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Applying the principles of HCD to your own career

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

As designers, you spend the majority of your time problem solving for others but how often do you apply the principles of human centred design to your own situation? More specifically, to your design career?

There is a belief among many career scholars that organisations are less accountable for career management and instead individuals are now responsible for managing and navigating their own careers. Debating the accuracy of this statement isn’t the point of this article. Instead, let us accept that careers whether managed by organisations or individuals are undoubtedly more flexible and dynamic than ever before and that individuals have a greater sense of ownership over their careers. Then, I would argue that designers are uniquely qualified to manage their careers by simply applying the methodologies and tools they use everyday.

What do I mean by this?

I mean, careers should be approached the same way you would a product/service. Instead of sitting back and waiting for problems to present themselves, you can be constantly analysing and identifying opportunities and potential risks before they happen and devising a plan to execute.

Where am I now, what do I want tomorrow?

Every designer knows that context is key. Understanding the context of your career and what internal and external drivers motivate you is key. Through the lens of positive psychology we learn that work can be seen as a job, a career or a calling and each has a varying driving force. Do you see work as an economic transaction? Is climbing the ladder and achieving status important to you? Does your work need to fulfil something deeper and more meaningful?

These are questions you should be asking yourself and asking yourself regularly. Occasionally, your work might need iterating. You might need a pay increase to cover the increasing cost of, well everything these days. Or you might need a spark of inspiration, so you discuss tackling a new project with your manager. Iterations can and should be made to your work to ensure you are intrinsically and extrinsically motivated. But sometimes, iterations won’t cut it and you need to completely reimagine the solution. When this happens, the skills and methods you use in the discovery phase of design will help you.

Discovering your next move

I don’t need to tell any designer reading this that the discovery phase is where you think expansively. This applies to your job search as well, you’ll need to cast the net wide to get a complete picture of what is out there. Simultaneously, you'll need to assess and drill down on what the core driver is that is pushing you towards something new. You should be talking with subject matter experts, ‘natives’ in the field you’re looking to move into to gain an understanding of skills and experiences you’ll need to succeed.

I would suggest speaking with recruiters in the space to understand what opportunities exist that align with your needs. More specifically, I would (biasly) suggest speaking with a recruiter from Brightbox Consulting, we specialise in recruiting in HCD and we can introduce you to opportunities you might not know exist. The important thing in this phase of your career search is to have conversations. Conversations are a knowledge sharing tool and the more conversations you have the more you’ll learn about the opportunities in the market. So talk to friends, family, colleagues or recruiters and start to identify potential solutions to your career problem.

How do I know when I’ve succeeded?

The last aspect I want to touch on is measuring the success of your career. Measuring the success of every design is crucial, how well it’s done is debatable. The same rings true for careers. Often we are caught up in the rat race, so much so we don’t stop to assess if we are actually achieving what we set out to. We often fail to celebrate success in our careers because the goal posts move so quickly.

The measure of career success can be objective or subjective. Objectively, you can assess your salary or job title. A subjective analysis of career success will be unique to each individual. Interestingly, some studies suggest that measures of well-being and happiness not only correlate with career success, but they may precede it. This means that if you can achieve greater levels of well-being and happiness in and out of your work, this could lead to greater success at work (Abundance Theory from the field of positive psychology provides insights on why this might be, if anyone is interested in reading further).

The lesson here is that while career choices are impactful decisions and can often be challenging, designers should take comfort in knowing they are uniquely equipped with methods and perspectives that will aid in their search for career success - however that is defined to you. And if you do want support and guidance through this process, Brightbox is always here to help.


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