Imagine stepping into a high-end boutique to pick up your first tailor-made suit. Up until now, your wardrobe has been filled with off-the-rack options – convenient but never quite perfect…

The tailor greets you warmly and leads you to the fitting room. As you slip into the suit, you immediately feel the difference. The fabric drapes effortlessly, the sleeves end precisely where they should, and the jacket fits snuggly, giving you a sharp, comfortable silhouette.

You think back to the last off-the-rack suit you bought. The sleeves were slightly too long, the shoulders a tad too wide, and the waist never quite right. It fit, but not perfectly.

The tailor asks “How does it feel?” You glance at the mirror and see someone who looks and feels confident. The suit moves with you like a second skin, crafted to match your body. You realise this suit is more than clothing. It’s an experience, a statement. It’s the difference between something made for anyone and something made just for you.

When you wear the suit, you receive compliments, but more importantly, you feel a sense of ease and confidence. It’s not just about looking good; it’s about feeling like the best version of yourself. That’s the real difference between a tailor-made suit and an off-the-rack one.

This is much like the feeling we get from a tailor-made job. By crafting your job to play to your strengths, passions or goals, you can transform it into something that merely fits to something that feels perfect and brings out the best of you.

What is job crafting?

Job crafting “is the physical and cognitive changes made in the tasks and responsibilities of a role” (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001). It involves proactively adjusting the number, scope, or types of tasks performed so your job becomes tailor-made.

It’s not about formally changing a job description – you still need to meet your goals and KPIs – but it’s an informal process where workers shift and push the boundaries of their roles. This proactive behaviour allows employees to design their jobs in a way that makes them more engaged, satisfied, resilient, and better performers, moving them closer towards thriving. It’s like having a custom-crafted job, just like a tailor-made suit.

At some point in your career, you’ve probably engaged in job crafting by changing an aspect of your job to better suit your strengths and preferences. You might not have known this process had a name or what it could look like, but it’s likely you’ve experienced its benefits.

How to craft your job?

Job crafting can typically be achieved in three ways:

  • Task crafting: This involves making changes to your work tasks by redesigning, adding, removing or emphasising tasks, often leveraging your strengths.
    • “One of my passions is identifying more efficient ways of doing tasks by using technology wherever possible.”
    • “I asked the team if I could just stop doing X,Y, and Z and they said OK.”
    • “I’ve become the go-to person for investigating new products.”
  • Relational crafting: This involves shaping how you relate and engage with others at work. It might mean creating or investing in new relationships, or limiting and ending toxic interactions.
    • “I realised I was never going to get along with that person, so I stopped worrying about it and accepted that my conversations with them may be frustrating.”
    • “I made a conscious effort to spend more time learning from my colleague.”
    • “I’m offering free meditation classes to my team at lunchtime.”
  • Cognitive crafting. This involves altering the way you think about your work by focusing on the parts you find meaningful or enjoyable.
    • “Whenever I’m struggling or lacking motivation, I think about our purpose, which reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
    • “I want to find opportunities to understand what’s important to my team in terms of their goals and lives.”

(Baker, Kern, & Slemp, 2016; Slemp & Vella-Brodrick, 2014; Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001).

How can leaders support job crafting?

I know leaders who are nervous about suggesting job craftingto their employees. Yet it’s already wide-spread, and the benefits to the team and organisation are significant. Job crafting supports employee wellbeing by reducing stress and the risk of burnout, improving performance, and increasing engagement. Given that employee engagement is decreasing in Australia, job crafting offers a valuable solution to reverse this trend.

These outcomes occur because employees are given the opportunity to have some control over their work, develop a positive self-image, and strengthen their connections at work, meeting our psychological needs for autonomy and belonging.

Where to begin?

To start the process, note down all your tasks and responsibilities and divide them into those you enjoy and those that drain you. Consider how you might take on more activities you enjoy. How could your draining tasks be modified? Could they be assigned to someone else who would enjoy them? Or could you use one of your strengths to make the task more energising? Is there a way to think differently about the task? It might be the smallest of changes, yet they make the job just fit that extra but nicer.

I love the idea that employees do not let work happen to them, but instead, they have an active role in shaping the nature of their work (Grant & Ashford, 2008). Just like a tailor-made suit, a custom-crafted job empowers you to feel more confident, engaged, and fulfilled. It’s not just about doing your work; it’s about thriving in a role designed for you. And that’s the real difference between a generic job and one that’s been crafted to fit you perfectly.

So, how can you craft your job?