The power of job crafting for sustainability jobs — and beyond

The power of job crafting for sustainability jobs — and beyond

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If you think you’ve seen more job posts that say you can "$$$MAKE $2,500/wk FROM HOME $$$" than openings for corporate social responsibility positions, you’re not wrong.

The truth is, not many corporate social responsibility roles exist (PDF). Jobs titles such as "Sustainability Specialist," "Environmental Affairs Director," "VP of Social Responsibility," "Community Engagement Manager" and "Global Social Impact Manager" are few and far between.

But here’s the good news: You don’t need a formal title such as any of these to "do good" and drive your company to do the same.

Whether you care about transitioning the economy to a just, clean energy future or creating transportation solutions that reduce our national dependence on fossil fuels, there are ways to hold these passions and create impact no matter what you do from 9 to 5. Every employee holds passions, values, beliefs, fears, and when we show up to work, we are allowed to bring our humanity with us.

In fact, it’s our responsibility to bring our humanity.

Yet, many employees feel like cogs in a machine. Yale psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski would argue that this perspective can lead to a great deal of unhappiness. Her work (PDF) examines what happens when employees look at their tasks, relationships and perceptions of their work as levers. Re-examining these levers and changing them could provide the opportunity for greater career satisfaction. The term for this is job crafting.

Job crafting your tasks

More companies are allowing employees to create their own work streams and follow their passion projects. Employees either have asked for permission or simply volunteered anyways to lead campaigns that are:

  • Changing the purchasing behavior of their business units so that services and products are sourced with a special emphasis on sustainably sourced, locally owned and minority-owned
  • Phasing out plastic straws from their corporate cafeterias
  • Divesting 401(k) and pension plans from extractive economies, such as oil and gas
  • Encouraging meetings to be vegetarian or vegan because animal agriculture has a significant impact on environmental quality
  • Launching well-being and sustainability campaigns that encourage biking to work

Google, for example, allows employees to determine 20 percent of their responsibilities. This presents an opportunity for employees looking to take on tasks that they’re more passionate about.

For employees who are passionate about taking on a certain project but aren’t able to incorporate them officially into their role, employees may establish affinity groups. Some around sustainability include Salesforce’s Earth Force, Levi’s Green Teams, and at my own job in Deloitte’s San Francisco office we’re called the Sustainability Business Resource Group. These communities take on additional projects and influence senior leadership.

Job crafting your relationships

You can change the nature or extent of their interactions with other people. When we build deeper, intentional relationships with our colleagues, we can learn and grow, while also deepening our sense of greater purpose.

When Michelle Obama, for example, was a lawyer at Sibley, she didn’t wear a formal role in diversity recruiting, but as she discussed in her memoir, it was important to her to make sure she checked in with young, black aspiring lawyers. She believed that she could share her wisdom with them and help them in ways that she herself wished she had been helped earlier in her career. (It ultimately led to her getting married, but that wasn’t her original intent.)

Job crafting your perceptions

Sometimes you’re already creating an impact, but it’s hard to feel that way in a corporate system (or even at a non-profit). I used to lead a global non-profit that inspired students to take action against climate change, so clearly, I felt as I were making an impact each day, right? Absolutely not. Some days involved difficult people, difficult Excel spreadsheets and difficult e-mails. Instead of becoming frustrated over work issues, I had to consciously relate how whatever project I was working on was contributing to a larger mission.

Now that I work at Deloitte, I find myself in rooms with many accountants and am the sole person with a sustainability background. Naturally, accountants have expressed their unhappiness to me, especially around busy season. An accountant at a large firm, for instance, might choose to think of her job as two separate parts: one not particularly enjoyable (staring at hundreds of pages of documentation and dealing with hostile clients) and one very meaningful part (creating a more responsible business climate for which our entire economy is based upon).

Through job crafting, you could lead similar change within your company. What will you create for your company?