Make a Career Change - Without Quitting


Wish you could say "take this job and shove it"...but can't? You don't have to. It's possible make a career change without quitting. Or, at the very least, make your job feel less misery-inducing.

Believe me, I've spent ten years doing this very thing to my own job.

Yes, it takes work. Yes, it's easier to whine and moan and curl up on the couch to have a Breaking Bad binge. Yes, you'll thank me if you actually dig in and do it.

What do you have to lose?

Say "Hello" to Job Crafting

The secret to making career change within your existing job is "job crafting"

Job crafting is the process of redesigning your current job to better suit who you are, what you value, and what you do best. We can all become "job crafters," even if we're in a rigid drudge job.

Business researchers from the University of Michigan use the example of a machine operator working on an assembly line who "may craft her job by forging enjoyable social relationships with co-workers or taking on additional tasks in order to use her talents, such as building a shelving system to organize important equipment."

Job crafting is an ongoing process - you can choose to engage in time and again. Best of all, it can happen without anyone's approval.

"Job crafting can happen whether formally sanctioned by managers or not." - Business researcher Justin Berg & colleagues

Simply put:  there's no excuse not to get your craft on, people!

The Benefits of Job Crafting

Job crafting is something of a wonder drug for workplaces. It's been shown to provide workers with a greater sense of meaning in life and an altered work identity. Active job crafters also enjoy work more than their peers and are more effective workers.

In addition, since psychology research indicates that we are happiest when we regularly engage in activities that are personally meaningful and that send us into the state of "flow," if we can re-engineer our jobs to maximize those qualities, we can find deeper and more lasting happiness than we ever could through pleasure alone.

How to Job Craft

Hopefully by now you're chomping at the bit to learn how to job craft. Well wait no more! Here are the three ways to make career change without quitting:

  1. Task Crafting:  In this method, you "alter the boundaries" of your job by changing your tasks themselves. For instance, you might expand what you do, delegate some of your tasks, or change the system you use to complete your work. Start by creating a task list, then working through the list one by one to identify the items that are most amenable to change. Once you've made the easy changes, challenge yourself to engage in creative problem-solving to improve your most stubborn tasks.
  2. Relational Crafting:  You could also craft your job by altering the way you interact with co-workers, customers, management, and the random interns from the office across the hall. This might entail changing the form of communication - such as from email to video conferencing - or simply the tone and approach of your communication. Start by being mindful during one interaction a day; try to make a small change (e.g., to wear a different expression while talking) and observe how it alters the content of your conversation. If you like the effect, try it out on others throughout the week.
  3. Cognitive Crafting:  Since self-talk can have lasting effects on behaviors and attitudes, one of the tricks parents are taught when talking about their kids' unruly behaviors is to "reframe" those behaviors. Instead of saying or thinking you have a "difficult" child, for instance, you are taught to call that child "spirited" or "highly engaged in life." This advice holds true for your job, too. Alter the way you think about "the purpose of tasks, relationships, or the job as a whole" and your entire attitude toward work may shift. Is it difficult to do? Absolutely. But start small - such as by changing the way you think about the difficult last hour of each day. It's not "the final push until I get to go home," it's "my last opportunity to engage in my important tasks for the day." (I know, that one's going to take some practice...!)

I love these crafting techniques so much, I formed the core of my free eBook, 15 Ways to Make Your Job More Fulfilling - Today, around them.

How Job Crafting Can Lead to a Better Career

Not only can job crafting change the way you approach work today, it may set you up perfectly when a better job opportunity eventually comes along. This happens for three reasons:

  1. Since you've been so interactive with your co-workers, they'll be the first in line to lend you their network to find better opportunities.
  2. If chosen well, your new tasks should align well with your desired job's demands, making your resume rise to the top of the stack.
  3. Your boss will think highly of your positive attitude and give you a glowing reference.

An Excellent Example of Job Crafting

A while back I shared a video of custodian Candice Billups. Her brief interview exemplifies job crafting better than just about anything I've encountered.

While some may think of being a custodian as a low-meaning, repetitive job, Ms. Billups has engaged in task, relational AND cognitive crafting to make it a job about which she positively glows.

If you haven't watched the video yet, make ten minutes right now to check it out. I promise it'll make you see your own job in a whole new light.

Bottomline:  remember that you're in control. Even if you're stuck in a job that isn't all you'd hoped, you can make it better and genuine career change can be in sight - without quitting.

The Michigan researchers note "designing jobs is not just a top-down process - employees can and do exercise agency to redesign their own jobs." So go forth and redesign! If Ms. Billups can view cleaning vomit as job security, you can certainly find a way to infuse meaning into your work.

If you try.

Know someone who dislikes their job? Pass this article along to him or her.

Then tell me in the comments below:  what have you done - or could you do - to "craft" your job?

Photo Credit: marsmet548

Source:  Berg, J.M., Dutton, J.E., & Wrzesniewsky, A. (2007). What is Job Crafting and Why Does it Matter? Theory to Practice Briefing at The Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship, University of Michigan.