How to craft your job into a satisfying career or a calling by leveraging 5 Crucial Steps
This article is about the art of job crafting.
As a career and life coach, I named my business “Life Work Purpose” because our Work generally defines our Life. We tend to be happier when we connect both our life and our Work to something outside of us. This might be a calling, your Purpose, or merely the impact you want to make.
In that sense, you can also call this process “life crafting.”
If you were to compile the advice and lessons of the books like “What Color is Your Parachute” or “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” you will find at the core a hand full of core concepts. Many career coaches, like me, leverage these same themes in our work. More and more, many of these concepts are backed up by evidence — evidence in particular obtained by those who study job crafting and organizations, such the US Bureau of Labor and LinkedIn, who both invest in the study employee satisfaction and employee loyalty.
I call it orienting your career compass. When done in tandem with job crafting, it can be a powerful process.
If you are unhappy in your work or your relationships or simply in your everyday life, read this article, do the exercises, and see what you uncover.
DO. THE. WORK.
DO this process BEFORE you get to the point where you need to write your resume or update your LinkedIn profile. Give yourself time to assimilate your learnings, grow your self-awareness, effectively orient your career direction (compass).
Then, launch your pivot or job search with a fresh resume, updated LinkedIn profile and a compelling professional narrative.
Why Job Crafting?
The term “job crafting” often most well known as something that one does within an existing employment situation. A group of academics out of the Univesity of Michigan created the concept of “job crafting” and have been studying it for 20-odd years (you can even buy a workbook on it – no affiliation — I think my process as outlined below is more complete).
They are professors, not marketing gurus, so if you are not familiar with “job crafting” don’t feel bad. Still, they’ve got mountains of research to back up the methods, and they do consult with companies like Google and ADP (which is why these companies have adequate internal career development).
Initially, researchers came up with the concept to address the consistent lack of engagement found across the board when surveying American employees. In this sense, job crafting is something that your employer would do with employees from the start to ensure that each employee is able to give her best and also enjoy her work, thus remaining engaged and growing in value as a human resource.
Some companies do this better than others. Many don’t do it all.
If you would like to know more about job crafting origins and function from a technical sense you can read this nice and compact (less than 10 page) paper: What is Job Crafting and Why Does It Matter.
Why Job or Life Crafting Works (or doesn’t!)
From the perspective of a life coach, I propose that one reason that companies are challenged to leverage this process for employees effectively is that YOU and the COMPANY have different agendas. As a coach, if MY ego is committed to YOUR outcome, it will interfere with the coaching process. In a company that has built good trust and employee engagement, I can see this process working.
Unfortunately, most companies lack the trust, reliability, sincerity and so on to effectively engage an employee in a fully open and honest job crafting process. Indeed, if done well, job crafting with your employees may have the intended outcome of keeping some excellent employees, while also showing others that they’d prefer a different career or company!
The perfect person to lead your job crafting endeavors is in fact YOU! You can also do it with the support of a cohort of peers or you can do it with a career (or life) coach.
So for anyone thinking about new job — or even at the start of your career — I’ve broken this down into a 5-step process that you can use to start your own “job crafting.”
You can use this to make your current job better, to plan a pivot, or to figure out how to turn a good job into a long-term career and possibly even a calling.
1 – Clarify Your Core Values & Your Values in Action
Get clear on your values.
Often when we feel stuck, frustrated or anxious, this is a sign that there is a misalignment between our expectations of life and what is happening in our life. The root cause of this may indicate a problem with “expectations” and not understanding our what we value impacts how we experience life.
Clarity in our values is the equivalent of orienting your compass to find a path out of the forest. You’ll note here that I make a distinction between Core Values and Values in Action.
Core Values = what you feel in your gut + the impact you want to make.
Values in Action = What you are like and what you look for in people, relationships, work situations.
If your current work is not in sync with either type of values there is a good chance that when you wake up in the morning, your gut is not happy to go to work.
Assignment 1: Print off this PDF created by Brene Brown.
Grab a highlighter or pen and identify 10 to 20 core values that resonate with you. Now make three columns labelled: Family, Society, and Me. Write each value from this list in the column where the value belongs. It’s okay to put the same value in more than one column. When you finish — cross off any values that only show up under “society” or “family.”
When you do this exercise carefully distinguish between “I should value” also known as — what your mom, your boss, your neighbour, or society says you should value — versus what you really personally appreciate at your core.
The values under “Me” are keepers — these are YOUR core values. You might also be able to see how these values align with the “impact” you hope to have on the world.
Assignment 2: Take the VIA Character Strengths Test (free)
VIA stands for Values in Action. You might see these as character strengths or you might see them as how you show up in your life. How you BE.
For this exercise the free report is adequate, you can always pay up for the full report if you wish. The top six values you can use to orient your compass a bit further. Think of these in relation to your work life, home life, and social life. If you are not able to achieve or access these values in any part of your life you may experience friction.
