Professor Amy Wrzesniewski is a leading expert in how people experience work. You can meet her at the Yale School of Management, where she leads MBA and other classes or at public speaking as Inspiring Yale.
Amy Wrzesniewski studied different groups of people, lawers, students at Military Academy West Point, cleaning units at hospitals etc. Her research on motivation to work meaning of work and career are cited among the globe and inspire many trainers and speakers to use her results into the trainings and consultations in corporate organisations, NGO´s and academic institutions.
Her main work is oriented on how people make meaning of their work and how the work setting infuences the employees. These topics are particularly important, because they have implications for how people shape their work tasks, how they interact with others how they feel in their work.
Dear Amy, during your studies of psychology, did you know that you will focus on motivation? What helps you to understand that it is your “topic”?
Thank you for this question. I have known from a young age that I was interested in what drove people’s behavior, but it took a while to know that I was especially interested in how these questions related to people’s work. The more I thought about the impact that work has on people’s lives, the more I felt this was a topic I wanted to study. I decided on this at the age of 16, and now, many years later, I’m still just as interested in it.
What are you working on in that time?
I’m currently working on studies of what predicts very long-term job satisfaction, and how occupational dynamics shape (and are shaped by) the meaning of work.
A lot of people in different countries, including the Czech Republic, are dealing with a topic, how to find a job, that makes sense?
Yes. Research suggests that finding work that allows one to contribute toward an effort, a mission, other people, or a cause that is found to be meaningful is the best route to satisfaction in work that lasts beyond the honeymoon period of a new job.
Can you give some insights how to orientate yourself in the turbulent labour market and do the job you can like?
For this, I would suggest thinking about job crafting, a topic I study with Jane Dutton and Justin Berg, to do things in the job you currently hold to shape the tasks and relationships in the job to make the work more meaningful. There is much more to read about this research at www.jobcrafting.com
One of your research showed that motivation to work can be divided into three categories job, career, or calling, which reflects the state of motivation from “I do my job from 8 a.m. till 5p.m. and nothing more till you see your work as a calling, as an activity you do, because it enriches you spiritually and psychologically. We were suprised that the evidence was pretty similar at different groups. Can you comment on that?
I was surprised too. In our broad sample of occupations, we found people who had each of the three orientations in pretty equal measure. People who work in caring occupations (e.g., healthcare, etc.) are more likely to see their work as a calling, but it’s not unilateral, which makes it even more interesting to study.
Is it possible to have different parts of each level of motivation in one job?
A job orientation (seeing work primarily as a means to a financial end) is not likely to coexist with a calling orientation, in our data. It is possible to have combinations of job and career (seeing work primarily as a means to advancement to higher positions) orientations or calling and career orientations. We assess the strength of each orientation and account for it in our analyses.
Can you say a few words how Yale University prepare students for the future employment, how do you work with complexity of job tasks and uncertainty of future development?
In a rapidly changing world, it is hard to know how work will change. For that reason, we focus on teaching students how to think, how to learn, how to structure ambiguity to find answers and analyze data and trends. As well, we hope to impart in them a desire to work on problems and opportunities that matter for society and will contribute in positive ways.
What skills you think we will need to succeed in the nearest future at the labour market?
Flexibility and the ability to take charge of building one’s own skills and expertise. The period of the long-term career in one organization in which management takes responsibility for employees’ skill-building has been disappearing for some time now.