Over the course of several weeks, I'm showing you how to apply design thinking and principles to your career planning and development. The series of posts so far is here.
In the Interpretation phase of design, we've been looking at capturing your learning, identifying key themes and harvesting your insights. Now it's time to frame your opportunities--how do you take what you've been learning and use it to set yourself up for the next phase?
One useful strategy for exploring opportunities is to create some visuals that express your key ideas. Here are some examples that could be helpful:
A Journey Map can help you look at your experiences over time. This is particularly useful if your initial design challenge is about how to make substantive changes in your career, possibly transitioning into something new. You might want to explore using the Career Stepping Stones method to map your journey.
Another great career visualization strategy is to use vision board techniques to illustrate or flesh out some of your key insights. For example, in many cases this process can point us to key values we want to incorporate into our work. Through a vision board exercise, we can go deeper with these ideas and gain additional insights to use in the Ideation phase.
Play around with using visuals to distill your insights and explore the relationships between them. This can open up new lines of thinking and fresh perspectives.
Make Your Insights Actionable
Your insights only become valuable when you can act on them as inspiring opportunities. It's important to take the time to phrase them so that they invite you into Ideation, brainstorming possible ways to experiment and make some new things happen.
Explore your insights and turn them into "How might I. . ." or "What if. . . " questions. For example:
- What if I volunteered to run a pilot program at work so I could test some of these ideas I'm having?
- How might I start using my skills as an artist to bring in new income?
- What if I found a way to work 4 days a week so that I could use that extra day to learn some new skills?
For each insight you've gained, you want to generate several potential brainstorm questions, like the ones above. Try to make them simple and concise, expressed in plain language that feels inspiring to you.
You may want to sit with your questions for a few days, returning to them later to see if they still resonate and to potentially revise, add or eliminate some questions.
Ultimately you are going to select 3-5 of these questions to work with in the Ideation/Brainstorming phase. It's worth it to give yourself some room to find the right questions.
A final note on the Interpretation phase. . .
The Interpretation phase can be both exhilerating and a little scary. If you have ignored your career for awhile, operating on auto pilot, this is often where you will find that you may be feeling the need to make some major changes. This can feel overwhelming and you may consider giving up.
Try to resist this temptation.
Instead, use the design process to help you put some boundaries around what you will work on at this time. Go back to your initial design challenge and think about how you may want to reframe it. Set aside those insights that feel a little too difficult to address right now and look for those questions that feel more "do-able." You can always return later to those possibilities that you want to explore further after you have a few smaller successes under your belt.
The beauty of using design thinking to plan for your career is that if you stick to the process, you will find that eventually it becomes second nature. You will naturally return to these strategies to address new problems and challenges as they arise. You will get into more of a flow, working with issues as they come up, rather than letting them fester until they can't be ignored.
In my next post, we'll be moving into Ideation--brainstorming ideas for working with the questions you've been developing.