Looking In: How to look inwards to determine what matters to you in your career

Looking In: How to look inwards to determine what matters to you in your career


Career Design Activities: Looking In

Mollie’s last project at IDEO involved one of her all-time favorite topics: the future of urban mobility. Her client, a car manufacturer, had an opportunity to enable smooth commerce in cities through new models of transportation while also creating jobs and improving equity in lower-income areas. Mollie and her team couldn’t wait to get started. They had so many ideas already!

But there was a critical step they needed to take before hitting the pavement: they needed to understand the specifics of what their client wanted and what they were good at. They started by interviewing a dozen people across relevant parts of the organization, asking questions like, What are your team’s current objectives? What capabilities do you have in-house that you’re eager to utilize in this work? What can you not do well and will need to outsource? What constitutes a good return on this investment, and how much budget do you realistically have to spend?

From this research, they were able to paint a picture of the client’s competitive edge and priorities, and save valuable time that might have been spent on ideas the company would struggle to complete. At IDEO we call this type of research Looking In. It’s the process of understanding the client’s strategy, goals, key metrics, and core competencies to ensure we don’t pursue an idea that isn’t the right fit.

Slow down to speed up

When it comes to careers, Looking In is a critical first step, however, it's also the most forgotten. We rush into combing job postings and submitting resumes because it’s exciting, and it makes us feel like we’ve taken action.

We’ve both done this too many times to count.

Like in high school, when Charlota, unsure of what the right job was for her, asked her career counselor for help and received a long list of standard professions which she dutifully researched, wondering when the spark would hit.

Or Mollie, not knowing how to determine what she wanted to do after college, followed the free wine and cheese to the campus recruiting events and wound up working in accounting (a great place to start her career, but not the best match for her interests).  

Mollie’s career exploration upon leaving business school looked a lot different. Guided by her coach and her crew, she took the time to reflect on her past work. She thought about when she’d felt the proudest, the most driven, and the most in-flow. She also considered when she’d been frustrated, bored, or stuck. She wrote everything down, and she tracked her engagement and emotions over several weeks to see what kind of work was sparking joy. This audit didn’t give her the answer, or even concrete ideas for jobs, but it did identify a few themes and constraints.

For example, she realized her favorite days were the ones where she had lots of meetings with different teams. The energy-filled discussions and the variety of topics covered in conversations with different parts of the organization (in this case London Business School) made her feel connected to her peers and immersed in campus life. She realized she needed a highly collaborative job, and one with a lot of variety within each day.

So how should one go about Looking In to discover what one truly wants in a career?

There are so many fun ways to do this! Here are a few of our favorites, including some from the Crew coaching program:

  1. Start a work journal

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Important elements of a good design brand book

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What brand book references can I use?

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A brand book can always keep evolving

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