Design Thinking Your Career

Current disruptions could be a great opportunity for you to redefine yourself

UC Berkeley Extension recently hosted Career Week, which sponsored informative events to help our students and community find the career of their dreams. Jeff Eyet, co-founder of big and instructor at Berkeley Global, presented a talk entitled Using Design Thinking to Plan Your Career.

What Is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a process you can use to solve problems. As a career changer, design thinking can help delineate a path forward toward your dream career.

In his talk, Jeff touts the usage of Design Thinking as a way to plan your next career move. As he says, “design thinking is great for finding product/market fit.” And, if you are that product, using design thinking can help you find the most efficient way to fit into a new job.

Because this time of COVID can also be a time of opportunity, we wanted to reinforce some of the lessons Jeff shared and provide some additional resources for you to pursue as you in turn go after your dream job.

Design Thinking Basics

The origins of design thinking stretch back to the sixties, but the Double Diamond, promulgated by the British Design Council, is a contemporary, oft-cited and clear example of what design thinking encompasses.

Illustration of Double Diamond design thinking explainer

The diamonds are a pattern of divergence and convergence that help you widen the scope of your ideas toward discovering a possible solution and then narrow down to define an effective solution. You then start that divergence/convergence process again as you develop possible action items, then complete deliverables on those items.

Perhaps the most valuable takeaway from design thinking is that you want to ensure that you are asking the right questions. To get to this outcome, design thinking uses a combination of research and empathy to define the problem, leading to a measurable result. That measurable result is then prototyped, ideated and validated by more measurement to produce an impact.

So, you measure. You test. You ask. Did I get the solution that I was looking for?

The whole cycle repeats itself through repeated iterations to reliably produce new ideas and reflect new developments.

Thought bubble with job word map

What Inspires You?

In his talk, Jeff Eyet takes a moment to lay out three things that inspire him in his search for career satisfaction. He also encourages event participants to do the same.

So, take a moment.

Write down three things that inspire you to look for a new career.

  1. I want a career with growth potential.
  2. I want to work in a medical field.
  3. Sustainability is important to me.

Now, the examples above are just an example. Search inside your own thoughts to come up with ideas that excite you.

The idea behind this basic task is to find the fundamental things that inspire you to action. And, it’s that simple preposition “to” that carries the weight of this challenge. Find the things that inspire you to do something, to take the steps needed to further your career.

Applying Tactics to Your Inspiration

Inspiration to change is crucial, but it’s only the first step in the process. You then need to apply some of the tactical tools that are the cornerstone of design thinking.

Creativity Let go of old beliefs.

Empathy Understand yourself and others.

Optimism Look for a better way.

Iteration Keep coming up with solutions.

Collaboration Find your tribe of like-minded individuals.

Visualization Use images to order your thoughts.

Gestalt View Keep the whole in mind.

Ambiguity Embrace that not everything fits into place.

Applying these tactical principles is the core of design thinking.

Use Empathic Tactics in Your Career Search

We’ve mentioned empathy several times, and it’s important to understand how empathy works in the design-thinking process. Go beyond the idea that empathy is a touchy-feely way of understanding people’s emotions and realize that it’s knowledge and understanding that are at the core of empathy. You have to understand yourself and other people to find solutions to problems.

There are three main empathic tactics to deploy in your job search:





Remember the Double Diamond?

That image highlights the idea of divergence. Think of that first diamond’s trough-to-crest rise being divergent career opportunities that reflect your points of inspiration. You want to assay a wide range of careers to figure out what would be the best possible solution. To that end, you want to create a beginner’s mindset, where you don’t immediately embrace received information, but try out a variety of ideas and research them and understand them to define solutions that will bring about the result that you want.

Try to move beyond the idea that you look for a job by responding to ads. Are there other avenues you could be pursuing? Perhaps the perfect job for you isn’t listed in the traditional way. One way to expand the search for your next career move is to expand your job sources and rely on your network to uncover jobs that may be hidden from a traditional search.

Another facet of the diverge tactic is often labeled as “find the need.” To apply this concept to a career search, a typical goal is to pick a job title. “I want to be a graphic designer” is an example of this.

Deploying divergent thinking thinking could lead you to find the need that you might fill. “Communications from my child’s school are often confusing. Maybe I could help them design better emails and flyers.” Identifying the need gives you a more concrete goal in mind.


There are usually lots of people who are pursuing the same job and career opportunities that you are. You will be able to find more choice if you seek out unusual careers and jobs.

It’s not unusual to look at lists that show the fastest-growing occupations to put in your career search. Here’s a good one from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But, you could look at lists like that and think, “I may not want to be a wind turbine service technician, but wind power is clearly a growing field. How can I leverage my skills and interests into that field or in an adjacent area?”


Part of design thinking is iteration, and you can apply that to the interview process. The main model for getting a job is to apply, interview and then get hired. Over the past decades, informational interviews have also become popular, where you interview people who have the jobs that you want or who work in the fields you want to work in.

Prototyping asks that you expand those informational interviews into a continual process, through shorter meetings—coffee chats (both real and online)—that give you a quick look at a future career and a quick contact.

The idea with these shorter chats is not to land a job, or even learn what you need to know to land a job. It’s to “learn forward,” to gather a bit more information that you can then incorporate into your own thinking, and your next chat.

Jeff Eyet has an excellent piece of advice from his talk. “Never leave a coffee chat without getting a referral,” he insists.

Further Resources

Reading more about design thinking is a great first step, and the chair of global design firm IDEO published an influential article about design thinking in the Harvard Business Review that is available free online at the IDEO site.

Start exploring some new conceptual frameworks. First Principles is currently enjoying a cultural boost due to promotion from thinkers such as Elon Musk and Charlie Munger.

Join new voice-based social media platform, Clubhouse. It’s a great place to learn from people who are thinking about big ideas. There are some big caveats here. First is that it’s only available on iOS platforms. Second, it’s brand new and only available to join by reference from a current user. But, you can download the app and set up an account either to get ready for when it goes into wider distribution or when you run across a current member who can sponsor you. (It’s also a bit Silicon Valley-centric at the moment, but that should spread out as the app spreads into wider usage.)

And, of course, there are already plenty of existing platforms out there to start developing a network of people who can help you learn forward and discover your next career. LinkedIn contains your current network. (At least it should, and if you haven’t established your network there, that should be job one.) Continue to add connections that you meet during your coffee chats and encounters with people in the fields you are interested in joining.

Good luck!