Design Your Career So It Doesn’t Happen by Default
Emerging from the pandemic provides an opportunity for reflection. Many people feel stuck or helpless in the wrong job, the wrong relationship, or an unhappy life. The concept of design thinking will empower you with practical and creative strategies to reboot what’s not working so you have more control over your destiny.
With design thinking, a concept birthed in the tech world, empowers you to create solutions to match your needs for a life that is empowered, authentic, and true to your unique values.
Design thinking starts with a framework of five tools that enable you to tackle complex challenges. Unlike methodologies that focus on the problem, design thinking is solution and action focused, enabling you to create your preferred future.
Design Thinking 5-Step Framework
- Empathize – relate with compassion to the end user and understand the problem.
- Define and Frame – explore, research and understand context and culture of the stakeholders involved – then analyze, interpret, and plan.
- Ideate – imagine, research and ponder innovative solutions.
- Prototype – create authentic and tangible tests or models.
- Test – try, iterate, revise after feedback, and try again as needed to fine tune.
More Than One Solution
As a career coach, I often see individuals who are so laser beam focused on a single outcome that they are chronically disappointed when the goal is not exactly achieved. Design thinking gives you permission to explore different scenarios and results that will gratify you as the end user.
Design thinking celebrates curiosity, which makes everything new and invites exploration. Adrian Paulsen is a designer, lecturer and visual thinker. His personal philosophy is to be curious, think visually and continually foster alliances.
If you embrace the concept of being a designer in how you approach problems and challenges in your life – you will gain more control over how things play out. Designers try things, test things out, revise, find what works, and embrace change. Whether you are a lawyer, an accountant, an entrepreneur, or a stay-at-home parent – you can be the designer of your own life.
End The Blame Game
It’s time to stop blaming others for whatever doesn’t work in your life. Brené Brown shares poignant wisdom about the blame game and how blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain and has an inverse relationship to accountability.
The great news is that you have much more power, grit and tenacity than you are giving yourself permission to use. You can design your life and career so it doesn’t happen by default. Take time to reflect about what you want to keep and what you want to discard in your life so you can create the life you want to lead. You only have yourself to blame if you don’t take control and start designing.
Often the problems we face seem so large that they paralyze us from moving forward. Instead of trying to figure out the rest of your life all at once – start smaller and more simply by focusing on the next baby step towards a solution.
Design thinking was beautifully articulated by authors: Bill Burnett and Dave Evans in their book, Designing Your Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work
Burnett and Evans share the concept of reframing when you get stuck with a life or career issue. Take a step back, examine the biases and move forward toward a solution using the design thinking process. Reframing is a change in perspective, and in most cases – we can all use a perspective switch.
The author-duo suggests these questions/strategies to consider:
- What perspective do you actually have?
- Where are you coming from?
- What other perspectives could other people have? Name them, and then describe the problem from their perspective, not your own.
- How will this problem look a year into the future?
Problem or Fact?
We can also get stuck when try to create solutions to problems that are really not solvable. I believe in grit, determination and overcoming obstacles but I also believe that we need to take a reality check to determine if what we are trying to accomplish is based in fact.
For example, maybe you have your heart set on being an NBA pro basketball player but you stand only 5 feet tall. Height is seen as an advantage in pro basketball and even the scrappiest of shorter players are well above 5 feet tall. Could you overcome this height disadvantage and play in the pros? The fact is – probably not and the energy you use to achieve this goal might bring you more frustration and angst than gratification.
The fact remains – all NBA players are above 5 feet tall and you will not meet that physical qualification. The reframing opportunity comes when you design a future that includes your participation as a basketball player at a competitive level on a team as part of your avocation, not your full-time career. Your passion is still alive and you are playing the sport you love. Now, the reframe allows you to define success in different terms.
Take a serious look at the facts that may be in your way and design opportunities that can truly solve problems.
It Takes a Village to Design a Solution
Design thinking is a process and requires you to have patience, resilience and the open mindedness to embrace change. Burnett and Evans encourage you to write down all the questions, worries, ideas and hopes that you have and then ask yourself what to do next. By addressing the magnitude of emotions (Step 1 – Empathize) you may feel differently about how you move forward.
Successful people ask for help and this is no different in design thinking. Radical Collaboration means you aren’t alone in the process. Find a supporter(s) and share your situation and ask for feedback. Then you can begin to build a team and even a community of design thinkers who can assist each other with the iterative process.
Your Inner Compass
As you embark on the process of design thinking in your life be sure to stay focused on your values. Are you on track for what really matters in your life? Are you honoring who you are and what you believe? Only you have the power to hone your inner compass so check in regularly with what Burnett and Evans call, “How’s is going?” to evaluate your best fit.
The slate is clean for a new beginning this year and you have control. Design the life you truly want to lead and surround yourself with others who celebrate your intentions. Design thinking leads to greater creativity and better solutions. Think of your life in Beta and be ready to iterate, revise, and try again.
As the Dalai Lama says, “The goal is not to be better than the other man, but your previous self.”