Over the past 15 years, I’ve jumped around to a lot of different, sometimes very odd, careers: from designing underwater housings for cameras, to researching how sea lions are so damn good at stealing salmon from fishermen, to creating an application for capturing family stories. A few years ago, I created a timeline that attempts to mash them together in a somewhat logical format (click the image below to view at larger scale).


Career Timeline


This particular design grew out of one of the earlier versions of my default resume, which also included a career timeline:

Resume Crop


(click to enlarge).

The problem with such a timeline is that, while it looks rather neat and tidy, it doesn’t really convey the messy story getting from A to B (or in my case from A to B to C to D, etc). As a student of design, the concept of creating a rough prototype to get out in the world and test with became ingrained in me, and each twist in my professional life has more or less started with a prototype (and not always by choice; there were definitely times when I attempted a more conventional path).

I recently attended a workshop (itself a prototype) called Designing Your Life, which was run by Bill Burnett, and his colleague Dave Evans. I help Bill teach the undergraduate Product Design senior capstone sequence at Stanford (ME216B & C), and I had been very curious about the Design Your Life undergraduate class which he also teaches. This workshop gave a (highly) condensed version of the class to a group of mid-career folks, all of us interested in how we can apply the design process to our careers (and life in general).

As part of the workshop, we had to come in with both our Lifeview and our Workview. As the Lifeview is a bit personal I won’t share it here (though you can get in touch if you’d like to chat about it), but the Workview is meant to “address the critical issues related to what work is and means to you. It is not just a list of what you want from or out of work, but a general statement of your view of work.” Items such as “What is work for?” and “What defines good or worthwhile work?” could be addressed. Here is an excerpt from my Workview:

My Workview is…to create things which help give meaning and pleasure to other people’s lives and our own. By things, I don’t necessarily mean physical things (though in my case, some of the physical objects I’ve created have achieved this goal); I also mean the relationships and connections that come through doing meaningful work.

For me, good work also challenges me to grow and learn, as well as help others achieve their own life and work goals. My career to this point has been a series of prototypes, and I think with each iteration I learn more about how I can make my own work meaningful and full of the kind of impact that I hope for.

Oddly enough, this is the first time that I’d written down what work really means to me, and if there has been any common thread that has tied the many disparate chunks of my prototype careers together, this does an OK job of summing it up. I’d highly recommend going through this process, if you are feeling a bit stuck or aimless in your career; it doesn’t have to be long, 150-200 words seems to be a good length. And if you feel like it’s time to prototype a different career, stay tuned; I’m hoping to write a series of posts on ideas for prototyping different kinds of work (you can sign up for my newsletter to get the series if you’re interested).

What is your Workview, and how does it align with your career(s)? Leave a note in the comments section below, or send me an email.





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