5 Mindsets You'll Need to Design a Life & Career You Love

Not long ago, I shared my favorite approach for designing a meaningful career — the design thinking process. Before getting started with design thinking, it’s important to step back and recognize that the design thinking process is all about looking at things differently. In other words, using design thinking involves taking on certain mindsets:

Radical Collaboration: Design is a collaborative process and and many of the best ideas are going to come from other people.  What’s radical is that you want a diverse team, with different experiences, perspectives, points of views, even beliefs.

In the case of career exploration, this means surrounding yourself with uniquely different people -- friends, family, mentors, coaches, etc.

Ask yourself: Who is on my personal board of advisors? Who are people I can talk to, with different viewpoints, to get information?

Reframing: Reframing enables designers to examine ways to look at problems differently or through a new lens in order to increase the opportunity for innovation.

It’s easy for us to get stuck in a way of thinking or seeing our own situation. In order to make a shift, we often have to reframe. For example, many people feel pressure to avoid making the wrong career choice. Believing that there is a right or a wrong choice is a perspective, and one that’s easy to get stuck in at that! Reframing to see careers as a jungle gym, for example, with lots of fun or interesting possibilities relieves some pressure and makes room for curiosity.

Ask yourself: What am I assuming that is actually blocking me? What biases might I have about my skills? What baises might I have about industries or careers?

Curiosity: Curiosity makes everything new and opens your eyes to see opportunities even in the least likely places. It’s an open approach to learning more.  By looking through the lens of curiosity, designers are able to stay out of judgment and avoid rushing to find a hasty solution.  You will hear designers say “tell me more” and ask open questions to get at needs and wants, what works, what doesn’t, and what’s missing.

By staying curious through the career exploration process, you give yourself the gift of asking thought-provoking questions such as:

  • What’s most important to me in my next role?

  • What tasks give me energy? Which drain me?

  • What type of work environment do I enjoy?

Holding curiosity as a key mindset also involves discovering new information about other people, organizations, their work, and possible ways that you might make a pivot. It’s what helps people get lucky through planned happenstance.

Ask yourself: How can I stay open and curious to new ideas? What can I learn that is outside my norm? 

Mindful of the Process:  Being aware of where you are in the design thinking process is important, because it informs your approach.  And it’s also important to be aware of your own process.  Are you rushing to a solution?  Are you blocked?

Being mindful of the process is key to the journey of product and life design because it allows you to 1) offer yourself compassion rather than negative self-talk and 2) be aware of what strategies or methods you can take next to move forward. For example, let’s imagine you have conducted lots of informational interviews as a part of the prototype phase but you still aren’t clear what type of work would be meaningful for you. Knowing that you are in the prototype phase, you’re then able to try another method of testing out different careers like shadowing or volunteering.

Ask yourself: Where in the process am I, and what are appropriate expectations to have for those moments?

Bias Toward Action: This is the heart of design thinking; you are committed to build your way forward. Designers try things.  They test out ideas, failing often until they find what works and what solves the problem. Designers embrace change.  They are not attached to one particular outcome. 

I often see clients get stuck when they want to explore careers simply through online research. You can only uncover so much through research. You’re much more likely to uncover valuable insights by taking action, putting yourself out there and see what results you get.

Ask yourself: What can I be doing, quickly, without huge commitment, to get information?

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Try on these mindsets and watch how you begin to create your own luck, seeing new possibilities and opportunities everywhere!