How to Craft a Job You Love

Wish your job had a little more spice to it? Modern Mentor teaches you how to craft the job you love - without having to update your resume! Just follow these 5 steps.

Rachel Cooke
5-minute read
Episode #657
The Quick And Dirty

Crafting a job you love is simple with these 5 steps:

  1. Decide to act
  2. Choose what to chase
  3. Redefine a task's purpose
  4. Map out a plan
  5. Run experiments

With books, movies, or music, I’m a tough customer. If I’m not jazzed in minutes, I’m moving onto the next. There are too many choices for me to stick with something that's not lighting me up. A job, however, is not a song. It’s not so easy to change. But unlike a book or a movie, which you only see as a finished product, a job is malleable. You can bend and shape it to your will. The way you do this is through job crafting. A term coined by Jane Dutton and Amy Wrzesniewski, job crafting is the act of customizing your job to better fit your motives, strengths, and passions.

Your job, presumably, has a formal description. But that description’s purpose is to capture what you need to deliver – client outcomes, financial reports, HR processes, etc. But how you get that done – the tasks, activities, and interactions you engage in – is up to you to mold. As long as you deliver that outcome.

I used to work in Operations Management for a logistics company. I had to ensure thousands of items made it onto shelves daily. Many of my peers did this through a focus on technology and process efficiency. But my strengths and passions aligned better to people. And so I achieved success by focusing on talent – hiring, training, and rewarding them – to ensure the same outcomes were achieved.

So if your job has you dreading Monday mornings, here are 5 steps you can take to craft a job you love without having to update your resume:

Step #1: Decide to act

Job crafting begins with a choice. You must choose to recognize that jobs are not jail. You are not a prisoner to the description on the page. Every job can be bent, twisted, or molded within its boundaries.

“Crafting” is an action verb. So don’t sit back and wait for something to happen. Choose to take action. Begin with a commitment to yourself. Repeat after me: “I will take responsibility for crafting this job into something I love.”

Look at you – already making things happen!

You are not a prisoner to the description on the page. Every job can be bent, twisted, or molded within its boundaries.

Step #2: Choose what to chase

Job crafting isn’t about changing your title, function, or salary. It's about infusing more joy into your days. And to infuse joy, you must first know what brings you joy – the tasks, actions, projects, conversations, interactions, challenges, etc. that fuel your energy tank. It’s about finding the things you love, you’re good at, you want to be known for.

So start by asking yourself some reflective questions:

  • When do I find myself getting into a flow state (i.e., that magical feeling of time having flown while you were wonderfully lost in what you were working on)?
  • What activities leave me feeling accomplished, productive, or proud once I’ve finished them?
  • What do I hope people seek my help or advice on?
  • When do I find myself smiling, laughing, or just breathing deeply during the day?
  • Whose job do I envy most and specifically why?

The point is to get really specific about the things that light you up. Take notes as you go. Look for patterns. What do you see?

Maybe you discover your favorite activities include researching, learning, and problem-solving. Or perhaps for you it’s mentoring, training, or coaching others. Maybe you discovered that you get lost in spreadsheets. Or is it slides? Maybe your joy comes from running the meeting or presenting the idea.

There are no wrong answers here. As long as you’re being honest with yourself, you’re allowed to love whatever you love. 

Step #3: Redefine a task’s purpose

And now, a moment of real talk. Having clarity on what you love doesn’t mean you can stop doing everything you don’t love. You may still need to hit the boring update meetings or run those arduous reports or crunch those numbers. We all have to tolerate daily moments of blah. 

So, what can you do to bump up the joy?

Let's say you're a barista at a coffee shop and you spend your days dumping grinds and filling cups. It can get tedious. But pay attention to a few customers throughout the day. Watch them take a sip of the latte you just made and see their faces brighten. You have a hand in re-energizing someone, improving their day. Focus on that rather than on the daily grind. (See what I did there?)

When doing a task you don’t love, try shifting your focus from action to purpose. That small mindset shift can have a big impact on your mood and outlook.

So now it’s your turn. You may not love noodling around in that spreadsheet. But can you connect your noodling with a bigger outcome? Are you playing a role in helping your customers? In saving your organization money? In helping leaders choose a new innovation?

When doing a task you don’t love, try shifting your focus from action to purpose. That small mindset shift can have a big impact on your mood and outlook.

Step #4: Map out a plan

Time to shift from commitment to reflection to action. Let’s put your insights to work and build an action plan.

Start by finding links between the things you love to do and potential positive outcomes for the company. If you love teaching, for example, don’t just tell your boss you’d like to teach more. Find opportunities to train your team on skills or systems or strategies that add value to the company.

If you enjoy research and problem-solving, scour your company for live problems, and propose to your boss that you play a role in sourcing solutions.

In putting your proposed plan together, here are some questions you might ask yourself:

  • What activities do I want more of?
  • How could doing more of these activities benefit the company?
  • What live opportunities are currently available to me?
  • Whose support, permission, or sponsorship do I need?
  • What, if any, resources will I need?
  • How will I track results?

These answers will ultimately inform the conversation you have with your boss. If you’ve made your case wisely, it’ll be nearly impossible for them to say no.

Step #5: Run experiments

As you start to shift how you spend your time, not every choice or change will be a win. That is totally OK. Just maintain a mindset of experimentation.

You may find you’re getting drained from mentoring too many people, or you suddenly have one too many clients in your portfolio. Or the company may decide that you’ve done enough research on the problem and they need you to shift gears.

Job crafting is not a discrete activity. You don’t do it once, but rather continuously. Seeing this process as an evolution, a series of experiments you’ll run over time, will set you up for success on your terms – my favorite brand of success!

About the Author

Rachel Cooke

Rachel Cooke is a leadership and workplace expert who holds her M.A. in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. Founder of Lead Above Noise, she has been named a top 100 Leadership Speaker by Inc. Magazine and has been featured in Fast Company, The Huffington Post, and many more.