Top 7 principles to Design a Career

career design principles

Top 7 principles to Design a Career

Are you feeling confused, uncertain and anxious about how to change your career? Or maybe you want to grow your career, but the usual upward and linear career growth path doesn’t excite you?

Take off your career planning hat and wear the hat of a career designer. Instead of waiting to find a perfect job or a perfect career, design your way into a fulfilling career which feels right for you by following our Top 7 Career Design Principles.

  1. Realize there is no ‘one perfect’ job

When thinking about changing careers, the vast majority of us feel that finding that ‘perfect’ job is the sole path to fulfillment. Besides stressing ourselves out, this also makes us hesitant, lest we commit an error.

Instead, remember that there are plenty of ‘right’ jobs for you. Moreover, at present, what you consider to be your ‘right’ fit may change over time and that’s nothing to worry about. After all the list of career design components that we think are ideal is created by an iterative process and keeps on changing throughout our lives with new experiences.

Keeping this in mind will prevent fear from clouding your judgement and interfering with your career choices. You will then be able to make a career in alignment with your true self.

Read : Please Don’t Think There Is Only One Perfect Career Choice

  1. Stay open and push past your ‘awkwardness’ to get career lucky

Have you come across someone who stated an extremely lucky event as their starting point towards their dream career? Well, chances are if you put yourself out there and start to explore your curiosities, you too can attain the same. Of course, your curiosity must be backed by a bias towards action, in no small measure. In fact, the Planned Happenstance theory of career development credited to Prof. John Krumboltz, states that complexity radically reduces the usefulness of career planning in a traditional sense and instead we must consider how we can utilise ideas around luck and happenstance. Krumboltz claims that external factors, chance events and the unexpected dominate our lives and our careers.

Broaden your network by interacting with different people and trying your hand at various activities. Grab opportunities to work on projects outside your domain of expertise. Also, try to pursue a side-project with dedication: Teach, speak, or blog on topics that you are passionate about. Don’t feel awkward about doing such things.

If you still feel iffy, consider the example of Sheryl Sandberg. Nowadays, one can immediately identify her as Facebook’s COO. But how do you think she got there? It all started with a TED talk, which had no relation to her job! It so happened that Sheryl, the keen observer, had noticed that there were only a handful of women in Silicon Valley and many reasons possibly behind this. However, instead of keeping these observations to herself, she started to share them, at first, in informal small gatherings. As her ideas seemed meaningful to her audience, they backed her to take them to the broader public.

Career success

Push past your awkwardness to get ‘career lucky’

She did just that with a TED talk – an opportunity which had presented itself then and one she had grabbed and made the most out of. Soon after, the talk went viral and led to other invitations. Her best-selling book, Lean In, followed. The credibility the book gave her not only helped her recruit more women to Facebook but also led her to grow her network and finally become a board member of the company.

  1. Plunge into Conversational Research

Go and talk to people who are currently doing things you dream of doing. Find out what their role/work actually encompasses. Seek their advice on things one ought to know before embarking on their path. You might be surprised to find out things you had never considered could exist as part of the job. Maybe some of them will not be to your liking, making you rethink whether it is the right fit for you.

Gain knowledge about the job via these conversations by being genuinely curious rather than approaching it as a job search. Be sincerely interested in learning about what they do, what it’s really like and how they got there.

Also, as for any interview, learn in advance about the industry, the company and the individual. That way you can keep your queries short and to the point. This is important because more often than not, the conversations won’t last long because of people’s busy schedules.

  1. Look (Prototype) before you leap

You wouldn’t dive headlong into a pool, if you didn’t at least know it was deeper than 9 feet! Same principle – before you make the first move, prototype your new career. Visualize and get a taste for the new life that comes with the new career. A good prototype helps you to do that.

While considering your ideas, think like a designer, creating several options and then trying them out. Using Design Thinking to prototype your new career works even better when you cross-fertilize ideas from disparate fields. This is the approach which Stanford University professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans teach through their book Designing your Life.

Prototype your career options

Last but not the least, prototyping allows you to try and fail rapidly, without overinvesting in a path. This is important because the assumption that your first idea is the best may turn out to be wrong. If this is indeed so, remember that there are many paths (not just one) that could bring you fulfillment. So continue putting yourself in an exploratory frame of mind. Rather than starting out with ‘this is the one’, the trick is to start off with various different paths and narrowing down to one.

  1. Look inside yourself

You don’t just look outside, you look inside too! Tap into the motivation behind the change you want. This is important, because if seemingly obvious things like “money” or “the need to be in a new environment” do not align with your true motivation and needs, the move won’t last. Instead, find out the instinct causing your repeated thoughts and follow this rule of thumb: if you have thought about something 3 times, make an effort to do it. A tremendous amount of change is mostly not needed in one go but you do need to be absolutely clear about the thing(s) you are willing to transform.

When you are deciding about a change in career, pause and reflect on your beliefs and connect the dots between them and your occupation. You could also seek out a trained career coach to help you gain clarity both on the inside and the outside. Clarity on the inside means being able to picturize your life five years down the line with respect to its outlook and core values and how you want to feel doing the work that you have chosen.

Meanwhile, clarity on the outside means that if you are sure about what you want to do, it’s time to inform people – friends, family, and co-workers – about your decision to change careers and seek references to contacts in your new industry. Back this up with a LinkedIn or a blog search. If you are able to reach out to someone, follow through with an informational interview as described earlier.

  1. Design and not Plan your career

The future of work needs you to design and not plan your career. Designing is iterative and you don’t have to get tied to the first idea. Learn the principles of Design Thinking and then apply them to designing your life and work. Most importantly, practice ‘diverging’ i.e. generating lots of ideas, and ‘converging’, before narrowing down to one when it comes to career choices. Planning favours converging much more, assuming a rather stable external environment and that’s why designing, rather than planning is a more future-proof career strategy in today’s times.

Lastly, remember that redesign is central to our lives in that multiple changes in one’s career is going to be the new norm! From a more tactical point of view, assuming you are undecided about your career path, follow the Design Thinking principle of Radical Collaboration wherein you connect with your ‘champions’, the people closest to you. By doing so, you are actively seeking to trigger your network, thus allowing ideas to start to flow in the process.

Read : ‘Design Thinking’ In Careers

  1. You need support – make sure you ask for it

Building a support system is vital for a successful career change. A career coaching expert can help you sort out the conflicting voices in your head by holding space for you – for both your new ideas and your tangled up emotions. Further, if they are familiar with the sector you are considering to venture out into, they will also be able to bring new perspectives.

Besides this, try to create a team of advisors or learn with a group of people who are similarly motivated as you are for career change. Many people don’t realise that it is easy to create your own ‘unofficial’ team of advisors. Curate a group of people (even those you may not know personally) whose guidance you can follow for your career development.

Create your support group, your ‘success team’

Lastly, note that if you are to leave the familiarity of a business or industry after 5, 10 or 20 years, it can be quite unnerving. There will be things you simply won’t know. In situations like these, your ‘advisory board’ can watch your back, helping you manoeuvre the tricky path, gently but firmly showing you your blind spots so you can overcome them.

Read Also – 8 Ways To Grow Your Career Sustainably 

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Kavita, an alumna of IIM Ahmedabad, brings 20 years of experience in Experiential Learning, Coaching, Personal Growth & Change. Her forte is Career Transition Coaching and Leadership Development for mid-senior individuals, helping them find success and fulfilment at work . She also teaches Career & Self Development courses at leading management institutes including IIM Kozhikode, IIM Udaipur, IIM Indore and at the IITs.