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Hone the job you have into one you love

Over the past few months, American workers have been suffering from a major case of spring fever. Many of them, for the first time in years, are thinking about testing the waters of the slowly improving economy. They are looking for better jobs than those they’ve been clinging to throughout the recession.

business Updated: May 27, 2013 00:38 IST

Over the past few months, American workers have been suffering from a major case of spring fever. Many of them, for the first time in years, are thinking about testing the waters of the slowly improving economy. They are looking for better jobs than those they’ve been clinging to throughout the recession.

Based on my study of a representative sample of more than 8,000 American workers collected by Gallup, people who love their jobs:

* Use their strengths every day, as do their co-workers.

* Feel that they are an important part of their organisation’s future.

* Are surrounded by colleagues who care about their overall well-being.

* Are excited about the future because of a leader’s enthusiasm and vision.

* So where can you find the special listing of jobs that meet these criteria? You won’t find a special section of “Jobs You Will Love” in the classifieds or on Monster.com.

There are no ads that read: “Hopeful leader seeking employee who wants to love her job. Must be willing to do what she does best for many hours a day and feel that her fellow employees and I care about her. In exchange, she will be valued as an important part of our organisation’s future and receive a decent salary.” That’s because the jobs people love are made, not found.

By studying people who love their work, I came to realise that almost none initially landed the jobs they loved; rather, they landed ordinary jobs and turned them into extraordinary ones.

Amy Wrzesniewski, professor of organisational behaviour at the Yale School of Management, says people reinvent their jobs by exercising the little bit of control they have at work.

Through what she calls job crafting, people can reshape and redefine their jobs. In a paper she co-wrote, she says you can use your knowledge of what you do best to choose “to do fewer, more, or different tasks than prescribed in the formal job.”

People who love their jobs also have bosses who inspire them, get the most out of them and truly care about them. People who want the most from their work go boss-shopping. They may change shifts or make lateral moves in a company or industry to work for bosses who can become influential leaders in their lives.

I interviewed a workplace consultant as part of a research project on people who love their jobs. She told me she wanted a boss who trusted her. That’s what she got after she requested a switch to a new team in her company.

She said her new boss “treated me as an owner of the work and of the relationships I had with clients, and I felt the need to rise to the level of talent she must have thought I had.”