What’s the secret to finding career happiness? ‘Change!’ according to most career coaches. Change your goals, change your team, even change jobs entirely. But what if you are happy where you are? Many people have stayed in the same position for a decade or more and have no interest in promotion or going to new companies. Can they, too, find career success and remain satisfied?
Despite what careers experts advise it is possible to stay put, and stay happy. It’s not as simple as just showing up and doing the same thing every day, however. Making some strategic adjustments and having some frank talks with supervisors will help even the most content people keep those great jobs — and make them even better.
One in a million
For some people, a single job for life is enough. If you are one of the lucky ones, it’s worth it to stay put. But it’s crucial that you have regular conversations with your manager so they recognise the value you bring to the company. In other words, don’t get complacent.
“It’s truly a blessing to find an opportunity where you are fulfilled and happy,” said Bonnie Marcus, president of employment consulting firm Women’s Success Coaching, in an email. If you feel stimulated, keep your focus on doing your best work, said Marcus, who is based in Connecticut, in the US.
Make sure supervisors know what you do well and show them you are progressing, said Marijo Bos, managing director of Bos Advisors, a business leadership and change organisation with offices in Madrid and Miami.
“[Know] that you will no doubt have to advance your skills and mental tools and even behaviours in order to stay ahead or up on the role you’ve chosen to be comfortable in,” she said. Bos warned that if you get too comfortable or familiar in a position, it can breed routine, predictable and biased decision-making. “Make sure you challenge your assumptions and keep learning if your goal is to stay put and not advance up the leadership pipeline.”
There is nothing wrong with not wanting a promotion as long as you are challenging yourself, according to Karin Hurt, CEO of Baltimore-based Let’s Grow Leaders.
“There are many people who love their work, and their gifts are best as individual contributors,” Hurt said in an email. But, like Bos, she warns about complacency. “If you haven’t felt like you’ve jumped out of a plane in a while, you probably need a new challenge,” she said. “Be constantly looking for ways to get better at your role and expanding your skills.”
This could involve taking on special projects, making a lateral move, or mentoring a new hire. “There’s a big difference between being in a dynamic role for 20 years and doing the same job 20 times,” she said.
Proceed with caution
If you change your mind further down the line and decide that you are ready to move up or make a change, it will hurt your chances if you have been complacent for too long, according to Marcus. “Identifying your career goal and creating a strategic plan to reach that goal will help you make good decisions regarding new opportunities,” she said. “It will also keep you on track and keep your career moving forward.”
If an opportunity to move up does appear, don’t reject it outright. Consider how the change could benefit you and your career — and help you stay employed long term. “If you're offered a promotion in your area of expertise and you don't take it, then odds are your management (team) will begin to doubt your long-term value, dedication or interest,” said Seattle-based life and career coach Donna Sellers. Be aware of your company’s culture. “Some organisations are fiercely ‘up or out’ — like the partner track in an accounting firm — and some aren't,” said Sellers.
Ask yourself what makes you happy now and what career advancement could add, replace or remove from that equation. “Is it a trade-off, an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to impact more of the organisation with your own happiness formula?” she said.
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