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Dec 4, 2013

“People who love their jobs aren’t choosing jobs they love – they’re making jobs they love,” says Dr. Shane Lopez, Gallup senior scientist and author of Making Hope Happen.

Dr. Lopez interviewed thousands of workers to discover the attributes and behaviors shared by people who love their jobs and discovered that a beloved job rarely started out as a dream job.

Employees who loved their jobs found a good job, and then proactively shaped it into a job they could love. At the same time, they surrounded themselves with people in the workplace who cared about and encouraged their progress.

Dr. Lopez offers these additional insights for creating a job you’ll love:

Find a caring environment

A supportive environment is fundamental to loving your job, but it’s a difficult thing to create on your own.

That’s why we need to be better at selecting our jobs. We need to rely on our intuition and our gut reaction when choosing a place where it feels good to work and where we’re connected to people who care about one another. Caring environments are easier to join than to make, so people who love their jobs choose to join them.

Shape the job to suit you

People who love their jobs make sure they’re doing what they do best. They gravitate to opportunities within their job where they can put their talents and strengths to work, knowing they’re more productive when they do what they do well.

They may not be able to control every task every day, but they can advocate for getting assignments that will allow them to be more effective and fulfilled. They do this by demonstrating they’ve got a talent for the work, which in turn makes them more successful at it, which means they’re more likely to get some autonomy and more of that kind of work in the future.

Assume autonomy to get autonomy

There’s a huge range in how much autonomy a person can have at work, but the amount of autonomy you’re given is determined by the company you work for and, more specifically, by the leader you have. That’s why choosing the right manager is so important.

Regardless of your line of work, autonomy is necessary but not sufficient for loving your job. If you have some autonomy, you can do a little more of what you do best every day, you can job craft, and you can spend more time with the people who care about you at work — but your manager holds the key to that autonomy.

Find yourself a great leader

To truly love your work, you need to work for someone who understands and respects you and who makes you enthusiastic about the future.

Some bosses are just better at understanding people, getting employees promoted, and developing talent. Once you find a leader like this, start moving in their direction as much as you can.

Not everyone can go boss shopping, but those who can make the change and may even risk making a lateral job change to get the right boss will find it pays off in a big way.

This was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.