Crafting Your Dream Job

February 6, 2018


Searching for your dream job? Consider this simple way to positively impact job satisfaction, work engagement, commitment and job performance.

Do you usually wake up on Monday morning and jump out of bed because you’re so excited to get to work? If not all the time, do you do it sometimes? Ever? When you’re drinking your first cup of coffee in the morning are you eager to get started working, or more eager for the work to be over? Although some people argue that the most desirable jobs are those that might be uninspiring but are stable, many people would prefer to have jobs that stimulate and motivate, and allow us to feel like we’re making a difference — the kinds of jobs that cause you to leap out of bed in the  morning and fall asleep pondering the useful, interesting things you’ll do at work the following day. Although not all jobs are like that, with a little bit of effort you may be able to nudge your job further in the direction of your dream job by engaging in job crafting.

Job crafting is a simple concept developed by business professors Amy Wrzesniewski (Yale University) and Jane Dutton (University of Michigan). Essentially, job crafting occurs when employees take the initiative to change various features of their jobs. But which features? Wrzesniewski and Dutton suggest there are three forms of job crafting that influence three different aspects of work: task crafting, relational crafting and cognitive crafting.

Task crafting involves changing, in some way, the specific work tasks you engage in. So, for example, you can volunteer to take on extra assignments because they appeal to you. You can negotiate to reassign to others tasks you’re not particularly skilled at performing. You can change how much time you devote to the different components of your job. To the extent that you can change these aspects of your job and continue to accomplish your objectives, task crafting allows you to tailor work to your interests and aptitudes.

Relational crafting pertains to changes you make to the network of relationships you have at work, and to the quality of those relationships. If you invite associates in other parts of the organization to lunch so you can better learn about how your work feeds into the work they do, you’re engaged in relational crafting. You’re also engaged in it if you make a point of dropping by the cubicles of people you particularly like, and spending less time with people you don’t. Relational crafting allows you to change the nature and strength of the relationships you have at work to better match your desires.

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Cognitive crafting involves changing the way you think about your work. By altering how you perceive your job you can influence positively the value and meaning of the work you do. For example, imagine someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy the work she does as a chambermaid because she always wanted to be a nurse caring for others. By reframing her current role from “cleaning up after others” to “caring for the experience of guests” she may find that her job better suits her interests, she enjoys the role more and is more motivated by her work. Cognitive crafting allows you to shape the way you see your job and role to better suit your preferred work identity.

Research has demonstrated the value of job crafting. Studies of its effects have shown that job crafting is positively associated with employees’ job satisfaction, positive emotions, work engagement, commitment to the organization and job performance.

In an interesting 2010 study, When Callings are Calling: Crafting Work and Leisure in Pursuit of Unanswered Occupational Callings, author Justin Berg, University of Pennsylvania, and his associates examined how employees transformed their jobs by crafting them into jobs that better reflected what they believed to be their true, but unanswered callings.

The employees did this by doing things such as changing the nature of their tasks by emphasizing aspects of their unanswered callings in the work they were already doing, adding tasks that incorporated pieces of their unanswered callings, and changing the way they thought about their work to establish a connection with the unanswered callings. In all these ways employees were able to craft their existing jobs into jobs that better reflected their interests, desires and values. In fact, the two primary outcomes experienced by employees in the study were enjoyment and meaning. These two outcomes reflect the major forms of well-being discussed in the psychology literature: Hedonic well-being, which involves the experience of pleasure, and eudaimonic well-being which involves having meaning in one’s life.

Some of the participants in Berg’s study also experienced negative outcomes, such as regret and stress, as a result of self-revealing how their current jobs failed to fully realize their true callings. Even though positive and negative outcomes often co-occur in research, is this a blessing in disguise? To improve your situation you need to be aware of where you are at. To be resilient we must acknowledge that a glass that is half full is always also half empty. We have to take the bad with the good. Such is life.

You may not currently have the job of your dreams, but you may be able to change your job by crafting it in such a way that it better reflects your interests, values and ambitions. Doing so may not cause you to jump out of bed on Monday mornings, but it may just cause you to order that first cup of coffee with a slightly wider smile on your face.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jamie Gruman
Dr. Jamie Gruman is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour. He has taught in the undergraduate program, MA Leadership Program, MBA program, and PhD program in Management at the University of Guelph. Dr. Gruman is the Founding Chair of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association. Dr. Gruman has consulted and delivered seminars for Fortune 500 corporations, public and not-for-profit agencies.

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