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Career & Life Transitions

Our alumni navigate many transitions — personally and professionally — over the course of their lives.

As you navigate any transition, it may be helpful to articulate or reconnect with your career and life vision and adopt a bias toward action.

Articulate Your Career and Life Vision

Having a career and life vision gives you the ability to see your work and career — what you do and where you do it — in a way that is personally meaningful, stimulating, inspiring, and fulfilling, and in alignment with who you are.

Many successful managers and executives will tell you that they did not have plans for their careers or specific career goals. Rather, they had an idea (an image) and an understanding of what they liked and did not like, as well as some general guidelines for how to lead their work and personal lives.

As such, having a career and life vision is not the same as being able to define a specific job in a specific industry at a specific company. That may be a career goal, but it’s not career vision.

Having a career and life vision is essential for you to find job satisfaction and success. It is a road map for where you want to go, keeping you focused on your long-term objectives, so that you’re not pushed in other directions.

It can be quite challenging to define your career and life vision on your own. A career coach may be the best resource to guide you through this process. It will take time for you to develop your career and life vision, but it’s an investment that will pay dividends over your entire life.

Tools for Developing a Career and Life Vision

The following exercises are adapted from the “Career and Life Vision Workshop” at Stanford GSB.

Exercise #1: Fast Forward

In just 10 minutes, write down thoughts on what you would like to have said about you at a dinner honoring you 20, 30, or 40 years from now. Questions to consider include:

  • What and/or whom did I impact or change?
  • What were my major accomplishments?
  • What did I show dedication or commitment to? What was I passionate or enthusiastic about?
  • What character traits and values did I consistently demonstrate over my lifetime?

Exercise #2: Peaks and Valleys

Peaks (3 minutes): Write down a situation in your life — whether you were at work, at home, or elsewhere — when you felt completely energized and fulfilled. What were you doing? Who was present, and what was going on?

Valleys (3 minutes): Write down a situation in your life that you really disliked or found demotivating and unsatisfying. What were you doing? Who was present, and what was going on?

Discussion and reflection: Describe your peaks to a friend or confidant. Ask them to listen for what these stories say about you and about what matters most to you. When did your energy rise or fall? Have them reflect your insights back to you.

Embrace a Bias Toward Action

Alumni Career Services has been collaborating closely with the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (aka the to leverage design thinking as a principle to manage one’s career and life. Design thinking is a method of innovation that relies heavily on rapid prototyping and testing of new ideas, which can be applied to a career as readily as it can to a product or service.

Stanford Open Office Hours: Dave Evans and Bill Burnett
Stanford Open Office Hours: Dave Evans and Bill Burnett
Dave Evans and Bill Burnett of the Stanford Design Program bring a design-thinking approach to life and career questions.