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CUSTOMIZED career coaching

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EMPOWERING PIVOTING PROFESSIONALS TO

SHAPING CAREER

Version Two is a fledgling startup based out of The Garage at Northwestern University that aims to provide affordable and personalized career coaching to recent graduates looking to start or transition careers. Because the startup offered customized service to clients by manually managing communication, tasks assignment, and review through an array of tools, my team was called to consult for the startup to suggest a more optimized and singular tool to provide career coaching services.

Through this project, my team continuously iterated in gathering insights from user research, translating insights into defined points of interaction, conducting user tests to evaluate design characteristics, and designing interfaces for a digital solution.

Interaction Design Studio, Northwestern University, Winter 2019

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Problem

Young professionals unhappy in their current careers face difficulty in finding the optimal next professional experience due to a variety of barriers including lack of framed experience, ineffective applications, and overall frustration with the complex process.

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Goal

How might we...

help clients first discover careers that best mirror their passions and skillsets, then help differentiate them from the pool of applications to obtain their dream job?

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Design

By digitizing the Version Two coaching experience through a single management portal, we can streamline and optimize the curriculum offerings and communication lines between the clients and personal coach.

An Integrated Digital Portal to Optimize Career Shift Journey

Through a digital portal accessible by career coaches and their respective clients, Version Two can optimize its services by collecting and documenting resource materials in a singular, manageable location and offer key features.

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Customized Career Guidance

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Goal Progress Monitoring

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Social Motivation & Accountability

A digital portal solves for:

  • Disorganization of communication and materials between coach and client

  • Accessibility of coaching resources by clients

  • Scalability and growth of Version Two's service

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RESEARCH SYNTHESIS

Through multiple rounds of user interviews and testing, I actively sought to synthesize my observations into key insights and takeaways by leveraging frameworks such as journey maps, empathy maps, experience flows, and semantic profiles. These frameworks helped guide formation of design characteristics for a solution.

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USER RESEARCH

I honed my research skills by identifying and utilizing a wide range of methods to thoroughly evaluate and validate design hypotheses about young professionals seeking a career pivot:

  • User Interviews

  • Explorative Studies

  • Card Sorting

  • A/B Tests

  • Focus Groups

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DESIGN SPRINTS

My team utilized a structured process for answering critical business questions through rapidly designing, iterating, prototyping, and testing ideas with users. We iteratively planned, executed, and learned from each sprint by focusing on a very specific design characteristic to test, validate, and refine. 

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SELF-DIRECTION

Consulting for a startup with an early-stage offering and very little direction to work off, I was presented with a high level of ambiguity. Despite this, I focused on the core constraints and goals to guide the project. As the project progressed, I gained more confidence in driving design decisions by quickly executing and learning.

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Research Methods

By conducting a wide range of iterative research through multiple design sprints, my team was able to ensure the optimization and streamlining off Version Two's services to its clients.
 
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Mapping the

Job Search Journey

Through interviews with young professionals, both current and potential clients of Version Two, we mapped the series of steps that occur in the job search process and identified key themes that arose across various stages.

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Key Pain Points

Maintaining motivation is key in the job search process - without which, people are more likely to discontinue applying for new roles or to settle for a role that is not the right fit for them.

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Emotional and mental barriers to networking

Reaching out to people in hopes of connecting over a potential career opportunity is a daunting task to many job searchers.

Networking is the best way to find a lot of jobs but I never know how to reach out to someone or what to say.

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Isolation through job search process

Searching for and applying to new jobs is a very vulnerable process and can be stressful for people to go through alone.

It feels hard to talk about how my job search is going when there's so much uncertainty in the process.

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Ambiguity after submitting applications

The waiting stage posed the greatest challenge to people as the lack of action at this time leads to frustration and loss of motivation.

I hate the period after I apply when I'm pretty much waiting for what feels like forever to know what's next.

User Personas

Professional Female

Career Coach

Subject matter experts in the career defining space who want to offer tools and resources to people seeking career starts or changes.

High Level Goals

Customize service for clients with different needs and at different stages of career search. Manage multiple clients at once.

