Stuck in a career slump? Job crafting could be the solution

Written by Katie Rosseinsky

Job crafting is a workplace strategy that’s all about making your current job work for you.

Feeling stuck in a rut at work? When your day job seems less than engaging, it can be tempting to start sifting through job listings and planning an escape strategy. But the solution needn’t always be quite as drastic as handing in your notice and becoming part of the Great Resignation.

Job crafting is a strategy based around redesigning and reframing your job so that it aligns better with your personal values and strengths, allowing you to get more out of your work and focus on the parts that you find most fulfilling.

It’s not a new concept – the term was coined in 2001 by Dr Amy Wrzesniewski and Dr Jane Dutton, who defined job crafting as “the physical and cognitive changes individuals make in the task or relational boundaries of their work” – but with conversations about quiet quitting and workplace burnout making many of us question what we really want from our jobs, it feels more relevant than ever. 

“When you’re feeling disillusioned with work, it’s easy to start thinking about how you could move on and what your next role could be,” says careers coach Ayesha Murray. “The old adage about ‘the grass not always being greener’ is absolutely appropriate here as it might be more beneficial to reappraise your current scenario and try and make that work for you instead.”

With a recession on the horizon and the cost of living skyrocketing at an alarming rate, jumping on the Great Resignation bandwagon and changing roles entirely might not always be a realistic option. Job crafting can help you assess if your current job role is something you want longer-term but without jumping “into any rash decisions”, adds career advisor Soma Ghosh.

So, how does it work? According to Wrzesniewski and Dutton’s original framework, there are three types of job crafting. First up is task crafting, which is all about altering or amending the type and range of tasks that make up your working day.

Spend some time thinking about the tasks you do, how much time they take up and how they make you feel. Are there any energy-sapping tasks that are really dragging you down? Do you find yourself gravitating towards particular responsibilities? 

There will almost certainly be some non-negotiables in your job (no one likes clearing out their inbox, for example), but beyond that, think about the areas you’d like to spend more (or less) time on and ask your boss how you can make that happen (hopefully, they’ll be impressed that you’ve taken the initiative and are focusing on your development).

Then there’s relational crafting, which involves changing up who you interact with. There’s more to it than just avoiding your office nemesis and scheduling a weekly catch-up with your work bestie – it’s about who can help you get the most out of your work.

That might mean asking to sit in on a meeting that’s not in your direct remit, but has some important crossover, or asking if you can shadow someone on another team who has specific expertise in a particular area. It could be as simple as scheduling a monthly one-to-one with a manager or mentor you really get on with.

The third type is cognitive crafting, which involves shifting how you think about or interpret the work that you’re doing, considering the purpose of your job and how it fits into a bigger picture. This is arguably the hardest change to get a handle on (we can probably all pinpoint the bits of our job that we’d like to focus more or spend less time on, but thinking about our motivations and intentions can require digging a little deeper).

“Start by reminding yourself why you took your job in the first place,” Murray suggests. “What was it about the role, the tasks or the culture that appealed to you? Are you still aligned with those? Or have you drifted away and need to find a way back?

“Think about what’s important to you, both in terms of work-life balance and career development, and make sure those needs are still being addressed.

“Once you understand what you need from your role to feel fulfilled, take your original job description and compare it to where you are now. What needs to change to get yourself back on track? Who do you need to speak to or get support from and what are the first steps to making change happen?”

The result should be a win-win for both you and your employer: you’re left feeling more in control and energised, so you’ll likely end up working more efficiently and be more engaged. A 2021 study by the University of South Australia found that when workers were given more control over shaping their own role, they didn’t just enjoy their job more, they also delivered better results.

Job crafting, of course, won’t be a catch-all solution to every workplace woe. “We can’t always create our ideal role due to organisational constraints or a culture that isn’t as supportive as we’d like,” says Murray. “If that’s the case, and the decision is still to move on, then at least we can feel empowered knowing we’ve done all we can to make it work.”

Images: Getty

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