Meraki and Job Crafting

Abby Vollmer, NASPA IV-W WISA KC Representative

January 30, 2018

Meraki, a modern Greek word often used to describe doing something with soul, when you put ‘something of yourself’ into what you are doing...


Tis the season...the season of resolutions, goals, “words of the year”, or whatever your brand of reflection and inspiration might be. Often resolutions are focused on something very personal (weight loss, quitting smoking, etc). Sometimes, though, they also intersect with our professional lives and a desire to craft something meaningful that is both personal and professional .


I believe higher education and student affairs, in particular, is an exceptional field to have this type of resolution. I believe you can find meaning in the work we do.   However, sometimes the exact positions we hold may not always fit with who we are or who we want to be as nicely as they could.  This ‘mismatch’ in position can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction or unrest and sometimes without exploration into the reasons why, a great Student Affairs professional can leave the field.  


That is where “job crafting” can help create meraki.  This concept, introduced by Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane E. Dutton, encourages workers in any field  to consider how their values, passion and interests align with their assigned work and to actively engage in shaping the task and relational boundaries of their position to create better alignment. This shaping may mean working with a supervisor to “add” responsibilities that may not fall within the formal job description, creating opportunities to have more personal interactions with a specific person or population served  or possibly even “reducing” certain responsibilities.  


For job crafting to be effective, you first have to do the “personal” work.  Exploration and reflection on your core values and areas of passion are important.  What brings you joy? What are your priorities? If you could do anything, for money or not, what would you do?


Then it’s time to tie in the “professional”.  Dig out your formal job description--what does it say about your “work”?  Now, compare that with what you ACTUALLY do in your job. Take the combined version and consider how your work fits with your values and passions.  Have you taken on tasks or responsibilities that aren’t in your position description and don’t really align with your priorities and values?  Can they be reassigned?  Are you getting contact with the people that are important to you?  Can you move things on your calendar to create these relational opportunities?  Are there areas within your division that align more with your values that you could seek out opportunities to “add” experience in?


Sounds easy, right?  Now, Wrzesniewski is quick to point out that job crafting isn’t a perfect process that will result in the perfect job.  But her research does indicate that employees who engage in job-crafting report more happiness at work, higher levels of performance and greater mobility in job transition. Most importantly, though, resolving to bring together the personal and professional can help generate greater sense of purpose, meaning and meraki.  




Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J. E. (2001). Crafting A Job: Revisioning Employees As Active Crafters Of Their Work. Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 179-201.


Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: the power of passion and perseverance. New York, NY: Scribner.

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