begin working.

If you want to move up in your industry and take on a new role (moving from a human resources associate to a managerial position, for example), then you may be able to take an online TAFE course and work towards your certification on your own time. Online courses are perfect for working parents who may find themselves balancing enough with work and children as it is.

Online courses are also preferable for people who can’t quit their jobs and go back to school full time. Online work can be done at your own pace, yet they’re also efficient and teach necessary skills needed to thrive in an industry. Choose courses that are nationally accredited so you can be certain that once you complete the course, employers will recognise and respect its value.

If you’re currently working in your preferred industry and want to move up or into a new position, taking online classes will enhance your skillset and help you land that next promotion or job. For example, an administrative receptionist looking to work in the legal profession might earn her Certificate IV in Legal Services online so she can become a legal receptionist, assistant paralegal or legal support officer.

No matter what industry you’re currently in or what position you no hold, never feel as if you’re trapped and can never escape.

No matter what industry you’re currently in or what position you no hold, never feel as if you’re trapped and can never escape. The truth is that you definitely can. As shown in McCrindle’s research, Australian employees transition between jobs quite frequently and go on to do rewarding work in their preferred industry. Don’t ever feel that you are powerless. With a little self-promotional work and some added education, you can achieve your dream job and go to work every day feeling proud of your accomplishments.

So tell us ladies, have you ever considered changing job roles or careers? If so, what’s holding you back? Share your thoughts with us!

Author Bio

Caroline Schmidt writes the blogs for Kangan Institute. She is passionate about education, careers, and giving advice to students of all ages.

It’s easy to go through life simply going from one job to another, doing the same thing over and over again. Perhaps you don’t feel fulfilled in your career, but you don’t know what to do next. Perhaps you’ve never taken the time to step back and look at how your life and career are progressing. You’re just spinning your wheels and getting through each day as it happens, or you’re standing at the crossroads of your career and don’t know where to go from here.

So, what can you do to make changes in your life and refresh your career?

Xplore for Success is an organisation dedicated to Driving Gender Equality. They do this by delivering Career Resiliency programs for women within corporations who want to step up into leadership positions. Xplore are holding their first ever Career Retreat for Women, from Friday 31 July to Sunday 2 August. The aim of the retreat is for women to take time out of their lives and reflect on what’s important to them, so they can come back re-energised and refocused— with practical steps they can start to implement in their lives.

The retreat is focused around three key concepts: Reflect, Re-energise, Refocus. You can use these concepts to transform both your life and career, and ensure that you’re moving in a direction where you are firmly in the driver’s seat and feeling alive each day.

Ozlem from Xplore explains the basics behind each concept, and offers some practical tips you can apply in your life right now.


On its own, reflection is a very powerful tool. It’s how we learn; how we join the dots and realise how we could have done better or done things differently, and how we integrate the key learnings we’ve gained along the way. It enables us to make changes in our habits and patterns. Without reflection, we just keep going on autopilot and doing the same thing.

Everyone has a to-do list, but no one has a stop-doing list. We can’t do everything at the same time. We need to stop doing some things in order to make room for the things we truly want to do. Reflection is crucial in working out what those important things are. If we take care of the things that are important, there will be far less ‘urgency’ in our lives, less scrambling to put out fires each day.

If we take care of the things that are important, there will be far less ‘urgency’ in our lives, less scrambling to put out fires each day.

Ask yourself: What do I need to do more of? What do I need to do less of? What do I need to do differently in order to get where I want to go?

A practical step you can implement immediately:

Give yourself some quiet time in the morning for some reflection. It might be no longer than five minutes. It might be over a cup of tea. The important thing is to have that moment of silence and think about how you want your day to go. Decide on the one thing you need to focus on that day that will make you feel proud at the end of it. Then go out and do it!


We all have a limited amount of time in a day, but how much we can achieve in that time comes down to our energy level. You probably know one or two people in your life who are always on the go, who seem almost superhuman—well, it all comes down to their energy levels.

An article published by the Harvard Business Review a few years back stated that “time is a finite resource. Energy is a different story.” Energy is not finite, and it is up to us to manage our energy so we have a greater capacity to perform at our highest possible level. If we learn to manage our energy, we will get better work done, contribute more, become more innovative and creative, and most importantly, we won’t come home feeling burnt out.

If we learn to manage our energy, we will get better work done, contribute more, become more innovative and creative, and most importantly, we won’t come home feeling burnt out.

Many people talk about balancing your life, which is another way for women to feel guilty about themselves. Sometimes it’s simply not possible to balance everything. There are times when we will need to give more focus and energy on certain aspect of our work or our lives.

A practical step you can implement immediately:

Reduce the number of decisions you make for the routine stuff. Studies indicate if you have some robust procedures and processes in place, or rituals when you get up so you don’t need to make decisions in the morning, you actually have more energy and decision-making ability later in the day.

Start to cultivate routines and rituals that set you up to perform your best in the day. Ask yourself what do you need in order to achieve that. It could be getting up early to do exercise, or giving yourself 15 minutes of extra time to have a proper breakfast. It could be sitting down and looking over your diary or calendar so you know what you have coming up and what you have to do to achieve your goals. It’s about owning the time in your day, rather than being owned by it.

It’s about owning the time in your day, rather than being owned by it.

Set up the routines that work for you. Stick to them. You might be surprised at how much it helps your energy levels later in the day!


Refocusing is about getting clear on where you’re going. It’s about knowing which direction you’re heading, and why. The ‘why’ is important because we’re all busy and our days get clogged up. The ‘why’ factor will motivate you and keep you on track. It’s a reminder of what’s meaningful to you.

