Career happiness is a choice, so choose to be happy

A.J. Newth, Associate Opinion Editor

My biggest fear is failure.

For a long time, my personal interpretation of failure was a letter grade below an A, not being chosen for a top-tier internship or missing out on an extracurricular opportunity. Recently, I’ve redefined my meaning of failure; being unhappy.

The scary thought is that my unhappiness could be sourced from my career. Roughly 60% of people reported feeling emotionally detached at work in 2022 and 19% reported feeling miserable, according to the State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report. As an undergraduate college student, the fear of becoming part of that statistic is crippling.

Coming into college, I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted to be, grateful that I had it all figured out, ahead of the average 465,000 students who enter university undeclared, per National Center for Education Statistics.

However, when it comes time to decide the physical next steps, like choosing an internship or a future workplace, the decision process becomes more challenging. How do I know whether this is what I really want? How do I know if this will make me happy?

I grew up around the concept of doing what you love, a phrase that has followed me throughout my constant adoration for the food service industry and learning the ins-and-outs of many businesses with my mom. Now that I have to pick something to do for the rest of my life, I’m not entirely sure where my passion lies.

Quinnipiac University has a job placement rate of 96.1%, which broke records for the best college for getting a job in 2020, per the university’s website through But how do they measure whether those alumni are happy? We never see the statistics on how many of those placements hold or how many students leave the job the university prepared them for.

As a person with many passions, committing to one thing for the rest of my life is incredibly intimidating. I want to be a successful business woman, who breaks records and the glass ceiling while climbing the corporate ladder. But I also want to be a travel journalist working for National Geographic. In another life maybe I’d teach English to kids in underprivileged school districts, or open my dream restaurant to chase a passion I had as a teenager.

Every adult has told me the world is full of possibilities, or that the world is my oyster, enter some cliche mantra here about how I can do anything I want. But no one prepared me for wanting to do everything.

The past few months I’ve searched for a sign that I was headed in the right direction. I’ve questioned my purpose in this world, not so much in an existential way, but more like trying to piece together what I’m meant to do for the rest of my life.

The reality is that I’m not as prepared as I thought I was. I know I would be successful in the field I study and that I am good at what I do, but I have no way of knowing if it will make me happy. The idea of becoming the stereotypical adult who works a 9-to-5 job in a cubicle terrifies me, not just because of the fluorescent lighting and lack of physical activity, but because I crave something that gives me a reason to get out of bed every morning.

During my soul searching I found that Indeed has a simple seven steps to help individuals find a job they will love. Besides the monetary standpoint, the website advises people to consider their passions, identify their ideal work environment and research companies that seem interesting. The website fails to mention how painfully boring the job search is and gives no advice to those who struggle to commit to one passion only.

There’s no sign to tell me if I’ll be happy with my career choices. Career advice from professionals is generic and there’s no way for counselors to know if you’re truly fulfilled. I’ve made peace with knowing that if I was honestly satisfied with my choices, really genuinely happy, I would know. It’s as simple as that.

The fear of ending up unhappy in life can weigh heavily on an individual, especially the typical college student. There’s no shame in admitting that the unknown is daunting, but it is shameful to let the fear of the future control you.

For those in similar situations, the only guidance I can offer is if you’re happy, you know. If you’re unsure about your career choices, then change them.

Life is too short to live wondering if you could have been happier.