The beautiful thing about taking a design approach to your career planning is that it invites experimentation and requires thoughtfulness about your individual circumstances. Applying the tools of design to your career helps you to identify and navigate the many options available to you.
Design your career
How to design your career
The first step in your design is to accept where you are and work from there. You don’t need to prepare or have something figured out before you begin. Bring all of your questions, ideas, thoughts, and feelings into the process. Here are some of the many questions or thoughts you may be thinking that can be tackled through a design approach.
- What career options will enable me to make a decent living?
- What jobs relate to my studies?
- I don’t know what I’m good at.
- I am feeling stuck or unsure about what to do next.
- I am worried I don’t have a clear plan.
- How do I find a career where I can make a difference in the world?
- How do I get experience before I have experience?
- I just want to graduate and have a job lined up afterwards.
- I feel excited and ready to find a career that is right for me!
Good career planning comes when we pay attention to who we are and what we value, while making use of the opportunities, communities, and tools available to us. It requires knowledge about the world around us and an awareness of where our strengths, skills and interests align with what the world is looking for. It is a lifelong journey of consecutive decision-making.
What does career mean to you?
Set yourself up for success by clarifying your thoughts and expectations about your career. This information can then become a set of evaluative measures for your decision making about what to try and what is and/isn’t working for you along the way.
Choose a few of the questions below. Try a 10-minute free write activity or do some doodling – whatever works for you. Once you’ve jotted down some thoughts, share them with a friend or family member. You might be surprised by how unique your view and needs are.
- What skills do you want to use day to day?
- Which tasks in your life require effort, which tasks feel energizing?
- Where do you see your values showing up in your work?
- What defines good or worthwhile work to you?
- What does money have to do with career?
- What do experience, growth, and fulfillment have to do with career?
What are your interests and values?
Two common indicators of career satisfaction are values and interests. Clarifying these can help you evaluate career possibilities and find a good career fit.
Try our Values Inventory worksheet (pdf) to practice identifying or clarifying your own values.
Consider how your identities intersect with career
Consider reviewing our career resources for equity-deserving populations, including students of colour, students with disabilities, LGBTQ2SIA+ students and Indigenous students to gain insights about how you can centre your intersecting identities in your career planning.
Focus on your strengths
Knowing what you’re good at will help you identify positions and environments where you are likely to succeed and your skills will be valued. Consider the following:
- What activities in your life require little effort?
- When and where do you feel energized?
- Which tasks, classes, or projects can you focus on for hours at a time?
- When have you felt most proud of yourself? What were you doing?
Not sure what you’re good at? Think about what people in your life rely on you for. Still not sure? Ask the important people in your life how they would describe you.
If you prefer using a tool that can give you insights, check out our self-assessment page for a list of resources.
Prototyping is the cornerstone of the design process. Getting experience is one way to prototype your career. When you try things out, you test your assumptions and gather insights about what does and doesn’t work for you. You also discover what matters to you, develop your skills and meet people that become part of your network. Whether paid or unpaid, all experiences offer opportunities to learn. As you gain experience, remember that both short-term and long-term prototypes can be helpful.
Here are just a few of the many ways that you can prototype your career options:
- Conduct independent research about employers or jobs that interest you. Try to identify where your ideas about your career align or don’t align with these options.
- Volunteer in a role or organization that interests you. Many non-profit organizations invite volunteers for short-term commitments like one day to longer term commitments like a full term or year.
- Join a club or other initiative where you can try new tasks and get experience working in a team.
- Get experience on campus, in other local communities, or internationally.
Proactively build your skills
Practice identifying the skills and experiences that will enhance your employability with the skills inventory worksheet (pdf) and take advantage of LinkedIn Learning (free for all UBC students starting in Fall 2021) to develop skills, knowledge and expertise in areas related to your preferred work.
Meet people and make connections
Another way you can prototype a career is by talking to people who do things you are interested in. Alumni and employers are interested and willing to help you learn about their fields of work. Their stories, insights, and advice can help you navigate possibilities and make decisions about your next steps.
- Learn what others have done with their degree in arts, science, engineering or land and food systems.
- Introduce yourself to alumni and employers at career events hosted by UBC.
- Find someone that is doing work you are interested in. Ask them for an opportunity to learn more about their experience.
- Network with alumni and employers through LinkedIn or UBC Hub of Ten Thousand Coffees.
- Find a mentor from anywhere in the world.
The world of work
The 21st century is dramatically changing the how, when, and where of professional workplaces.
Here are the top characteristics you need to know about how work and workplaces are evolving.
- Know the 3 C’s rule of workplace culture. Communication, collaboration, and connectivity are skills of increasing importance in successfully navigating workplaces.
- Big data and ‘human’ skills are trending.
Analytical skills such as identifying patterns, interpreting data, and making unexpected connections, and human skills such as creativity, initiative, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and leadership and social influence, are in demand skills from today’s employers across all industries.
- Technology is setting the pace.
Digital tools – specifically the Internet, artificial intelligence, widespread adoption of big analytics, and cloud technology (WEF, 2018) are changing what, when, how and why we communicate, placing an emphasis on digital literacy skills of those entering the workforce. This has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also made it possible for workplaces to be more open to long-term remote working options.
- A freelance economy.
The gig economy continues to rise, transforming careers into short-term contracts with different employers. Gig workers develop highly specialized skills as they move from gig to gig.
Understand employers needs and perspectives
Across private and public, small and large organizations from all over the globe, employers are looking to hire employees who will make positive contributions and help advance their mission, vision and goals.
Your degree helps you to build the skills, experiences, and networks that employers need. Think back to your course work, extra-curricular roles, part time or summer jobs and community-based experiences to identify skills you have that they will value. It all counts.
LinkedIn Learning can help you to get into the mindset of a hiring manager or build your skills.
Connect with us
Contact the Centre for Student Involvement and Careers for career-related information, or to drop in to career advising.