When you are looking for a new job, keep an eye out for work and companies whose culture aligns with your Top 5.
Now that you’ve done these two exercises, consider what you might do differently today and over the next two weeks, to better honor your values in your life and in your work. If your current work is or is not aligned with your values, consider making mindmap what you’d like your next job to look like based on your Core Values (impact) and your Values-In-Action.
Step 2 – Celebrate Your Strengths
Get clear on your strengths and stand tall in what you do well.
Understanding your strengths is crucial to flourishing in life and in work. If you values are “how you BE” then your strengths are “how you DO.”
Be Do Be Do Be.
Assignment 1: Strengths Finder
To give you the language to describe your strengths and also to see what you do “easily” as a strength, I prefer the Gallup Strengths Finder. Many people think of certain things they do as easy because for YOU they are easy, but for others they are hard. Sometimes the people of influence in your life may have led you to believe that your strength(s) is a weakness.
For example, people who like repetitive and predictable tasks, don’t always appreciate or understand entrepreneurs and vice versa. Just because someone is analytical doesn’t mean she is strategic. Implementation and planning are not the same.
Knowing and understanding your strengths lets you, do you.
Think of it this way — leveraging your strengths is like putting up a sail on your sailboat. Working on your weaknesses is filling in any leaks in the boat — you can patch leaks all you want, but if you don’t put your sail, you have no control where you will go.
Link to take the test directly on Gallup’s site (the test is $19.99 USD (Not an affiliate link, no gain for me, just for you!)
Assignment 2: 360 Review
If you don’t feel like you have a good handle on how other people perceive you, I also recommend doing your own “360 Strengths Assessment” by asking three to five people from your inner circle (family, friends and peers) the following questions:
- What are my top 5 strengths?
- What are five words you’d use to describe me?
- What do you think I do at work?
- What problems would you come to me to solve?
Assignment 3: Finding Your Flow
Start with a few strength-stories. Think of two or three times in your past in which you lost yourself in whatever you were doing. What did you achieve? How did you feel while you were doing it? What strengths were you using?
Sometimes our moments of flow are not found in our work, but perhaps when we were outside or doing something creative. Think about this and let it inform what you might change about your work. Maybe this knowledge will be fuel for a career pivot or maybe it will give you insight into how you learn, move or think.
Step 3 – Define Your Needs & Wants
There is a cycle of self-care that revolves around what you need and what you enjoy in life. If you ignore this cycle, you may end up burned out, bitter, ill or generally grumpy. The formula for this cycle is Self-Compassion + Self-Awareness = Self-Care, and if you practice one, you naturally cycle into the next.
The outcome of this self-awareness usually helps you to say “no” to things that do not align with your values or strengths and say “yes” to the things that do, even if they scare you. Another way to describe self-care is self-awareness plus direct communication.
Assignment: Your Needs and Your Wants
Flourishing really requires that you own your needs and wants.
Before you ever launch a new job search, it is vital that you are clear on what you want to do and what you don’t want to do.
- Think about the type of tasks you are responsible for day-to-day — some people like repetitive and predictable jobs and others crave change — don’t try to fit a round peg into a square hole to make money.
- Define what you need for your salary, benefits, hours, commute, and work situation.
- Be honest about what you want from your work relationships, potential impact, and room for growth.
- Think about how you would like your work to interface with your life — if there are points of tension — what might you do differently?
Don’t think of these questions and answers as optional — understanding what you need and want will empower you to make choices. You might choose to make trade-offs, but when you know the “why” behind your choices, it’s so much easier than simply feeling like you are at the mercy of the universe.
Step 4 – Pick a Direction
Don’t diminish your experiences, interests and ability to learn — who you are is pointing you somewhere.
What are you interested in? What are your experiences? How can what you’ve done in the past translate to something else tomorrow? If you could wave a magic wand and be assured success, what would you do?
Assignment 1 – Answer the following questions:
What do I want to learn?
Where do I want to be known for?
What have I always wanted to do/travel/learn? What is stopping me?
Where am I going?
Where do I want to be in 20 years?
Where do I want to be in 10-years?
Where do I want to be in 3-years?
What do I need to do NEXT to move in this direction?
What do I NOT want to do?
What can I do, but that I don’t enjoy?
Will my current work move me towards where I want to be in 10 or 20 years?
What do I need to resolve or get over?
What I am I afraid of?
Assignment 2: Pick a Direction
Pick a possible longterm career goal or a direction — where do you want to be in 20-years? If that time frame makes you uncomfortable, you can start with say, three years. Now think of what you can do today, in the next two weeks, and in the next six months to move you in that direction.
Based on your values and your strengths, and the answers to the questions in the last section — what would you do if you could be assured success? What job would bring you both joy and meet your needs?