Having the ‘why’ helps you to take those purposeful and deliberate steps in the direction you want to go. It allows you to consider the actions you’re taking. Just like any other roadmap, once you know where you’re headed, you also know what choices and decisions you have to make to get there. Without the ‘why’, without that final destination, it’s pretty hard to know what choices you need to make!

A practical step you can implement immediately:

Take a step back and start asking yourself the questions that will determine your destination. Where do you want to be six months from now, and what will that look like? How will you know you’ve gotten there—not just wishy-washy feelings, but definitive indicators or success factors that will tell you that you’ve arrived?

If you’re looking to develop your career, look at what projects you’re on and the level of responsibility you have. What’s your career vision? For example, if you want to move to a managerial role but have never had direct reports, what are some things you can do to learn to support someone else and be a guide to them? Are there any opportunities for you to take up mentoring?

In the end, it’s too easy for your destination to be about the dollars instead of about feeling fulfilled. What kind of work do you want to do where you feel you’re in your thriving zone? What kinds of things do you care about, or are passionate about?

Take a step back and refocus your life. Sheryl Sandburg recently quoted in a post about her recently deceased husband, “Let me not die while I am still alive.” Don’t let yourself go through each day without considering the path that will let you feel challenged, valued, as though you’re making a difference and most importantly, that will let you feel alive.


If you want to spend a weekend with like-minded women and experienced mentors exploring how the mantra of “Reflect, Re-energise and Refocus” can transform your life, consider attending the Xplore Career Retreat held from Friday 31 July to Sunday 2 August. The goal is to give women time to slow down and listen to their inner wisdom—to discover what is true for them. You’ll come away not just with a fresh view on your career and life, but also practical strategies and tools to make the changes in your life.

It’s held on a weekend so you won’t be juggling work, and you’ll be put up in an air-conditioned private cabin overlooking the Hawkesbury River. You’ll be 90 minutes out of Sydney–far enough to get away from the hustle and bustle of life, but not too far out that you’ll be even more tired when you get home.

xploreThe earlybird tickets are $1800(+GST), for all bookings by June 30. Otherwise, standard tickets are $2000(+GST). It’s tax-deductible, and it’s worth asking your employer if they will pay for this as part of your professional development. You can find the brochure here, with details on how to register.

This article was sponsored by and written in collaboration with Xplore.

photo credit: You Make Your Own Choices by Simon & His Camera (Alnwick Castle Gardens)

January is often the month we ponder what changes we would like to make in our lives – with our career featuring prominently. To help you along the way, Leaders in Heels continues its new year series of posts on how you can make the change that you have been dreaming of.

Career Change and You

We often imagine that our career path is set in stone and that we will move along this path in an organic way. So when we realise that the career we began many years ago is unfulfilling, what do we do? Our ladder is against the wrong wall, how do we get down, get support and turn our professional life around? It can be lonely and bewildering.

I worked recently with a client who had been in the same career for many years. She is a smart interesting woman who knew that her career was not going anywhere yet she was caught up in the “being plain stuck world”. It was scary and lonely for her to think about career change on her own. In the coaching sessions we worked on a plan identifying her passions and purpose. I also challenged her on the “beigness” of her life, helping to find the spunky sassy woman within.

My client became inspired to look for a career path that ignited her passion. Within 6 months she was in another job being paid 50% more, and importantly reclaiming the sassy woman within. She has recently returned from a trip to Istanbul and Italy. In a few years time will buy a property in Italy and run a small B&B alongside her passion for food and cooking. She is a new woman.

So how can you move down this path? You can, and here are some tips to start turning around your life. Remember the passion that you felt when you first started your career? You can bring that feeling back into your life. The way you start is by building a solid foundation towards a renovated career path. Read the following sections slowly as your Brain and Mindset are the most crucial parts in helping leverage and move your career ahead.

1. Passion

Start this exercise in a comfortable place, relax and let your mind be open. Ask yourself, what are the parts of your life that you are passionate about? What excites, inspires you, what would you do even if you were not paid? Let your mind run wild with these thoughts and images. This is a fun way to bring the picture of your personal and professional potential alive.


Now ask yourself the question “what will my new career path look like”. Put a vision board together with as many images as you can find. Once you have completed the vision board, spend at least 5 minutes observing your masterpiece. Remember that you have created this picture. You can make this vision come alive and move into reality.

3. Writing

Start by writing about the vision in front of you. What stands out? You may find that the board contains both images relating to your professional and personal life. So write a page about each section of this vision. What do these images mean to you, how do you feel about them, what thoughts come up, are they familiar images. If not, be inquisitive – do these images connect in some way to parts of your career path you have ignored?

4. Action Plan

This section is the core of your new direction. It is important to leverage this story into a step-by-step strategic plan to move forward. A bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. Pull out the parts that immediately connect, do they provide answers to the career path you need to be on? Ask friends to contribute or get professional help in bringing your new career path alive.

This is not the time to stop; your vision board is evidence of the smart, sassy woman you are. She needs to come out in 2015 and not be left behind. Do you want to look back at end of 2015 and say why didn’t I? Move ahead now!

Featured Photo Credit: Pixabay

Sally ArnoldSally Arnold is an award winning author, speaker and business coach who specialises in moving individuals and organisations out of stuckness. She is able to turn around challenges towards resolution and success through her innovative business Creating Encores.

Sally’s offer to readers of Leaders in Heels: Free 10 minute Power coaching session to assist in becoming clear about moving ahead in career reinvigoration. Contact Sally at