Finding Your Dream Job Through Job Crafting

April 18, 2022

Daphne (Xin) Hou

When it comes to career choice, we often hear advice like “find your passion” as if landing dream jobs is like a scavenger hunt, and the end goal is to find it; and for those who don’t find one, they are doomed for a lifetime. The biggest problem here is that this advice misleads people to believe once you find your calling or passion, you are onto a career path that is automatically filled with joy, satisfaction, and meaningful work. To the contrary, people adopting this mindset are often found to be either paralyzed about choosing or starting a job, or hopping around all kinds of jobs.

Instead of waiting until you find your passion, we need to adopt a more adaptive, bottom-up mindset, which is to build a satisfying job or career from what you already know and have. In psychological terms, we call this job crafting. Job crafting can be defined as the individual-led job design process through which individuals proactively shape their tasks, relational, and cognitive boundaries at work to optimize their work experience.

Studies have shown that individuals engaged in job crafting behaviors experience higher levels of meaningfulness of work, work engagement, and job satisfaction2. From the perspective of job demand-resource (JD-R) theory, job crafting can be seen as a coping mechanism in response to stress and high work demands, resulting in higher levels of well-being and resilience when facing adversity at work1,2. Therefore, job crafting is a viable way to help us “find” our dream jobs through our own agency and actions. It is not a one-time event and is often already happening organically. Now, let’s dig into some tips.

Tip #1 Task Crafting – Know your strengths and interests

Start with your strengths and interests, then you can modify the prescribed job responsibilities to match the tasks with your strength skills or interests by adding/dropping tasks (e.g., a data analyst with an interest in education might host lunch-and-learn sessions to teach colleagues on data analysis), emphasizing tasks (e.g., a doctor skilled at writing might spend more time creating blogs or articles on health to leverage this strength), or redesigning tasks (e.g., a student who likes working with people might form a study group to prepare upcoming exams with fellow students).

Tip #2 Relational Crafting – Know your values and personalities

Start with your personal values and personalities, then, you can craft the relationships with others at work that allow your values and personalities to be expressed and embraced. For example, an extrovert might build new relationships quickly through group meetings or company-wide activities, while an introvert can seek to build fewer but deeper relationships through meaningful one-on-one conversations or mentorship. Or you can seek to add a new dimension to the existing relationship such as becoming an exercise buddy with your colleague after work.

Tip #3 Cognitive/Perception Crafting – Know your motivators and long-term goals

Start with your motivators and goals, then you can alter how you think about your job in relation to the big picture you have for your life. Your intrinsic motivators and long-term goals can really help change your perceptions of your job. For instance, zookeepers might see the dirty work, such as cleaning cages and feeding animals, as a moral duty to protect animals; college students might view courses as steppingstones to get their degrees that will further lead to their long-term goals. By changing perspectives, you might discover the hidden passion you have for the job you are already in.

In sum, don’t wait for your dream job to happen, instead, craft what you have on hand and make it happen.

Daphne (Xin) Hou

Key References

  • Berg, J. M., Dutton, J. E., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2013). Job crafting and meaningful work. In B. J. Dik, Z. S. Byrne & M. F. Steger (Eds.), Purpose and meaning in the workplace (pp. 81-104). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Demerouti, E. (2014). Design your own job through job crafting. European Psychologist, 19(4), 237-247.

Daphne (Xin) Hou is a graduate student working with Dr. Louis Tay in the Industrial-Organizational Psychology program at Purdue University. Her research interests include vocational interest, career choice, cross-cultural studies using big data, positive psychology, and research methods. Daphne received both her B.S. and M.S. from Purdue University with the highest honors. After earning her M.S. in Human Resources, she had worked in the industry for nearly 4 years in talent management and HR operations.

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