Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re thinking about your next career move. While finding a new job is often a great option, a frequently unexplored but equally strong option in many cases is building the job you want at your current employer.
If you decide you want to stick it out and try to make your current company work, that doesn’t mean you have to settle. Instead, I suggest you job-craft: stay with your current employer in your current job, while coming up with a process or a strategy to shape that job into a job that’s getting closer and closer to what you want, over time.
But how? There are four approaches that I advocate, and have seen work with my mentees, those I’ve coached, and my own friends and colleagues.
Job-Craft Strategy #1: Make Your Impact More Visible. In 2001, two professors roamed the country in search of people with menial jobs, who loved their work. What they found was that in a commonly devalued profession, janitorial work, a percentage of people found joy in their work by connecting their day-to-day responsibilities with making other people’s lives better. Their findings were so profound that they coined the term “job-crafting” to mean reframing your job in terms of its broader societal impact, in order to feel more joy and purpose in it.
In the context, of your day-to-day job, one way to get more out of the work you do every day is to engineer ways to get closer to the people who your work touches and hear first-hand the difference you are making – and to take steps every day to increase that impact. Whether it’s by talking to real customers, or colleagues in a neighboring department who you support, getting closer to your impact and magnifying it unlocks more happiness with the work you do every day.
Job-Craft Strategy #2: Stop Doing Things That Don’t Add Value. If you don’t love the work you do every day, one reason may be that you’ve collected legacy projects that don’t add value, cost time, and prevent you from doing work you really enjoy. In that case, one great job-crafting strategy is to audit the work you do for these “barnacles” and find a way to get them off your plate.
Ideally, the best way to handle barnacles is to remove them, by negotiating these tasks with your manager. The key to doing this well is have a clear sense of the opportunity cost – what new tasks you are unable to pursue because of these current lower-value tasks. If removing them is not possible, a second strategy is to streamline or automate these tasks – find ways to make them as efficient and painless as possible. Either way, if you seek to mitigate the barnacles, you’ll be spending less time on tasks you hate, and more on tasks that matter.