Hello, I’m Connected
Inspiring Peers With Group Job Crafting
I recently led a continuing education workshop for art therapists at Notre Dame de Namur. I used the example of my workplace trajectory at Elder Care Alliance as an example of job crafting; I have worked in several of our communities doing both group and individual engagement with older adults and now work as a researcher in our support center. Along the way, I have had opportunities to do some large projects, present at international conferences, and generally bring my whole self to work. I get to mentor students, work with staff, involve the community, dream up new ideas, and continue to participate in creative inquiry. Our most recent big idea just launched: Create Art At Work. We are taking the practices that have been successful internally and making them available to others. I am so excited to see where these ideas and projects take us and about how my role will shift and change in the future.
Job crafting is based on the assumption that “the work tasks and interactions that compose the days, the jobs, and, ultimately, the lives of employees are the raw materials employees use to construct their jobs” (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001, p. 179). For the continuing education class, I connected this idea to the tools and materials of art therapists — talking about the different aspects of the workplace in the metaphor of art materials and creative processes. I asked them to imagine their ideal role and their ideal workplace identity and create a visual image representing that ideal. As they worked, I asked them to think about who their coworkers would be, to consider both monitary and non-monitary compensation needs, and to do a little soul-searching about what might stand between them and this ideal role. As they discussed their images with each other, I saw eyes light up and heard excitement in their voices. I also heard some fears, self-doubt, and worry.
Their next task was to pose a question or write about a problem related to their professional identity, using both images and words. Then they had the opportunity to engage in creative problem solving with each other. They wrote suggestions and created images in response to each other. Though they were all at different points in their careers, they expressed feeling a sense of solidarity with their peers and supported in exploring new opportunities. From curious potential students exploring the idea of entering graduate study to seasoned professionals, they all had ideas and questions about what comes next and how to move from Point A to Point B.
If someone told me seven years ago that I’d be in the position I am in now, doing the work I do each day, I do not think I would believe it. I am not sure I would have been able to imagine this job description back then. When I walked into the building for my first interview, I felt an immediate connection — something I could not yet articulate. When my second interview involved two older adults asking me questions about my goals and qualifications, I was hooked! So while the job description was not a ‘perfect fit’ the philosophy and feeling of the organization was right. Over the years, as I have felt more comfortable pushing the edges of my job description. As I have demonstrated the value of a creative thinker in the workplace, I have been able to find ways to craft my job into something that provides a deep sense of connection and fulfillment. Doing so would not be possible without the support and encouragement of the phenomenal people I work with each day. I believe we must feel connected to those around us in order to invest the time and energy into job crafting; as I wrote about almost a year ago now, we have to care about the people and the goals of the organization. Wrzesniewski & Dutton (2001) discussed this idea too — they wrote that in order to engage in job crafting, employees have to feel the environment is open and that they have growth potential outside the traditional ladder or company structure.
So here is my challenge to you:
What is on your mind related to your job or your professional role?
What ideas do you have?
What would you love to incorporate into your professional identity?
If you are in a leadership role, how do you signal to your team members that there are opportunities to engage in job crafting?
Create Art At Work is sharing a downloadable creative prompt; we would love to see what you come up with as you imagine your future and craft your job. We would also love to hear if you use it in a team meeting or other group setting. Share it with us using #OnMyMindPrompt
Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J. E. (2001). Crafting a job: Revisioning employees as active crafters of their work. Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 179–201. https://doi.org/10.2307/259118