Map your Career Timeline

Jason Mesut
Dec 2, 2018 · 4 min read

Part two of the ‘Shaping Design and Designers’ Series

This is one of the many tools I have used as part of the Shaping Design series.

In order to focus your future development, it helps to self-reflect. Mapping your emotional timeline over your career is a great way to start.

How to do it

Photo from UX London’s event
  1. Download the template, or just draw the lines yourself on a piece of paper (or several)
  2. Mark key years and the places you worked over your career on the time-axis
  3. Mark your seniority at those years
  4. Plot how happy or unhappy you were at each significant point in time
  5. Annotate with relevant references — if time

How this came about

Last year I had some painful career experiences. I’d hit rock bottom after receiving a cutting email from a client.

At the time I was watching Julia Whitney talk about vulnerability at Leading Design.

After she finished I approached Julia and shared what had happened. Julia became my coach.

One of the first exercises that Julia gave me was to map a timeline of my career history. What had gone well? What hadn’t? What were the themes?

  • I mapped my various employers, and jobs.
  • I then highlighted the emotional highs and the lows.
  • I annotated the events or themes explaining some of those peaks and troughs.

I decided to do this on the plane to Brazil. It became a bit scrappy but here it is.

A two-page spread of my emotions over my career

As you can see it’s pretty chaotic. And interesting because even the good times had their low points.

It really helped me to understand where and when I was happiest. When I was angry, and when I was sad.

I could start to learn what I enjoyed and what I didn’t. This helped me in future sessions as I had reflected on what had given me energy over the years.

The Shaping Workshops version

In my Shaping Workshops, I use a different version of this simple but powerful tool. I ask people to also add their level of seniority.

Respect people’s sensitivity — keep it private

I explain that people should not sit near someone they know when they do this. Ideally, they’d do this in their own time. But I am just getting them to know what it feels like to potentially do in more depth (like I did) in their own time. I never take the timelines for analysis.

Workshop attendees keep their timeline to themselves. I wouldn’t recommend sharing it publicly like I have done here. But it might be that you share with your line manager and discuss.

Music helps individuals reflect on a group sessions

In the sessions I run, I use a workshop playlist I created on Spotify.

The music helps people relax after a hard morning or week. And focus. It’s mostly instrumental electronic music, but harmless. Although there is a little drum and bass.

I always start the workshop with this exercise, so I make sure I use one of my favourite pieces of music. Radian by Air. Dark, deep, then light and super reflective.

Radian, by Air

Want to find out more, follow the series

If you want to learn more about the Shaping Workshops I run, and what I have learned over the years, follow me, or read some other articles in the Medium Publication.

Keep your eyes peeled for another post tomorrow.

Shaping Design

Jason Mesut

Written by

Creating positive connections between people and technology. Heading up a new design and innovation consultancy called Resonant

Shaping Design

A series of frameworks to help you reflect, direct and develop yourself or your team

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