British Columbia

Jennifer Newman: Hacking your way into job satisfaction

Are you itching to try something new at work, or maybe get ahead in your career? You might be a good candidate for job crafting. Our workplace psychologist Dr. Jennifer Newman explains what that is and how it can bring you more job satisfaction.

'There’s often a lot more flexibility than we realize' says expert

Do you have an idea that would help you be happier at work and be mutually beneficial for your employer? Try your hand at job crafting, says workplace expert Jennifer Newman. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If an earlier start would mean more time with the kids and increase productivity, why not pitch it to the boss and see what happens? It's called job crafting and it's a little like life-hacking the workplace.

Workplace columnist Jennifer Newman has some homework for those looking to craft their jobs and she shared her tips with Stephen Quinn, guest host of CBC Radio's The Early Edition.

Stephen Quinn: What is job crafting, exactly?

It refers to altering your job so that your skills are better utilized and your interests are reflected in your work, so you end up doing more of what you like.

It leads to increases in job satisfaction and those workers tend to be more committed to work.

It's also useful if you are unable to leave your current job and you just need some revitalization. Some people job craft because they like what they're doing but need more of a challenge.

How can you alter a job that comes with a clear job description?

Jobs do generally come with job descriptions, these are outlines of what the job entails, the duties and what is expected. While these descriptions seem hard and fast, they are rarely exact representations of what workers actually do everyday.

Within the parameters of many job descriptions are opportunities to highlight certain aspects of the job, and maybe the latitude to invent new ways of doing things.

So job crafting, it is colouring inside the lines but those lines aren't actually rigid.

Are there certain types of workers more likely to job craft than others? 
Jennifer Newman is a workplace psychologist and regular guest on CBC's The Early Edition. (Jennifer Newman)

A lot of workers engage in job crafting already but how you job craft will depend on your specific orientation towards work. You can be job, career or calling oriented.

If you are job oriented, you probably see your job as a way to make money for necessities and your preference is for work not to interfere with your personal life. So, job-oriented workers will find ways to suit the job to their goal of pursuing hobbies or being with family and friends.

If you are more career oriented you're going to focus on upward mobility, looking at getting advancements your career path. If you see your work as a calling you'll tend to blend work and your personal life to give yourself a sense of purpose and meaning.

So that's the most important part is how you're going to do it is going to depend on who you are as a person.

If somebody is thinking about this now and their job is a pretty steady routine, how do they get started?

First, analyze what your job entails.

What do you like about it? What do you dislike? If you have a job orientation, you may find you like times when others take the lead and take more responsibility.

If you have a career orientation maybe you like networking. Those who see their work as a calling may like times when they feel completely engaged and focused.

Once you've figured out what you like and don't like, look at how your role fits into the entire organization.

Are employers ever reluctant to do that for an individual employee worrying that it will spread and assume they'll have a difficult to manage workforce?

That's why understanding where your job fits in the organization is a key piece because you don't want to go to an employer and say 'let's do something that has absolutely no bearing on the function of your workplace.'

Are there any tips for workers who want to try this? You also want to avoid just piling another job on top of the job you're already doing.

That's another problem. It depends on your orientation. If you're job oriented, yes, taking on more and not having time for hobbies and family is a non-starter.

If you come from a calling perspective or a career orientation that won't bother you as much. So know who you are, look at the job, analyze what's going on within it, see where the parameters are for flexibility.

Make sure this is going to fit what the organization needs from you in your role and then go for it, there's often a lot more flexibility than we realize.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.