NY Times article, hope researcher Shane Lopez, PhD, talks about Job Crafting, a concept designed by Jane Dutton, Amy Wrzesniewski and Justin Berg at the University of Michigan. Lopez starts by citing what the research says about four common characteristics of people who love their jobs:

  • They use their strengths every day
  • They feel integral to their organization’s future
  • They are surrounded by colleagues who care about their overall wellbeing
  • They are excited about the future because of a leader’s enthusiasm and vision.
Using these criteria to make changes in your job will help you experience some relief from the stress of dissatisfaction. Although you may feel incapable of changing your job in the short-term, by adjusting the way you approach certain tasks (or how you do your job) you will actually change your relationship with it.  Consider each of the following questions in relationship to your job: Are you aware of your strengths and are you using them? Tip: To find your strengths, make a list of the things that you do well and that give you energy through their accomplishment. Think about past successes and happy moments at work. What were the talents you contributed to those moments: Ideas? Execution? Collaboration? If you can’t think of any, ask others.  Then ask yourself, how can I apply or insert these strengths or passions into what I currently do? Knowing your strengths and trying to do more with them in your current work can eventually shift the boundaries of your job and help you approach your work differently. If you can’t change what you do, look for ways to change the way you do it. How much do you understand about your organization’s future and how you fit into that future? Tip: Talk to your manager or a friendly mentor about strategic plans for the organization or unit in which you work.  Ask them to help you think about how your work contributes to those plans and/or how you could more meaningfully participate. Then set one or two reachable short-term (3-6 month) goals. When you’ve accomplished those goals, celebrate…and do it again. Setting and reaching doable goals can give you a sense of the autonomy and satisfaction you may be lacking. Are you spending time with the wrong people at work? Tip: Negativity is contagious and you will catch this common workplace disease if you hang around people who complain a lot.  While it may feel good to vent frustrations and empathize, over time a negative attitude leaks into everything.  To cultivate new workplace relationships, schedule regular coffee or walking dates with positive people outside of your regular circle.  Join a committee to make improvements in the workplace or a social group who engages in activities that you enjoy.  Changing the human scenery around you will change the emotional landscape in your head as well as your attitude about your job. Is your leader sharing his/her enthusiasm and vision? Tip: Leaders are people, too. They can get overwhelmed and forget that their subordinates need more communication from them. If your leader is not communicating, make an appointment with her or him and ask about his or her vision for the future.  What is your leader most excited about?  What keeps him or her up at night?  How can you help?  You might find that the person at the top is surprised to have someone interested in what really matters.   Both of you will gain something positive from urging the focus away from the day-to-day minutia. In summary, these short-term strategies can effectively change your mindset, making you more productive and happy at work.  By taking charge of what you can control, you feel more engaged and autonomous. These feelings counteract the negative emotions we experience when things around us seem out of our control. Additional benefits from a new mindset:
  1. The job re-crafting criteria can increase your self-awareness and help you make better choices for your future.
  2. You will be better able to see opportunities for long-term change.
  3. Applying these short-term strategies will free up the energy you spend on negativity, allowing you to focus on long-term prospects.
Ultimately, an improved mindset and increased self-awareness will help you sustain engagement with your current job and open your eyes to something new—either about yourself or your professional role.  By re-crafting your job, you will be able to align what you do with who you are. References: Berg, Justin M., Jane E. Dutton, and Amy Wrzesniewski. Job Crafting Exercise. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2008. Print. Lopez, Shane J. “Hone the Job You Have Into One You Love.” New York Times. N.p., 25 May 2013. Web. 25 May 2013.      ]]>