So, you have an idea of what calling is and why it is important for your work, and you may have even thought through what your calling is. But what if your current work isn’t the ideal career for you? Or maybe you don’t have the liberty now to switch to another career that aligns better with your sense of purpose. How do you live out your calling, then?
Don’t worry – you don’t need to leave your day job to embrace your calling. Today, we’ll be looking at a practice known as job crafting, and explore how it can potentially help us align our work better with our calling in life.
What is Job crafting?
The concept of job crafting was formally introduced by management professors Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane Dutton in 2001. It refers to the changes that a worker can apply to their work in order to draw a deeper sense of meaning and purpose, all within the context of their formal job.
Wrzesniewski’s work shows that allowing employees to influence their work scope can change the meaning of that work, and allow them to take ownership of their job. Job crafting can foster engagement, job satisfaction, and resilience.
You can check Wrzesniewski’s explanation of job crafting in the video below:
In researching this topic, I have found Dik and Duffy’s book on Make Your Job a Calling and this article at PositivePsychology.com particularly helpful. I will be making references to these resources in the following summary.
3 Key Types of Job Crafting
Wrzesniewski and Dutton suggests 3 key activities in job crafting:
- Task Crafting
- Relational Crafting
- Cognitive Crafting
Through one or more of these activities, we can aim to create the job-person fit that might be lacking in our current job roles.
Let’s look at each one in turn.
The first type of job crafting is task crafting. Task crafting is the process of changing our formal job responsibilities to better align them with our unique work personalities and preferences, effectively adding or dropping the responsibilities set out in our official job description.
One positive outcome is that task crafting allows our job to be what we make of it. We all have a set list of tasks within our job description that we have to carry out. Even if we believe we are working in the center of our calling, there is usually at least some tasks in our work that we dislike or feel they have little to do with our calling. With task crafting, we can highlight certain tasks we are good at or feel an affinity to, or add in other tasks that are not required to help bring our jobs into closer alignment with our callings.
Some examples from PositivePsychology.com:
For instance, a chef may take it upon themselves to not just serve food but to create beautifully designed plates that enhance a customer’s dining experience. As another example, a bus driver might decide to give helpful sightseeing advice to tourists along his route.
My personal example: I am interested in web design and love working with web tools and applications. So, I took on the additional task of creating Google sites for staff professional development, department programmes, as well as resource sites for my students, that was not in my job scope. This created value for my school, and I also feel that it aligned with who I am.
Another example: Remember Steven Toon, the engineer/theological student? In my interview with him, he mentioned that while he was a process engineer, he also serves as a Seagate ambassador and the Chairman of the Seagate Young Professionals chapter in Singapore. In his own words, these opportunities to interact more with people “is more ‘me’ than engineering”.
The second type of job crafting is relational crafting. Relational crafting is about changing the type and nature of the interactions we have with others at work. For example, changing who we work with on different tasks, and who we engage with on a regular basis.
Relational crafting can help improve the interpersonal atmosphere of our workplace, and also open up new opportunities to learn from and collaborate with others. I have been blessed by the colleagues that I work closely with, to exchange ideas and brainstorm solutions for teaching difficult content or classes. The oral teaching package that we developed last year was one of the many fruits of these exchanges and brainstorming.
It is also helpful to have colleagues to help us find meaning in some of the difficulties at work. As Dik and Duffy puts it,
“Establishing stronger, more positive connections with others at work will generate a greater degree of meaning and on-the-job happiness.”
Relational crafting is not just about forming new relationships – it is also about decreasing our involvement in existing ones. When done strategically, this can have a positive effect on our work. For example, if we know that some co-workers tend to take up an excessive amount of time in meetings (say, 2 hours for what can be settled within 30 minutes), we can arrange another meeting half an hour after, so that the conversation can be more efficient.
The third type of job crafting is cognitive crafting. Cognitive crafting is about redefining our perception of the kinds of tasks or relationships involved in our job, or how meaningful we perceive these tasks or relationships. By reframing our mindset towards what we are doing, we can find or create more meaning about what might otherwise be seen as ‘boring’ or ‘mindless’ work. Thus, cognitive crafting can be especially helpful for individuals involved in highly structured jobs (e.g. production worker, truck driver).
