I listened to an episode of the Hidden Brain podcast in which Shankar Vedantam interviewed Yale Professor Amy Wrzesniewski. The episode focuses on the notion of finding your calling. When it comes to choosing a job or profession, many people advocate finding your passion. According to this line of thinking, if you search long and hard, you can discover your vocation or calling, and as a result, you will find your work meaningful. If you do meaningful work, then you will be happier, more engaged, and more productive. What's the problem with that line of thinking? Well, what if you spend a great deal of time pondering your future, and you cannot discern your calling? What if you simply aren't sure? Many young people become incredibly frustrated because they simply aren't sure what their calling is. They don't know how to find it.
Professor Wrzesniewski has a different point of view, one that bears serious consideration. She has studied how people find meaning in their work. Wrzesniewski argues that some people engage in a practice she calls "job crafting." On the podcast, she explains her study of workers who cleaned the halls and rooms at a hospital. When asked to describe their job, some workers talked strictly about the responsibilities listed in the job description. In contrast, others defined their job differently. They talked about how they engaged with doctors, nurses, patients, and the patients' families. They viewed their job as involving responsibilities beyond those mandated by their supervisors. According to Wrzesniewski, these workers had "crafted" their job in a way that felt much more meaningful to them. They were part of the process of caring for these patients, not simply the person responsible for washing the floors or taking out the trash.
Wrzesniewski argues that we can all engage in the job crafting process. In so doing, we can make meaning in our work. We don't necessary find meaning only by searching our soul to discover our calling. We can also find meaning by shaping how we define the job we do, the roles we play in an organization, and the constituents with whom we interact. Wrzesniewski argues that job crafting often involves thinking how we interact with others at our organization. We often find meaning in those relationships and in how we serve various constituents.