This article is part of a series highlighting insights in the field of Positive Organizational Scholarship that come from the Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Many of our executive consultants hold dual positions at both Riverbank and CPO.
I’ve always excelled as a student according to formal, objective measures, such as my grades, my attendance, and my test scores. But in the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to reframe the way I approach my studies to prioritize my mental health and the meaning I get out of being a student, instead of just the things that show up on my transcript and resume. The strategies I use have given me practice in the skill of job crafting, which is when someone reconfigures their formal role — in my case that of a student — in ways that promote meaning and flourishing, which we see in increased “job satisfaction, motivation, and performance.”
There are three primary categories of changes people can make to the way they carry out their roles: task crafting, where you change what you do in some way; relational crafting, where you change your interactions with others; and cognitive crafting, where you change the way you think about your role. In order to best craft your role to promote wellbeing, you should think about making these changes in accordance with your motives, strengths, and passions, as these are all rich sources of potential meaning.
One way I’ve engaged in task crafting is by adding a task to my studies. After seeing how energizing letter writing was for me in my letter writing class last semester — likely because it allows me to express some of my signature strengths of love, kindness, and curiosity — I’ve decided to continue the practice into this semester, even though it’s no longer an assigned task. I’m also incredibly passionate about positive organizational scholarship, and one of my primary goals for the last year or so is to strengthen my friendships. One task I’ve added to my role as a student is to write letters and postcards to my friends walking them through the things we learn in class, explaining the theory behind it and giving them the opportunity to engage in some of the practical applications themselves. I recently sent out 5 letters walking people through the GIVE model, which has strengthened my understanding of the concept, in addition to serving my motives, strengths, and passions.
Part of my role as a student includes my role as a Peer Writing Consultant at the Sweetland Writing Center. I’ve been able to engage in cognitive crafting by expanding my perceptions of the role and thinking about the impact of my work so that I can experience more meaningfulness. The way I’ve helped myself see the impact of my work is by becoming an “end user” myself of the services we offer at Sweetland, signing up with other Peer Writing Consultants to work on essays for my classes. The benefits I get from this are twofold, as I get to directly improve my writing, and I always leave feeling reinvigorated about the work that I get to do when I’m in the role of consultant. Plus, when I am the writer, my strengths of gratitude and love of learning really get to shine, and I bring that energy back to my writers.
Granted, many people don’t have the latitude to be able to wholly craft their job and responsibilities, but taking the time to reflect and be intentional about how we go about our work improves both personal and organizational flourishing. In order to help more people shape their work, CPO has created many tools for job crafting.
Alicia Haun is a content marketing intern at Riverbank Consulting Group. Alicia is a senior at the University of Michigan, where she also works with the Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business. Alicia is passionate about the field of positive organizational psychology and looks forward to helping work become a place of flourishing.