Do you want the same job in a different company or situation? Do you want a totally different job? An educational program? Do you need to compile your skills and experiences to figure out what is transferable to this new role? Maybe you want to start a side hustle?
Pick a direction and then turn it into a SMART goal. Then build in some accountability. Who can help you? Who can keep you on track? Do you need a mentor? A coach? Can you be your own mentor?
In my positive psychology studies we were presented with a definition for HOPE that went something like this:
Hope is your ability to articulate your vision for you future and your plan to get there.What is your goal? What is your vision? And how will you get there?
Step 5 – Appreciative Inquiry & the Role of Gratitude
Humans display a negativity bias. What this means is that we easily get “used” to the good in our lives and focus on the negative. From an evolutionary perspective — this is good — pay attention to what might kill you — so you don’t die.
In modern society? It can result in anxiety, stress, negativity and a lack of appreciation for what is right. Think of the kid who has an amazing day at the zoo and then has a tantrum to rule them all because she got the wrong flavor of ice cream or you didn’t buy her the doohickey at the gift shop. Nine-hundred and ninety nine moments of joy ruined by one negative.
I hate to break it to you, but grown-ups do this too. Think about your place of work, your boss. What are all the GOOD things that go down every day? How have your boss or your company or your peers supported you?
What is RIGHT about your work?
What could you LISTEN to differently?
In a work setting, we talk about things such as “constructive criticism” and “honest feedback.” These phrases are often excuses for people to sugar coat negativity.
Appreciative inquiry (AI) tends to be more productive. What if your boss really just wants what’s best for you? What if you could rephrase his or her feedback or criticism in the form of AI?
The practice of appreciative inquiry is to ask yourself — what is going right?
What am I doing well? What is good about my current situation and work?
Why did I take this job or work to start? What did I love about it then?
What is right about my relationships?
What do I want more of?
What do I want to stay the same?
What happens when you focus on what is right about your job or your life?
What might you do more of or less of to relieve stress?
What is an underlying belief or expectation that you might see differently?
If you are in a position of management or work with people, you may wish to read a book on Appreciative Inquiry called Conversations Worth Having (affiliate link to Amazon).
Job Crafting In Action
Review your work from steps 1 to 5 — what tasks or activities define the work that you enjoy, that you value, that leverages your strengths and that supports you in making an impact?
Review your work from steps 1 to 5 — How do you want your work to be in terms of relationships? With whom and where do you want to work? How do you see your work interfacing with your personal life and relationships? What do you want more or less of?
How do you view your work? What is that impact you make? How can you see your work in terms of what you value and your personal choice? What do you need more of? Less of? What could you do but that you choose not to? What scares you, but could be insanely rewarding or fulfilling? What is holding you back?
Reassess your Direction:
Don’t be afraid to reassess and recalibrate. In the previous steps you may have picked a direction that you then modified because of the awareness raised by doing Step 5 – Appreciative Inquiry. That’s okay!
Goal setting works, because it lets you know what you need to do and it helps inform your decision making when you choose to adjust your goals. Picking a direction and setting a goal actually empowers you and gives you the freedom of choice. based on self-awareness.
The biggest excuse I’ve seen against goal setting is that folks are afraid to be “locked-in.” What they don’t realize is that not picking a goal actual makes life harder — you are more likely to get lost at sea — or sunk — if you don’t have a clear route. If you’ve got a map, tools, and a compass, even if you get off track, it’s easier to get back on track or to pick a new path than if you find yourself totally lost without any anchor or map!
Outcomes of Job Crafting
In many cases, I’ve worked with clients who after we go through this five-step process, they see themselves and their job in a different light, and they decide to stay. Of course, now they see their job differently, and they likely delegate or rework their tasks, cultivate new relationships and or introduce a new project or way of doing things.
Sometimes, my clients realize they are the utterly wrong field, and so they plan a pivot.
Occasionally, it turns out the client loves her work but has a truly toxic work environment, and she needs a new job in a new company.
Often, when it comes to high achieving women, my client has been complicit in creating her own silent misery. When she finally gets her ducks in a row and speaks up, asks for a raise, slightly different tasks, her boss is at first surprised, and then thrilled to comply. Sometimes this results in a 360 within the same job or company.
Are you a high achiever who is striving for perfection, and only disappointing yourself?
Responses I’ve seen to the high achiever speaking up:
- A raise higher than asked for because the boss suddenly realizes you really were UNDERPAID. Sometimes the raise is even RETROACTIVE.
- An invitation to create her own program.
- An invitation to sit in on meetings and be mentored into a different role.
- The guy in charge says “Oh, I didn’t know you were interested in that — well sure — let’s do it!”
- No need to look for a new job, because everyone sees you in a new light and you can hire the team you want!
Mindset or the “cognitive” component of your job is not to be taken lightly.
What is the impact that you make at your job — do you appreciate it — could you see it differently?
