Designing your career

Designing your career is part of the book Designing your life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, teachers of Design Thinking at Stanford. I’ll try to elaborate this idea with few videos and a course based on this book.

The Idea

As one survey suggests, 2/3rd of the employees in the US are unhappy with their jobs and around 15% people actually hate their work. According to Bill Burnett and Dave Evans there is not a single calling that you need to discover and follow in order to lead a fulfilling life. At any stage, there are multiple avenues that you can take that could lead to a fulfilling life if you can plan and design your life. They recommend talking to people (informational interview) and prototyping your life with the prospective career options.

This idea is not only for individuals in their 20’s but this could be useful for people in their 40’s or even 60’s. It is not only for designing a career, but also for redesigning a career. The authors emphasize that while designing or redesigning your career you should spend more time on the work that energizes you and should spend less time on work that drains you. This is something that I deeply resonate with and I’ve often endorsed it here on My Zen Path.

Another good suggestion that  Bill Burnett and Dave Evans have in this book is about alternative lives – the first alternate life that the authors ask you to imagine is if your current career just vanishes, and the other alternate life is the desirable/fascinating life that you’d lead if money and status are not under consideration (similar to What If Money Was No Object by Alan Watts). The crux is to realize what kind of insights you can get from each of these lives – one optimized and two alternatives.

Career is a crucial part of life, and this idea of designing your career is wonderfully captured in these 6 short videos of approximately 2-3 minutes each; around 15-16 minutes overall.  I’d highly recommend that you watch this short playlist to get a clearer understanding of this idea.

 The Course

Designing your life is a course (ME104B) offered at Stanford Life Design Lab that uses design thinking to address the “wicked problem” of designing your life and career, but it is only available to the Stanford students. However, the good news is that they have made a module Designing Your Career available online for free, and anyone can join that short course. Here is an excerpt from the course information page –

What is Designing Your Career really about?

This online course uses a design thinking approach to help people of any age and academic background develop a constructive and effective approach to designing their vocation. This course is primarily comprised of 5 career-oriented vocational wayfinding concepts, illustrated through videos and expanded through personal reflections and exercises.

If you’re keen,  it’s a good idea to join this free course and take their exercises and personal reflections sincerely to gain useful insights.

The Book

The original book Designing your life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans is a great read for thorough understanding of their ideas explained with several real-life examples. They go in-depth to elucidate how to actually design the life & career that you’d love.

You can preview the book below and if you’re intrigued, you can buy it as well. It is one book that is worth going back to again and again. I do it myself.

Looking Beyond

The Self Made Man by Bobbie Carlyle
The Self Made Man by Bobbie Carlyle (PC: Pinterest)

Designing your life is an extremely popular book and associated course at Stanford is a huge success as well. You’ll find several illustrations, mind-maps and videos around these ideas if you look around. For those who would like to know more about these ideas, I’d highly recommend these two videos – the first one is TEDx talk Designing your life by author Bill Burnett and the second one is a longish talk by his co-author Dave Evans on the same topic at Google. The official website of Designing Your Life is a great resource as well.

The book or course will give lot of actionable ideas – right from drafting optimized, alternative lives to prototyping conversations and so on, but it is far more helpful to actually try out those ideas. Action trumps everything – so if you’re really charged up and want to design your own career, it’s good to join this course , but it is definitely better to start acting on its insights. 🙂


The featured image:

The Dreamcatcher image by Pixabay, I am using it here with gratitude.