Design your career


Taking a design approach to your career planning requires experimentation and thoughtfulness about your individual circumstances. Applying the tools of design to your career helps you identify and navigate the many possible options for your life and career.

How to design your career

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 questions or thoughts you may be having that can be tackled through a design approach.

  • What career options will allow 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!

Reflect on yourself

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 how our strengths, skills, and interests align with what the world is looking for. It is a lifelong journey of consecutive decision-making.

What does a 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 to decide what to try, as well as help you identify what is and isn’t working for you.

Choose a few of the questions below. Try a 10-minute free write activity or some doodling—whatever works for you. Then share your thoughts with someone you trust. You might be surprised by how unique your views 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 values and interests?

Aligning your job with your values and interests can lead to higher levels of career satisfaction. Clarifying these can help you evaluate career possibilities and find a good career fit.

Use the Values Inventory worksheet (pdf) to identify or clarify your values.

How does your identity intersect with your career?

Review these career resources for students from historically marginalized communities, including students of colour, students with disabilities, LGBTQ2SIA+ students, and Indigenous students to learn how you can consider your intersecting identities in your career planning.

Identify 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 questions:

  • 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 and use self-assessment tools and resources for personalized career insights.

Get experience

Prototyping is the cornerstone of the design process. Getting experience is one way to prototype your career.

When you try things out, you can test your assumptions and gather insights about what does and doesn’t work for you. You can also discover what matters to you, develop your skills, and meet people that become a part of your professional network. All experiences offer opportunities to learn, whether they’re paid or unpaid, short-term or long-term.

Here are some of the ways that you can prototype your career options:

  • Conduct research about employers or jobs that interest you. Find out where your ideas about these careers align or don’t align with reality.
  • Volunteer in a role or organization that interests you. At many non-profit organizations, you can volunteer for one day or make longer term commitments like a full term or year.
  • Join a club or other groups where you can try new tasks and get experience working in a team.
  • Get paid or volunteer experience on campus, in other local communities, or internationally.

Proactively build your skills

Identify the skills and experiences that will enhance your employability with the skills inventory worksheet (pdf). You can also take online courses or watch videos through LinkedIn Learning 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’re interested in. Alumni and employers are often interested and willing to help you learn about their fields of work. Their stories, insights, and advice can help you navigate possibilities and decide your next steps.

Learn about the 21st century 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.
    According to a report in 2018 by the World Economic Forum, digital tools such as the Internet, artificial intelligence, widespread adoption of big analytics, and cloud technology are changing what, when, how, and why we communicate. These tools create a need for digital literacy skills among those entering the workforce. This has been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also made workplaces more open to long-term remote working. 
  • 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.

Look to the World Economic Forum for ongoing news about the world of work. WorkBC also provides regular updates and relevant labour market information specific to British Columbia.

Understand employers' needs and perspectives

Across private and public, small and large organizations from all over the world, 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.

You can access LinkedIn Learning to help you get into the mindset of a hiring manager or build your skills.



If you have questions

Contact the UBC Career Centre for any questions regarding the Launch Your Career in Canada event or career-related information.