Design your career like an architect designs blueprints

By Ronda Ansted 28 July 2015

Two employees at the Park Store office, an architect bureau in Bangkok, discuss a blueprint. The “blueprint stage” of career design involves creating documents that help you get what you want. This might be your resume, online profiles and references. Photo by: ILO in Asia and the Pacific / CC BY-NC-ND

Let me start out with my bias. I don't help my clients "get a job, any job." I help them figure out how they can best make a contribution in the world and live a happy, fulfilling life.

Global development is a competitive field to break into and challenging to work in. Burnout and turnover are common, and it's my goal to help people avoid the many pitfalls they can walk into when first entering the field.

My process is a holistic one because I know the people who make the biggest impact are strategic in the work they do and take care of themselves so that they can continue doing that work day in and day out. Taking care of yourself means knowing what you want and need, knowing your strengths and challenges and finding a career that meets your needs and leverages your passion.

I go through a process called "career design" with all my clients, and it’s especially important for those who want to break into global development. The process is about gaining clarity about what you want, designing your ideal life and career, then being systematic and persistent in building your design. To use architect lingo, first you must conduct your research and analysis, then you create a napkin sketch to inform your design development and finally create your blueprints for what you want.

1. The research and analysis piece is primarily self-understanding, knowing what value you bring to your job, what your needs are, what your "nice-to-haves" are and what your strengths and challenges are.

2. When you're creating your napkin sketch, you start pulling those pieces together to get an idea of the type of job you want and organization you want to work for.

3. The design development process is when you start reality-checking your ideal by doing additional research, talking to people in the field, and getting clearer about where you can best implement your ideal life and career.

4. The blueprints stage is where you create your documents that help you get what you want: your resume, online profiles, references, accomplishments, etc.

When most people decide to get into international development, they jump into the blueprints stage and start sending out their resumes to job postings. The most common result is: nothing. No call-backs, no interviews, no job offers. When you are unsure of what you want and why you want it, this shows up in your resume, in your networking and in the interview.

International development organizations are risk averse. They first want to hire people they know and can do the job. Next preference is referrals, then people with extensive experience doing this type of work in international settings, and finally, people who know what they are getting into and can demonstrate that they are up to the challenge.

To learn more about how use these career design principles to launch your global development career, watch this career webinar on How to transition into a global development career.

Whether you’re a seasoned expert or budding development professional — check out more news, analysis and advice online to guide your career and professional development, and subscribe to Doing Good to receive top international development career and recruitment news every week.

About the author

Ronda Ansted

Dr. Ronda B. Ansted is a career development expert who coaches and counsels job-seekers in the international development, non-profit, and social entrepreneurial fields. For more information or to request a free consultation, go to

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