trees during the fall season

Reflecting on the Past and Designing the Future

Preparing to embark on a new calendar year may inspire us to do some reflection on the year we left behind – as well as the year that lies ahead. At the UC Davis Internship and Career Center (ICC), we encourage this sort of reflection all year long! Students who take time to reflect on their academic and personal progress are better equipped to create informed plans for where they may go next. 

One method that the ICC often uses to support students’ career planning and reflection is called “design thinking.” In other words, people in the field of design use specific mindsets that allow them to approach problem solving in a very particular way. At the ICC we think of these as ways to approach “life design” as well! 

As outlined in the best-selling book Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, here are five mindsets that can help your students “think like a designer”: 

Be curious.  
Curiosity invites exploration and play, while minimizing the anxiety of “getting it right.” If something sparks their curiosity and enthusiasm, encourage them to follow that impulse to see where it leads. When job-seekers get curious, they begin to find opportunities where previously they thought there were none. 

Try stuff.  
Designers call this a “bias to action.” We encourage students to feed their curiosity with action, and build their way forward. Help them brainstorm how they might act on the things that interest them. For example, can they intern or volunteer in a company or industry to find out if it is a good fit? Can they participate in a club or project related to their career goals? Can they get a part-time job to develop their career readiness skills? As the saying goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” 

Reframe problems.  
Sometimes when we’re feeling stuck, it can help to come at it from a new angle. The act of reframing a negative thought or belief into a positive one can unlock the motivation needed to move forward. It can be difficult to do this for oneself, so you can help your student reframe their thinking to generate new possibilities. 

Know it’s a process.  
This may be obvious, but life design is a life-long process! It doesn’t end when a student graduates, or when they land that first professional job. Encourage your students to let go of the end goal and to embrace the messiness of the process. When students accept that career paths are rarely linear, they remain open to opportunities that may come from unexpected places. 

Look for collaborators. 
This might be the most important mindset of them all! In your students’ career planning, there will be many who want to see them succeed (including us at the ICC!), so think of these people as a “life design team” that includes family, friends, classmates, UC Davis alumni, faculty, advisors, and others in their network. You can encourage your students to collaborate with their team for help, support, and advice as they uncover their next steps. 

Above all, remind your students that the resources available at the ICC can empower them to make the most of their next steps. We at the ICC are here for your students to help them “design” their way forward! 

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