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How design thinking can help you to create a fulfilling career

Since I graduated from college almost 20 years ago, I have redesigned my career multiple times. That included leaving my home country Brazil to pursue an MBA in the University of Michigan, moving from software engineering to finance to operations consulting and to strategy consulting working in various countries, changing jobs and roles within organizations.

In the past two years I have focused more than ever in identifying my purpose and seeking opportunities to align my that with my career.

I wrote about a design thinking exercise I did to redesign my life in my blog Ideas for Divas last year. Although I was making good progress in terms of working on projects aligned with the skills I wanted to develop and bring my passion about wellness and work-life balance to my job, I didn't have an execution plan for a meaningful career design.

I realized I needed structure and accountability to push myself outside of my comfort zone and focus on my next career endeavors. When I learned about the University of Michigan Alumni Career Design Fellowship organized by Mission Collaborative, I thought it was a great opportunity to rethink my career priorities and come up with an execution plan while meeting like minded people.

Here is how the career design fellowship helped me:

1. Structures and frameworks to boost creative thinking

The multiple exercises provided by the fellowship program helped me to better understand my top strengths, key skills and how I like (or not) to use them, and identify my lifestyle priorities. I was also able to reflect on the limiting beliefs that were preventing me to move faster towards a purposeful career.

2. Resources to help research different career paths that align with your values

One of the most impactful activities was designing potential career paths based on my values and aspirations. I have multiple interests, like strategy & analytics, wellness & balance, people development & diversity, equity, inclusion, start-ups & non-profits. My current job is a portion of my career, to achieve fulfillment, I would need to focus on multiple projects. When reflecting on potential career paths I was able to identify multiple areas of interest and potential roles that could combine multiple of them.

3. Accountability partner and team meetings for outside of the box thinking

A key highlight of the fellowship program was the ability to meet with a small team every week to reflect and discuss the exercises. I realized that in general people are bolder to empower others to take more ambitious and risky career moves than to make such decisions for their own careers.

For example, I would spend way more time developing plans for safe career moves - same skills in different industries or different skills in the same company - than on risky ones. My team helped me to realize that when they suggested that I should venture on doing more interviews for my blog and potentially podcasts.

4. Connection with people from various sectors willing to share experiences

One of the components of the fellowship is access to a community of people who have participated on multiple cohorts with other University Alumni networks. It's like a social network for like minded professionals.

I wanted to learn more about getting involved in non-profits boards and I had multiple people sharing their experience and what it takes to get involved. The response rate was definitely higher if I had contacted 2nd level connections on LinkedIn.

5. Design thinking methodology to identify and test new career paths and find job opportunities

I am a big fan of design thinking. I use it in my job to develop human-centric solutions and I have used it to reflect and redesign my career a couple of times.

What I like the most about the methodology is the ability to test your hypothesis and strategy before looking for the next job or embarking on a career change.

In my case, I decided to evaluate if my passion for people development, engagement, diversity and inclusion could be more than a 'plus one' for my career. Thus, I scheduled virtual coffees with some of my fellow U-M MBA alumni to learn about careers in coaching and people development.

Impact of the career design fellowship in my life

The fellowship renewed my energy to focus on my blog Ideas for Divas. I have been doing video interviews almost every week and really enjoying the process.

I also moved to the people analytics practice within my organization and I am currently working with a non-profit on a diversity and inclusion project which has been very meaningful work.

If you are not happy or fulfilled in your career, you think you need a change and you don't know where to start, I highly recommend Mission Collaborative’s Career Design Fellowship.

Renata Gomide is a Strategy & Operations Senior Manager at a global consulting firm with over 15 years of experience in analytics strategy, business operations, people development, and customer experience design. She is a wellness and balance enthusiast, speaker and content creator at Ideas for Divas.

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