How to find career happiness by "hacking" your job

The “hacker" mentality has become more prevalent among tech professionals during the past few years – not in terms of illegal computer espionage, of course – but in terms of trying to find shorter, faster, more efficient ways to create improvements and solve problems. “Hacking" is often depicted in the media as being all about shadowy networks of cybercriminals, but the philosophy of hacking is more about finding a helpful shortcut or finding some unique solution that saves time and money or that delivers added value. Startups and conferences host “hackathons" for collaborative computer programming, and sites like Lifehacker offer helpful actionable advice and shortcuts to get you through the challenges of everyday life with less money spent and less wasted time.

So in that spirit of helpful, friendly, “hacking," it's time for more people to start “hacking" their jobs.

recent story in the Wall Street Journal discussed how people can be happier at work by "hacking" their jobs - finding the things they love to do best, changing their job description, putting a new spin on old tasks, and otherwise rearranging daily life at work to give them more of what they love (and less of what they hate) about their jobs. Too often, workplace advice is presented in terms of finding “the right job" or trying to decide whether to quit a job that isn't “right" for you – but the truth is, there is no “right" job. You can't rely on a job description to give you the full picture of what a job is really like until you're there, working everyday. And even if a job starts off as your dream gig, no job is ever really going to stay “the right job" for long; things change, great managers get promoted, favorite colleagues move on, companies restructure, and the only constant is change.

So instead of looking at your job in the absolutist terms of “love it or leave it," here are a few “job hacking" tips to help re-design your job to get more of what you love out of every day at work:

  • Be upfront with your boss: Job hacking is not something that should be done in secret. Instead, while you already have a good relationship with your boss and a good track record of performance, look for ways to introduce the conversation of how to do more of what you enjoy and how to adjust your job responsibilities accordingly. Work alongside your manager and earn their support, and you'll be more likely to get what you want.
  • Add tasks: But not more “busywork;" instead, look for ways to broaden your role at the company by doing more tasks that you love – even if they don't fall under the typical umbrella of your job description. Do you love public speaking or sales? Want to mentor young people? Look for ways to help support the sales team on their next presentation, or ask to lead a volunteer program to provide a “Career Day" for college students who are interested in your career field.
  • Change the way you do tasks: What part of your job could be outsourced or delegated? Look for ways to find efficiencies, and then share them with your manager. You're not “putting yourself out of a job;" you're helping your company get better at what it does – and if you find that you enjoy looking at the bigger picture of how your tasks relate to the overall operations of your team, you could even pitch your manager on redesigning part of your job duties to be an internal efficiency consultant who helps find cost savings and fixes problems.
  • Deepen your work relationships: An important way for people to find greater satisfaction and meaning from work is to try to deepen your relationships at work. Whether it's with colleagues or clients, look for ways to get to know people better and share more of your ideas and expertise. Try to take conversations beyond a simple “how's your week going," and really delve into what motivates people and what makes them tick. Meaningful relationships at work and in life are what make people feel a sense of satisfaction and integrity. You might find that the best job hack really isn't about the “job" duties at all – it's about taking time to build relationships.

For more ideas and examples of how to hack your job for greater career happiness, check out this article in the Wall Street Journal.



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