For example, a simple housekeeping job in a hospital in this sense might be less about cleaning the patients’ rooms, and more about keeping hurting people comfortable, relaxed, and cared for. That was the case for Maggie Garza, the quintessential example of job crafting in Dik and Duffy’s book:
While engaging in the essential duties of the job, which centers around cleaning and sanitizing, Maggie adds other tasks, such as asking patients if they need anything and then finding a nurse, a meal menu, the TV remote, or whatever else they require. She expands the relational boundaries of her job description by interacting meaningfully with patients and their families …… She also thinks of her job as consisting of far more than the discrete tasks that technically define it; for her, the job is about providing high quality care to sick and suffering children.
Job-crafters like Maggie will go a long way in forging a meaningful path in whatever work their hands find to do!
How to Craft Your Job
So, now that you are sold on the benefits of job crafting (I assume), how do you go about it?
The pioneers on job crafting – Berg, Dutton, and Wrzesniewski – have developed the Job Crafting Exercise to help workers apply some of the strategies in a comprehensive exercise tool. Here, I will share Dik and Duffy’s adapted approach, simply to give an idea of how it works. I’ll also be creating some simple tools based on their description and share how I apply them.
You may download my Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that I used for the exercise here.
1. Outline your job tasks
For the first step, write down your “Current Job” at the top, and create 3 columns, naming them “Low”, “Medium” and “High”. Under each column, list the various tasks in a typical workday, organized according to the level of time and energy required.
My worked example as a Secondary School Senior Teacher in Chinese Language would look something like this:
2. Outline your gifts
Next, on a second tab or sheet, write “Gifts” at the top, and create 3 columns – “Motives”, “Strengths” and “Passions”. Under “Motives”, list 5 outcomes you hope to attain in your current job.
Under “Strengths”, list 5 strengths or abilities you can apply in your job.
Under “Passions”, list 5 areas of passion you most value or are interested in, that you can apply in your job.
My personal worked example looks like this:
3. Integrate tasks and gifts
Third, on a new tab or sheet, write “New and Improved” at the top, and copy the Low/Medium/High columns as per the “Current Job”. Transfer the tasks from Current Job, but now put them in the columns that you wish you were devoting to each task.
As you reorganize your job tasks to reflect your preferences, some themes may emerge. Circle clusters of tasks that illustrate those themes, and give each theme a name. Once you have transferred your tasks here, start incorporating your gifts. Identify the gifts that support these themes, and write them near each other. You may use the same motive/strength/passion to support more than one theme.
When you complete this process, you have a visual representation of what you job could become.
Here’s my worked example:
In my simple exercise, I shifted tasks such as “taking meeting minutes” and “committee work” to Medium, as these are less aligned to my calling and personality. Some of the themes that emerged are: “Directly Helping Students learn”, “Mentoring others”, and “Creating effective resources to enhance learning”. These are more aligned with my motives, strengths and passions, and thus I want to devote more time and energy to them.
Another insight I drew from this exercise is that 2 of my least favorite tasks, “Setting papers” and “Marking assignments”, can be reframed as a form of developing meaningful and creative resources for my students, and as a way to assess their learning. Both are applications of Cognitive Crafting, and helps me to at least make the tasks more bearable.
4. Take action
For this final step, we need to develop an action plan to make the hypothetical New and Improved Job a reality. This is where we need to speak with our supervisors and discuss our preferences. We can brainstorm with a trusted co-worker or a mentor before doing so. Having that second opinion will help to fine-tune our thoughts as we settle in on a more well-crafted job for ourselves.
Note: the above exercise was my simple application of Dik and Duffy’s adaptation of the Job Crafting Exercise. (I have also checked that sharing my personal worked example does not infringe any copyright) This is NOT the actual Job Crafting Exercise used by the originators Berg, Dutton, and Wrzesniewski. Feel free to download the Excel sheet and try it for yourself!
Phew! This is quite a long post for me to write, but I hope you have gleaned something useful from it. One reason for the gap between this and the previous post, was that school had been really busy past one month. Also, I felt that I should actually try the job crafting exercise for myself before recommending it for my readers to use. All these added to the time taken for my research.
So, what do you think about job crafting? Do you do job crafting (task, relational, cognitive) on your own? Was the simple exercise useful? Share your experiences in the comments!