Job Crafting: Turning Your Day Job Into Your Dream Job

One really cool way to manage burnout is with job crafting. This allows you to do MORE of the stuff you love at work and LESS of the stuff that drives you crazy. Think of every task, client, role, or duty as a magnatile. Some of the tiles you like and the colors please you; they are easy to build with and you can play with them all day. Others tiles are ugly to you; they are difficult to work with and make you want to THROW them across the room.

Your job is a series of building blocks that you can build with and reconfigure in a myriad of ways to create a more engaging and fulfilling career! 

Like coaching, this process is a one-size-fits-one solution crafted by YOU to increase engagement and satisfaction with your work life, achieve higher levels of performance in your organization, and develop greater personal resilience.  Ready to get started? 

Guest Star: Annabelle

Annabelle is a 37-year-old non-equity partner in BigLaw.  She’s struggling at work, but you wouldn’t know it from the outside.  A star member of the litigation department, she consistently hits her billable hours, serves on numerous firm committees, and wins firm-wide awards.  She invests long hours and has built deep, caring relationships with her colleagues.  The executive committee thinks of her as one of the firm’s high potentials and has tapped her for future firmwide leadership roles.

But, Annabelle feels stuck.  She feels trapped between the tension between the day-to-day demands of serving her clients and the strategic imperative of business development.  She has considered looking for another job, but is pretty sure that this tension is inherent in the practice of law and not unique to her current firm.  Given the depth of her relationships, sticking it out seems like her best option.  But, week by week, she is feeling less and less motivated.  She needs to get her mojo back and be reminded of what she loves about the profession of law. 

Develop awareness

The first step in job crafting is to determine how you are spending your time now.  There are a lot of great resources that can help you do this.  And, while you are at it, you might as well track what tasks/ work/ topics energize + engage you and which ones drain + distract you.  Looking at the full sweep of your job in this way gives you a clear sense—truly at a glance—of exactly where you are devoting your time and energy.  The Good Time Journal is a helpful tool for developing this awareness. 

Annabelle spent two weeks tracking her time and found that most of her time fit into the following buckets: strategy, counseling clients, live advocacy, writing briefs, discovery, business development, email, administrative, mentoring, and recruiting.  She figured out how much time she devoted to each per week and then color coded them based on how engaged/ energized she felt while doing them.  Green = most energized; yellow = neutral; orange = drained. 

Annabelle Current 2.PNG

Define Objectives

The second step in job crafting is to determine what is important to you in your current position.  What objectives are you trying to achieve?  What are your motives, strengths, and values?  Brene Brown has a great Values exercise to assist with this. 

Annabelle’s objective was to make equity partner.  And, to do so, she needed to develop a million-dollar book of business.  She was primarily motivated by the desire to serve – both her clients and her firm.  She was a very strong writer and valued the personal relationships she had developed at the firm.  She needed to reflect on how she was living out her values and whether how she spent her time was aligned with them. 

Set Priorities

The third step in job crafting is to determine which tasks should have priority.  The Eisenhower Matrix is really helpful in this analysis!

Annabelle decided that business development, brief writing, counseling clients, and mentoring should have priority in her career, based on her objectives, values, and energy assessment. 

Make Time

The fourth step in job crafting is to make time for these newly prioritized tasks by delegating, outsourcing, and managing up.  You have to remember that small wins drive big change.  You are playing the long game so build support for this new vision by creating value for others, building trust, and identifying the people who will help you.

Annabelle decided that she could delegate some of her administrative tasks and a first sweep of her email to her legal assistant and her paralegal.  They would respond to or delete any non-critical emails.  She started delegating discovery to a junior associate.  She committed to “managing up” in order to get off the recruiting committee by demonstrating the value she could create for the office with enhanced business development efforts.  She decided to delegate less of the brief writing responsibilities on her cases and to work towards doing more of the client counseling and less of the live advocacy.  In six months, she revisited her current reality and was pleasantly surprised by how different it looked! 

Annabelle's Craft.PNG

Identify Obstacles + Accept What You Can’t Change             

The fifth step in job crafting is to identify obstacles.  You need to know where you are going to experience push back and start laying the groundwork for this new reality with your managers, direct reports, and support staff.  Job crafting can be stressful if you try to make changes too quickly or don’t have support for the changes you need to make.  If you encounter obstacles that seem insurmountable, enlist the help of other stakeholders <or even your work wife!> to help you identify opportunities for redistributing tasks in complementary ways.  Your least favorite task might just be someone else’s favorite! 

And, finally, accept that there will likely be some parts of your job that you don’t love.  For these, see if you can reframe them in order to imbue them with meaning and align them with your priorities and values. 

Annabelle’s initial obstacle was to get more of her legal assistant’s time to help with administrative tasks.  She explained to her legal assistant that she needed more time to focus on business development and why it was important to the financial health of the firm.  Then, she taught her legal assistant how to open files in the New Business Intake system, move temporary time entries to permanent numbers, set up internal meetings, delete “junk” mail, flag high priority mail, and respond to non-critical internal correspondence.  Annabelle also started using the firm’s document processing center for dictation, proof-reading, and document formatting in order to give her legal assistant space to perform these new tasks. 

Annabelle realized that as much as she dreaded it, live advocacy couldn’t be any further minimized in her role as partner.  Instead, she reframed her live advocacy as service to her clients.  She was able to find more fulfillment by de-emphasizing the adversarial nature of the events and focusing her energy instead on preparing her clients.  These events had the added business development benefits of showcasing her value to clients and celebrating successful outcomes with clients. 

Job crafting is a simple visual framework that can help you make meaningful and lasting changes in your job. In order to do so, you need to take a step back from the daily grind, accept responsibility for what your day-to-day looks like, and then experiment with reconfiguring your schedule to create a more engaging and fulfilling career! Good luck + have fun. 

If you enjoyed this blog post, sign up for my newsletter and get tips + tricks like this <Plus, WAY more personal stories> delivered to your inbox every week 💌💌

Remember, anything or anyone that doesn’t LIGHT YOU UP is too small for you,

Sarah-Nell Walsh

Career Coach + Strategist