How you see the relationship between who you are and your work is crucial to your well-being and your success. It is a mindset that lets the guy writing a novel work a mindless job bagging groceries with a smile on his face. It’s a mindset that allows the head custodian at a hospital to see her job as necessary as the surgeons (what use is a filthy hospital)?
So, to recap in terms of job crafting:
What are your Values, Strengths and Interests? What is the Impact you wish to make?
How do these then relate to the Tasks you do at work, the Relationships you have at work (and that affect your work) and your Cognitive situation (impact, mindset)?
If you do this and you decide to go after a new job–don’t be a career chameleon–write a resume that is precisely relevant to the work you seek. Chameleons show they can do any job, but they don’t convince you they are the best for THIS job.
If you do this and decide to negotiate a new job or a new salary or anything, speak with confidence, knowing what you offer, knowing what you need and don’t be afraid to ask.
In my experience — this is a crucial reason women are often underpaid — we are afraid to negotiate, to ask or to speak up.
So you go through this process and decide to get a new job, before you get that interview please know that:
- The best time to ask about salary and benefits is at the start. As in the very first interview or chat with a recruiter, not when you are negotiating an offer.
- If you want remote work or a flexible schedule, ask about this from the start, not when you are negotiating an offer.
- Ask in your interview about opportunities for advancement is at the start, not when you are negotiating an offer.
- If the recruiter doesn’t seem to know his or her job? Ask in detail questions of the actual hiring manager or interviewer.
- Read between the lines of the job description and what the recruiter says. Read LinkedIn profiles and company websites.
- If you have trouble with direct communication, Google NVC Communication. NVC is a 4 step process that will help you to practice asking for what you need.
- Hiring is hard. Just because someone is interviewing you and hiring you, doesn’t mean that hiring is in their particular wheelhouse. It just means they got the job of interviewing you. Assumptions are the death of a healthy interview or hiring process — if you are unclear — ask — politely.
Once you do the above process, informational interviews are great if you want to explore a new field, a new role or a new job. Ask people what they like or love about their work. Ask about the advice they’d give or what they might do differently if they could go back in time. Avoid digging for dirt; no one wants to dish on their current company or role (and if they do, well).
If you want to get to have a job you enjoy that pays you what you need, you can. Don’t kill yourself working a dead end. Don’t care more about your job than your job cares about you. You can craft your job, your career, your mindset to bring you joy at work, at home and in your 401k.
Right NOW is always the perfect time to plan your future — be smart — know what you want and go get it!
Want to Craft Your Job and your Life?
Over the last 6+ years, I’ve worked with hundreds of clients, not only coaching but also writing resumes and LinkedIn profiles. The process outlined in this article is the core of what you will find in any self-help book, and it is also the outline or the skeleton so to say of my Be You & Flourish Coaching program which can be followed as a small group or as an individual.
Curious about coaching? Have some questions?
I am Alison, Your Career & Life Coach.
I am a career coach and a life coach (so a bit of nerd about this stuff). Before I started down this path, I worked as a manager, as an executive, as a mentor and in both community development and hospitality. I’ve studied and earned a certificate in applied positive psychology and completed a 125 hour Life Coaching Program and Certification. I’ve written resumes for over five-years (professionally) and I’ve discovered the each resume is like opening the window to my client’s soul.
Too many resumes sound like robots — the resumes that you remember — that get people hired — show little glimpses of your unique personality, they point to your goals and aspirations, they call out your values and they show your impact.
Over the period of my career leading up to my work as a resume writer and my studies in career coaching, I read pretty much every popular self-help book, I participated in Landmark Seminars, and Buddhist retreats, I even read books on resume writing (BORING). And what I found, is all these books say the same thing, different verse.
One thing that many of them however miss or that they fail to CALL OUT is that modern society likes to separate LIFE from WORK — even that entire concept of WORK-LIFE BALANCE is nonsense. Of course, you think about your husband at work. And you remember that thing you forgot to do at work…while you are with your husband! That’s normal.
What’s not normal is the tug and pull — the anxiety — that comes from a lack of balance. When we feel out of control or like a boat lost at sea.
When you study life coaching you begin to understand that everything we do is touched by LIFE. I cannot have a career coaching session with a client without encountering the client’s unique limiting beliefs about their intelligence, preparedness, past experiences, pressure from family members and or their own doubts.
Pretty much everyone has an inner critic sitting on her shoulder saying “You are not good enough.” Or, “If you do that you’ll fail and they’ll laugh!”
Indeed, job crafting is the core of what I do. Whether you are starting from scratch or simply looking for support to put your professional narrative to words (story-crafting) my work as a career coach is to support you to craft your job into a career, a calling, and as part of a life of flourishing.
I firmly believe that we can all craft work that we enjoy that meets our needs and that supports us in flourishing in Life.