As survey after survey reports, the majority of American workers today just aren’t all that satisfied with their current employment situations, with as many as 60-70% reporting that their current jobs/careers aren’t making them happy and that they would ideally like to make some type of change.

While the idea of discontented workers is nothing new, however, and a certain amount of unrest will always be present in the economy, we believe that many people could become a lot more satisfied and content with their current situations if they would just take a moment to examine the fundamental nature of “satisfaction” in the first place — and the different options they have for improving it.

For starters, we would argue that there are two (and only two) fundamental ways that the average worker can become happier with their employment situation. What’s more, we believe that these two approaches precisely mirror the two ways that a company has for becoming “happier” — aka more profitable.  If a given company wants to increase profits, their obvious first option is to sell more stuff and generate more income, enhancing their profitability through top-line revenue growth.  In the same vein, an employed professional can build their career-improvement strategy around the idea of developing the skills, education, and self-marketing horsepower necessary to qualify for higher-caliber jobs — which will ideally give them the economic power to acquire “more stuff” and negotiate for the things they feel are important to them such as income, flexible hours, better benefits, and the like.

At the same time, companies also have the option of improving their profitability without growth, expansion, or increasing their sales in any capacity whatsoever.  How so?  Well, as anyone who’s run a company or been through MBA school can tell you, a dollar saved through bottom-line cost reduction and efficiency improvement is every bit as valid as a dollar earned through additional sales.  In our minds, this approach isn’t much different from the enlightened career professional out there who exerts their willpower and decides that simply “acquiring more stuff” isn’t necessarily the answer to increasing their satisfaction level — and that learning to be happier, with less, is an equally valid (but often overlooked) strategy for increasing one’s on-the-job contentment.  Stated another way, perhaps your problem is that you are expecting too much out of your job, and can find other creative ways to get your “happiness” needs met outside of work — or can develop frugal new spending habits that will essentially make you feel like you’ve gotten a raise, without your paycheck going up one iota.  Sound crazy?  Perhaps, but believe it or not, we’ve seen people pull off this type of priority shift with terrific results!

All things considered, one of the reasons we raise this option is that we’ve had the chance to work with thousands of people from all rungs of the economic ladder and have found that beyond a certain low threshold of necessity, there seems to be absolutely no correlation between the amount of money a person makes and how satisfied, happy, and content they are with their lives.  If anything, we’ve seen how the quest for “more, more, more” has become so consuming for some people that they will probably never be happy, no matter how much money they make or how good of a job they secure.  So while there’s certainly nothing wrong with harboring grand career aspirations, don’t overlook the fact that you might increase your happiness quotient through some “bottom-line” adjustments, as well.