How job crafting could make you happier at work

Have you changed and grown during your career, but your job description hasn’t? Are you looking for more purpose and meaning in your work? If you’re not quite ready to quit your job, job crafting may be the answer, says corporate wellbeing specialist Melanie Moffatt.

As a kid, I loved reading ‘choose your own adventure’ books. If I didn’t like how the story ended, I could just turn to a new page and find a different option (flying a helicopter over New York City sounds good today, maybe tomorrow I’ll go swinging through the Amazon jungle!).

It’s a principle I’ve also applied to my career. Whenever I’ve felt in need of a change, I’ve taken it upon myself to write the next chapter – following my different interests from the travel industry to nutrition to my current role in corporate health and wellbeing.

Sometimes that’s involved a total career change. But more recently, I’ve embraced ‘job crafting’ as a way to reshape my role to align with new interests, and develop skills and connections outside my core area.

And the evidence shows it can actually make you happier at work because it provides a sense of autonomy and control, which is strongly correlated with workplace wellbeing.

So what exactly is job crafting?

When you’re feeling stuck or ready for a new challenge in your career, it can feel like there are three distinct options:

  1. Quit and look for a new job in a new company.
  2. Apply for a new role within your existing company.
  3. Retrain for a different career altogether.

But what if there was a fourth option: to reimagine and redesign your current role?

This is what’s known as job crafting and while it isn’t a new concept, it has had new life breathed into it since the pandemic resulted in a rapid reimagining of how and where we work.

Essentially it means creating the job you want from the one you already have, by finding new ways to make your work more engaging and meaningful.

Think of it as a ‘choose your own adventure’ for careers. There are no wrong turns or dead ends, only opportunities to learn and evolve.

How does job crafting work?

When we think of the word ‘craft’, it typically conjures up an image of creating something new from existing materials. The environment (in this case, your organisation) doesn’t change, but the object (your role) can have multiple variations.

When it comes to job crafting, these are some of the variations you can try:

Task crafting – this involves refining and adding tasks to your current role to align with personal interests. For example, if your team lacks systems, but you love being organised, you can use your strengths to create a better workflow process. Or if, like me, you love writing and communications, you could put your hand up to contribute to your company newsletter or ask to speak at the next team conference.

Relationship crafting – this means looking at ways to expand interactions outside your core team to build new connections and networks. Perhaps you enjoy being around people but your role is very isolated, or you want to connect with other parts of your organisation or industry. Are there projects you could work on or networks you could join to build these relationships and open you up to new experiences?

Cognitive crafting – this is an interesting one as it actually involves shifting your mindset to find purpose and meaning in your work. As an example, a hospital nurse who took part in a job design study decided that instead of seeing her role as changing bedsheets, she could align it with a greater purpose of helping patients recover in a clean environment. Or a salesperson might decide to see their job as not just selling a product, but creating a memorable experience for their customer or helping to improve someone’s life.

Want to give it a try?

If job crafting sounds like it could be for you, here’s how to get started:

  1. Grab a cuppa and a notepad and reflect on the aspects of your role that energise you. Do you feel happy when you’re leading a project? Does thinking about strategy excite you? Do you want to be more creative or do you thrive on helping people? Think about ways you could take on different tasks or projects, engage with different parts of your organisation or change how you see your role to tap into those areas that are important to you.
  2. Chat to your leader. Getting buy-in from your boss might feel daunting but with employee wellbeing and retention such a focus of workplaces now, there’s never been a better time to discuss how you could be happier in your role. Start by setting aside time with your manager and share specific examples of the career growth opportunities you’ve identified and how you’d like to craft your role. Make sure you view it from your leader’s perspective too, so you can find a win-win solution that might also take some pressure off them. You could even suggest a trial period to help you both learn, adjust and pivot as needed.
  3. Start small. The great thing about job crafting is that it doesn’t require changing everything at once. You can experiment with minor, continuous improvements. The point is you’re taking ownership of your career path, which is the first step towards feeling more fulfilled at work!

Of course, you may get to the end of this process and decide your next chapter does require a new job or even a total career change. But there’s little to lose in exploring whether job crafting is right for you.

You might just find that small shift in your day-to-day tasks, interactions or mindset is enough to reignite the spark in your work life without needing to embark on a whole new adventure!

Melanie Moffatt is a corporate health and wellbeing specialist, nutritionist and accidental recipe creator. She is passionate about delivering human-centric wellbeing solutions to support people to live happier and healthier lives.

Keep in touch with Melanie

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