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Designing your Life

Updated: Mar 28, 2023


“Designing Your Life” is a self-help book written by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, two Stanford Professors who also teach the course with the same name. The purpose of the book is to help readers create a fulfilling and meaningful life by applying design thinking principles to their personal and professional goals.

The authors take an approach that designing your life is similar to designing a product or service, and that using thinking tools and techniques, individuals can better understand their values, passions, and goals to create a plan to achieve them. The book offers many techniques for prototyping, testing, and generating ideas. Overall, “Designing Your Life” is a means to provide readers with tools and mindsets to align life with their values, passions, and goals.

A Guide to NonLinear Career Paths

In today's rapidly changing job market, traditional linear career paths are becoming less common. Instead, many people are exploring nonlinear career paths that allow for greater flexibility and personal fulfillment. However, navigating these paths can be challenging without the right tools and mindset. That's where the book "Designing Your Life" by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans comes in.

"Designing Your Life" is a practical guide to approaching career development in a more intentional and design-driven way. Drawing on the principles of design thinking, the authors encourage readers to experiment with different career options, prototype their ideas, and iterate to find the best solutions.

The book facilitates nonlinear career paths through:

  • Emphasis on experimentation: The authors emphasize the importance of trying out different career options through prototyping. By creating low-cost, low-risk versions of potential career paths, individuals can gain a better understanding of what they enjoy and what they're good at.

  • Identification of strengths and values: The book also provides tools and exercises to help readers identify their strengths and values. This helps readers guide through career decisions. By understanding what they're good at and what's important to them, individuals can seek out career paths that align with their interests and passions.

  • Apply design thinking: The design thinking principles include a user-centered, iterative approach to problem-solving. By applying this approach to their career development, individuals can generate a wide range of ideas and test them out to find the best fit.

  • Offering practical advice: Lastly, the book offers practical advice and resources for exploring career options, such as conducting informational interviews, job shadowing, and networking. These tools can help individuals gain a better understanding of different career paths and connect with people who can offer guidance and support.

Overall, this provides a framework for approaching career development that is flexible and adaptable, which can facilitate the exploration and pursuit of nonlinear career paths. By embracing the principles of design thinking and experimenting with different ideas, individuals can discover new and unexpected paths that align with their values and goals, and that leads to greater satisfaction and fulfillment.

Designing your Dream Job

Many people think their dream job is just “out there waiting” for them, and most of the time this is never the case. While you can find lots of interesting jobs in great organizations, most of them are likely invisible to you. This is because they are a part of the hidden job market, which you are most likely not familiar with. In the United States, only 20% of jobs available are posted on the internet. This means that ⅘ jobs are not available through the standard model. The question now is “how do you break into the hidden job market?”. The quick answer is that you cant, and no one can. The hidden job market is only open to people who are deeply connected in a web of professional networks. The key to cracking into this network is to sincerely be an interested inquirer (someone looking for the story) not just someone looking for a job. Fortunately, the best technique you can use to figure out what kind of work you might want to pursue is outlined in “Design Your Life” as prototyping with life design interviews. We need to remember that the goal of these interviews is to learn about a particular role so that you can try and pursue that role in the future. While conducting your interviews, the goal is to not really be after the job. Now you're asking yourselves how you can get a job without actively seeming like you want it, and the answer is surprisingly simple. Most of the time, the person you're talking to will simply do it for you. According to Designing Your Life, this strategy resulted in the person being interviewed offering a job roughly 50% of the time. The key is to have extensive outreach skills, and with this, as well as a great network, you'll start to see that hidden job market start to appear out of the woodwork.

Odyssey Plan

Designing Your Life includes many different worksheets and activities to help you prototype your interests, including Odyssey Planning. Odyssey Planning reframes the concept of a rigid ‘5-Year Plan’ for your future. You must reflect on what you are building towards and remind yourself of your values. By mapping out 3 alternative plans for your life, you are challenged to consider what is truly important to you.

Plan 1: What does your current path look like right now?

Plan 2: If the first path can’t happen, then what?

Plan 3: If time, money, and fear didn’t matter, what would you do?

So when you are looking at nonlinear career paths, what is motivating you? What is in and what is out for the next X years? How do you want to live your life? What do you want to learn?

Reading Designing Your Life pushes you to dig deep and look within. Reflection is a key concept when it comes to your passions and career. Keep on prototyping!

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