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Episode #93

Career Design Workshop [2 year podcast gift!]

It is our second podcast-iversary! Thank you SO much for listening. To show my appreciation, I’m sharing part of my Career Design Workshop with you-free-on this episode!


It is our second anniversary on the podcast, and I want to say thank you so much for listening and for helping us reach 207,832 episode downloads! That is amazing, and I am truly grateful. 

As a thank you, I want to share part of my Career Design Workshop with you. Normally, you need to attend one of the retreats included with our Elevate or Amplify coaching programs, which are a significant investment. But since we are celebrating, I want you to have this sneak peek! I hope you enjoy and find it helpful. 


How a Designed Career Feels

I’m going to illustrate how a designed career feels vs. an undesigned career using bookshelves. 

This first picture is of my living room bookshelves at home. 

Career Design Workshop [2 year podcast gift!]

These shelves started out organized, clean and set up how I want them. But as you can see, over time they have been stuffed full of many things that don’t really belong there, or aren’t even mine at all. My husband and children have put their things on there, a bunch of random things no one knew what to do with have been shoved in, and the more stuffed it gets, the more overwhelming it feels to deal with all of it. So it just keeps coming! If these bookshelves were a career, it is definitely undesigned. 

This next picture is of my dream bookshelf. 

Career Design Workshop [2 year podcast gift!]

It’s curated, calm, everything has a place and feels like it belongs. If this bookshelf were a career, it would be an intentionally designed one! 

I hope you can see where I’m going with this illustration. Career design gives you room to breathe, and helps you curate the career that feels right to you, full of the activities that you have chosen. 

What Gets in the Way

Just like with my personal bookshelves, we might start from an organized place, but life in academia throws so much at us, that if we’re not extremely careful and intentional, we end up with something chaotic that feels overwhelming. Here are some things that get in the way:

  • The snowball effect. The more things that come at us, the more fires we have to put out, the less time we have to reflect on what we’re doing, the fuller the “bookshelf” gets. 
  • Our default setting is react. If there’s not a solid plan in place, when new things get thrown at us, they often just get shoved in wherever they fit. Instead of responding with intention, we react, and therefore never feel like we have enough time, space, or control.
  • We believe we have no control. There is a long list of things in academia that we can’t control, so we give in to the feeling that our whole career is out of our hands. 

What is Career Design?

Career design is all about intentional planning and intentional action. The key is that your career choices and plans are driven by you, not others. You decide what you want your career to look like and what direction you need to go, and you make choices about how to get there. 

The goal is to create a career that is joyful, and then to set boundaries to protect that joy.

“You should get joy out of your career.” -Cathy Mazak

Is my career designed well enough?

To get an idea of where you are in terms of a well-designed career, take a minute to complete this assessment. 

After each question, give yourself a grade of: 

RED: Not designed at all; things just come at me and I react

YELLOW: Somewhat designed; I’m able to make some intentional choices, some of the time

GREEN: Well Designed; this area is driven by me, intentional and well-defined

  1. Is your calendar designed?

Is your schedule intentionally created and controlled by you?

2. Is your email management designed?

Do you have a system for dealing with email or are you just reacting? Are there boundaries in place around your email? 

3. Is your writing system designed?

Do you have a regular process, systems, and a way to engage with your projects in an intentional way? Do you know how to get back into it when you fall away?

4. Is your pipeline designed?

Do you have a curated pipeline full of strategically chosen projects for specifically targeted journals?

5. Is your path to promotion designed?

Whatever point you’re at in your career, are your next steps defined? While the process and requirements may feel arbitrary or out of your hands, have you decided how you will approach the goal, and what steps you’ll choose to take? 

What color came up most for you on this assessment? How did you feel about it? Checking in on what’s working and what isn’t is a vital first step toward designing a career that feels good to you. Once you get a handle on what’s tripping you up, you’ll have a better idea of what needs to change and where to start. 

The Career Design Process

Set Intentions–Take Action–Reflect & Revise

Having a well designed career is not something you can do and have it stay done forever. As with my bookshelf example above, you have to revisit it if you want it to stay the way you want it. You have to set clear intentions, take action on them, reflect on what’s working, and revise as necessary. You also need to be relentless with your boundaries.


Ready for More?

Did you enjoy this sneak peek into our Career Design process? If you’re ready to find space to think and plan your next career moves, our Elevate  program could be right for you. Happy academics make more knowledge and create more change. You deserve to be one of them! 

Click here to sign up for a free, live info session to get all your questions answered about Elevate, a program for post-tenure academics who are ready to create careers they love, make an impact, and leave a legacy.


Connect with me:

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Follow me on Clubhouse: @cathymazak 


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