You work for an organization you love. You’re a high performer, respected, and well liked by your peers and managers. No one would suspect that you feel drained at the end of the day, conflicted by the day-to-day operational demands of your role and what you really want to be doing. Maybe you’ve even been spending time thinking about revising your resume and searching for a new job.
If this sounds familiar, it’s likely that you are experiencing a mismatch between your interests and your job responsibilities. Research in positive psychology has shown that people who tailor their work to better align with their authentic selves are happier and more engaged. Psychologists call this conscious alignment “job crafting,” which can often lead to individuals finding greater meaning and an improved work identity.
But before you leave your job out of frustration, try these suggestions to turn your current job into one you love. With a few steps, you can learn to tailor your role and responsibilities to go from good to great.
Know your strengths
Sure, strengths are things you excel in, but there’s more: Strengths energize us.
Think of a time when you were so engaged you lost track of time, or when you achieved something truly gratifying. What were you doing? Meeting with a potential donor, fascinated learning about their life and passions? Setting up an alumni event and enjoying every detail from choosing the venue and invitations to the speaker selection? Chances are, you were using your strengths.
The first step in job crafting is identifying your top strengths. If you’re not sure what they are, there are many ways to find out. Try asking 10-15 people who know you well to send you an email explaining a time when they saw you at your best. What strengths did they notice you using; tenacity, leadership, organization, love, or something else? You may also choose to take a self-assessment, such as VIA Survey of Character Strengths.
Read an example of how learning about and sharing your strengths can lead to changes in leadership style in, “Are You Leading with Your Strengths?” by Megan Leary. As Leary explains, “...strengths are our personal set of tools we each should be using and developing as much as we can.”
Follow your energy
The next step in identifying your strengths is to notice when you feel energized at work, and when you don’t. What are the tasks that you look forward to? Psychologists call this type of deep engagement “flow.”
To get started, keep a daily list of the things you find energizing. Adding to your list before you leave work each day—or on your commute home, if you’re not driving—allows you to capture the details when they’re fresh. Include extracurricular and non-work related activities, too; volunteer work, hobbies, and conversations with people you like and respect can all go on your list.
In every job, there are the must-do tasks, but perhaps, there’s a better way to align your role with your skills and interests. If your job requires you to process purchase orders, try tackling them early in the day, or consider exploring ways to automate the process making it less time consuming.
Build new relationships
Let’s say that you occasionally interact with the alumni events manager in your organization and you decide to invite her to learn more about her role. It may come up in conversation that an upcoming event she is running is understaffed, so you volunteer to help out.
Not only does this kind of proactivity foster relationships, it provides exposure to a function you want to become more involved in, too. This is an example of job crafting in action.
Rather than thinking of your work as a bunch of monotonous tasks, can you mentally connect it to the larger mission of your organization? Processing accounts receivable and purchase orders, though perhaps not as rewarding as you would like, keeps your employer financially sound. Reminding yourself of the value of contributing to a larger goal can lead to more fulfillment and meaning.
Solve a problem
If you plan to ask your manager for a change in responsibilities, make sure that your request aligns with the needs of the organizations. Although job crafting is meant to make you happier, it’s not only about you. It will be much easier to get buy-in if you can explain how it will benefit the organization. In “Free Yourself from Feeling Stuck at Work,” Beatriz Mieses explains how to build a plan to get buy in to what you want. Read her piece for suggestions that you can put into action.
Not all situations lend themselves to job crafting. Some managers may not be open to different approaches. To gauge the potential, be open with your manager about your request and be willing to pilot your program or take it in stages. Remember that turning your job into one you love requires that you create value for others as well as yourself, identify your internal support system, and build trust.
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About the Author | Susan Peppercorn is a career coach and writer with a passion for helping individuals go from surviving to thriving in their careers. Through her knowledge of personal branding, hiring practices and social media, she enables professionals to realize their career goals. Susan is founder and CEO of Positive Workplace Partners and author of the soon to be published book, Ditch Your Inner Critic: Let Go of Perfection to Thrive in Your Career.