“Are you a rule follower,” I was asked by an elder friend one day while riding bikes in Newport Beach. “Sometimes,” I answered, “depending on the rule.” My friend, who was turning 80 the following month, said she was a life-long rule follower and she was going to start breaking them! She promptly swerved her bike to the left side of the street and continued to ride. It was a simple act, but I remember the joy it brought to her face when she realized that no one was watching her; that no one was stopping her from riding on the wrong side of the street. She was gleefully free!
I’m not advocating that we all go out and break laws and rules of safe travel but I am asking you to think about the normative behaviors and unwritten rules that you follow without considering the alternatives and potential opportunities. The pandemic has created a giant disruption in everyday life and work on a global level. It has changed so many cultural and work-life rules that we are all left creating our way forward and will be for a long time to come.
I see this as a time to craft a new way of working, relating to each other and to ourselves.
To start you off on your crafting journey, I have outlined a few basic tenets of Job Crafting: a practice that you can use to create a more ideal work situation for yourself and perhaps change the meaning and purpose of your work. Use these tenets to assess and edit different aspects of your work and to design your way forward. You spend hours each day doing it..why not make it the best it can be?
- Locus of control. Part of what my friend was experiencing on her bike that day was the joy of taking control. The pandemic has limited some aspects of what we can control in our environment, but it has also given many of us flexibility that we didn’t think was possible. We have more control over where we work, when we work and how we work. Ask yourself if the ways you are choosing to work give you the freedom you desire.
- What makes you tick. I like to use an inside-out approach to crafting optimal work. This approach recognizes that we already have most of the skills and knowledge we need to create meaningful work. We are all unique individuals who need different things to thrive. Consider these aspects of yourself to drill down on what makes you tick and make decisions about how and where you work: personality, values, strengths, skills and interests.
- Task Crafting: If you have worked for a few years, you will have accumulated many skills. The idea of task crafting is that you choose the skills and tasks that you enjoy using and performing so that you spend more of your time enjoying the work. Task crafting also allows you to expand the boundaries of your role to take on more tasks or change how these tasks are performed. One example from my early career in hotel management was taking on a few night audit shifts at a small bed and breakfast property where I was working at the front desk. I loved math and was interested in accounting. The night audit tasks were easy for me to learn and I ended up earning extra money along with my additional skills.
- Networking: True networking is an exchange of ideas and information. You can change the nature or extent of your interactions with other people by having a networking conversation. You may be thinking about a lateral move within your organization and a networking conversation can give you important insights into the role you desire. A networking conversation can also lead to a role in a new organization as you are speaking in your area of expertise and passion. Try elevating your next conversation by talking about some aspect of your work that you are really excited about!
- Reframe: You can change how you think about the purpose of certain aspects of your job; or you can reframe the job as a whole. I remember one of the nurses in the hospital where I gave birth to my daughter reframed her role as a newborn nurse to include the role of welcomer. She was a reiki energy practitioner and silently treated all of the newborns she interacted with to soothe their fragile nervous systems. It was a beautiful gesture of healing that she added to the routine tasks of a newborn nurse in order to give her job more purpose and meaning.