Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
As the end of this semester is approaching and I will soon be faced with family members eager to hear how I’ve been enjoying college, I’ve thought more about how I would dilute my college experience thus far into one sentence, one phrase, or one general sentiment. What criteria would I need to evaluate my success in college, and how did I envision what it looks like to have a meaningful college experience? Although I know my answer is susceptible to change as I have over a year remaining at WashU, I was recently introduced to a concept in one of my classes that has allowed me to better answer this question.
The course that has changed my thinking for this question is titled Leadership in Organizations, which is a class in Washington University’s Olin School of Business that satisfies a requirement for one of my minors. The concept we recently discussed in lecture is called “Job crafting,” which is defined as the “actions taken by employees to redesign their own jobs in ways that foster engagement at work, job satisfaction, resilience, and thriving.”
Job crafting can be accomplished in three ways: through task crafting, relational crafting, and cognitive crafting. Ultimately, engaging in these steps are ways for employees to have better control over the kinds of tasks they are completing, the types of relationships they are engaging in, and the ways in which they can alter their perceptions of the tasks. All of these tools reminisce with the concept of having agency over how you create meaning in the work you do. This is something I found particularly impressive, given my personal interest in the power of adopting a positive mindset and cognitive restructuring.
I became increasingly curious to figure out how the ideology of job crafting could extend beyond the confines of an employee working in corporate America. I wanted to discover how these ideas could be applied to my life as a student. How could I make meaning in my college experience, and how could I use the notion of job crafting to become more purposeful in action over the course of these four years?
Upon reflection over my time at WashU, I realized that my happiest moments were ones where I positively impacted someone or something, whether it was helping a friend in need, or working with others towards a common goal to better a cause. A college experience that optimizes opportunity and fosters greater meaning is one that can be achieved through the active engagement within a community, whatever community that may be. To excel academically is just one piece of the puzzle. Although I believe that the majority of the knowledge acquired in college and the ways that one’s perspective is shaped is derived from a chosen field of study, I have found that many of the integral learning experiences I’ve had is through the pursuit of personal interests and passions outside of traditional academic coursework.
One successful way to engage in these pursuits is to actively self-reflect and find ways to “job craft” the role of being a student. Staying curious and committed to extracurriculars and organizations can serve as a powerful force in one’s college experience. Engaging in these various activities paves the way to establish deep relationships with students and faculty, and inevitably fosters mentorship which is crucial for guidance throughout college. There is also an infectious energy that is generated through involvement in a passion, which often sparks an intrinsic desire to create a sustainable impact and yield positive influence. Although college only lasts four years, there are endless opportunities to shape a desirable and meaningful narrative. Maybe this narrative begins with adopting a more purposeful mindset, and applying the tools of job crafting to discover meaning.
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