Make Your Work a Craft
Do you have a “job” or a “calling?” Research shows that viewing your work as not just a means to an end, but a higher-vocation that you are drawn and dedicated to have a dramatic impact on your happiness and satisfaction. But the surprise is: it doesn’t matter what the job is – anyone can make a craft of their work to reconnect with the deeper meaning.
For a happier work life, make it a craft.
Imagine the level of detail-orientation that must be necessary to maintain a world-class hospital: the medical staff are trained at the finest institutions, there are ample ongoing opportunities for professional development and continuing education, and the administrative staff that interacts with patients are equipped with the tools needed to provide the best manner of care in a time of crisis.
What else do you picture? How far down does the quality trickle?
What if the custodial staff did things like rearrange artwork in an attempt to stimulate the brains of comatose patients? What if they invested in learning about the optimal cleaning ingredients to use in a particular room in order to avoiding exacerbating any conditions?
This may seem like an unnecessary burden but it turns out that this level of care isn’t just a fantasy, or the result of overbearing demands from leadership: it exists, and it was discovered through an in-depth study on what differentiated the most effective custodians at a hospital. It turned out that they voluntarily engaged in “job crafting,” a term that Amy Wrzesniewksi, now a Professor at Yale’s School of Management, coined to describe the practice where employees would “create the work they wanted to do out of the work they have been assigned – work they found meaningful and worthwhile.”
While many of the custodians had numerous complaints about what was often considered a “dirty job,” and described their work in a way that aligned to their job descriptions almost verbatim, there was a second group that viewed things differently – and that group was happier and better at their jobs than their peers.
In fact, the second group would describe their roles in ways like “ambassador for the hospital” and in one particular case, “I’m a healer. I create sterile spaces in the hospital. My role here is to do everything I can to promote the healing of the patients.”
With that framing, it’s no surprise that these custodians were much happier at work than the first group. In fact, further research conducted since the initial study has found that intentionally working to refine your role into something more meaningful to you can increase your satisfaction with your job – any job. Employees at all levels, in all occupations, who engage in “job crafting” report higher levels of engagement, have higher performance and show improved resilience to negative work events compared to those that don’t.
Job crafting can be viewed as having two components:
o Making Your Work a Craft: Deeply understanding the skills required to do your best work, and deliberately mastering those skills.
o Crafting your Work: Enhancing your assigned work to be most meaningful to you.
Both components bring greater satisfaction to roles by reintegrating service, meaning, and purpose into the work completed. Regardless of your current skill set, industry, or where you fall in the organizational hierarchy, there are steps that anyone can take to begin job crafting.
- Task-Focused: Seek opportunities to incorporate a new and interesting skill into your work. For example, if you want to get better at public speaking, you can actively look for opportunities to present work updates in meetings, or even attempt to fill presenter-roles at industry-specific conferences. If you’d love to work with data, you can scan the environment for chances to collect and analyze more data that will help your department or unit reach a particular goal or milestone.
- Relationship-Focused: Some of us to do our best work when we’re collaborating with others. If you have tenure with a company, you can build stronger connections by mentoring newer or more junior employees. You can also make it a habit to reach out to colleagues and look for opportunities to assist them, and cross-pollinate ideas and strategies.
- Perception-Focused: The difference between viewing your work as “taking out the trash” and “maintaining sterile environments for optimal patient health” is obvious, but this mental shift has a dramatic impact. If your role requires both, for example, sales which you hate, and data analysis which you love, rather than dreading the sales portion every day, consider reframing it as: “connecting with people in the area who share enthusiasm around your product and mission.” In that vein, the data analysis would serve as a great complement and aid to better assist your team in understanding how to be even more effective and make a wider impact.
Learning how to job craft doesn’t have to be an overnight effort, but by taking small steps, every day, you can find yourself closer to your ideal work without having to change roles or companies – and you’ll be much happier and more fulfilled as a result.
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