job crafting: elevate work from a career to a calling

03/24/2010

by carolyn mathews

Do you wake up feeling like you want to go to work? Do you feel satisfied about your work at the end of the workday? It might be time to make a change, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to look for other work. Instead, you can craft the career you have into one that resonates as your calling.

Job crafting, a term I first encountered in Martin Seligman’s book, Authentic Happiness (2002), is a way to elevate your work from a job or career (something that feels routine) to a calling. With a calling, we feel engaged in our work and have an over-riding sense that it truly matters. To learn more about how you view your work, go to http://www.authentichappiness.com. On the homepage, you will find the Work-Life Questionnaire. The questionnaire takes a few minutes to complete and provides guidance as to whether you view your work as a job, a career, or a calling. These constructs were developed by Amy Wrzesniewski (faculty at Yale School of Management) and colleagues.

Here are some simple guidelines to craft your work:

O Know your signature strengths. These are strengths that are inherent to you, and are consistent across situations. Different from skills, you use strengths at work and outside of work. (Find out more about your strengths, go to http://www.viacharacter.org and take the VIA-IS survey). How can you use your strengths at work?

O Consider your work’s overall purpose – not just tasks in the job description. Sometimes we focus on the job description, instead of thinking about the overall purpose of the work we do. Is there a way to look at your career so it holds meaning for others? Instead of thinking purely in terms of completing tasks to meet goals, think about the meaning your management position holds for those who work for you. They look to you for direction and feedback and in response you challenge, guide, and celebrate them! There’s a good chance that is not in your job description.

O Change your relationship with others at work. Step outside your department to meet others; or reach beyond the peers in your department. How can you change your interactions with colleagues that will change the nature of your work? If you feel somewhat isolated in your position, reach beyond that isolation by mentoring, or join a volunteer team for community work.

O Expand the scope of your job description! If you feel you have no time to extend your job description, think about how you can use your initiative to do things differently. For example, do you have organizational talents? Think about chairing a committee for the next professional conference you will attend. You get the benefit of using your strengths and getting exposure to others in your industry.

Taking these steps may hold the key to helping you find meaning in the work you currently do. You can keep the job you have, and wake up looking forward to your workday.

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