Strengths

Related Experience

Defining Career Goal

Application Materials

Networking Ability

Creative Thoughts

Soul Searcher

People who are not content where they are but don't know where to go, what to do, or anything about how to find their dream job

High Level Goals

Find out what their personal goals are. Discover what type of job or industry they would be happy in with their skillset and experiences.

Strengths

Related Experience

Defined Career Goal

Application Materials

Networking Ability

Reading in the Library

Focus Searcher

People who may know where they want to go regarding job or industry, but have no idea how to get there or overcome their obstacles to get there

High Level Goals

Learn how to be considered for their dream job. Prepare materials necessary for strong applications. Find specific companies to apply to.

Strengths

Related Experience

Defined Career Goal

Application Materials

Networking Ability

At the Office

Culture Searcher

People who know what job they want and how to get there, but have trouble finding a company that is the best fit for them

High Level Goals

Define the details of all the opportunities available to their skillset, expereinces, and interests. Find the best salary, the right company culture, and/or the best fit.

Strengths

Related Experience

Defined Career Goal

Application Materials

Networking Ability

Design Sprints

Define User Need

Source Users

Create Prototypes

Test with Users

Synthesize Findings

Iterate & Finalize

My team utilized a structured process to answer critical business questions through rapidly designing, prototyping, testing, and iterating users. Each sprint was planned and executed with the goal of validating a design argument about users.

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Sprint 0

Identifying User

Motivations

Goal: We first focused on uncovering the high level behaviors, goals, and pain points users faced in seeking new jobs.

Risk: By not fully understanding the problem space, we would not be able to design for the true needs of our users.

Finding: We identified distinct user personas, each with motivations and obstacles in seeking a career start or change.

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Sprint 1

Maintaining Progress

Goal: How might we empower users to maintain self-motivation through feeling lost in the ambiguity of the waiting period?

Risk: Users can feel defeated during the waiting stage and through rejections, which can hinder their overall progress.

Finding: Users sought a continuous level of engagement to maintain their motivation in working towards finding their ideal role.

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Sprint 2

Customized Guidance

Goal: How might we provide users with guidance to achieve their goal in finding ideal job?

Risk: Too much or too little direction could be ineffective in guiding users to their higher goal. 

Finding: Users wanted to be held accountable to complete the tasks necessary to accomplish the goals they set for themselves.

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Sprint 3

Leveraging Networking

Goal: How might we lower the mental and emotional barrier users face in networking to access unposted jobs?

Risk: Avoiding networking prevents users from accessing the ~81% of jobs that are unposted and available through a contact.  

Finding: Users were more comfortable with the prospect of networking if they were better prepared with language and context.

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Sprint 4

Peer-to-Peer Accountability  

Goal: How might we leverage social engagement to motivate users to be  accountable for their assigned tasks?

Risk: Being isolated in the job search process can hinder progress towards attaining ideal job.

Finding: Users who participated in group sessions put more effort into completing their assigned tasks than users who were isolated.

Prototype Testing

Goal Setting

How might we empower career shifting professionals to be confident in

setting achievable goals?

Testing Set Up

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Users were instructed to follow a prototype workflow for goal setting and evaluate their confidence in working on and accomplishing the goal they set.

Testing Results

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Users were most confident about goals they set with suggested (but not explicit) guidance for their coach. They valued flexibility with coach validation.

Open Goal Setting

Prototype A: Open Goal Setting

Users were instructed to set a goal for their job search process based on their self-understanding, with an option to contact their coach for help.

Suggested Goal Setting

Prototype B: Suggested Goal Setting

Users were instructed to agree to the defined goal for their job search process, with an option to contact their coach for clarification or adjustment.

Guided Goal Setting

Prototype C: Guided Goal Setting

Users were instructed to select a goal for their job search process from a list of suggestions from their coach, with option to contact the coach.

Key Features Tested

Social Groups

Users found social engagement with other job seekers to be motivating factors to their own process.

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Users found social engagement with other job seekers to be motivating factors to their own process.

Writing Auto Bot

Users desired guidance with editing application materials but wanted to keep level of autonomy in the process.

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Push Notifications

Users were wary of the emotional consequences of receiving constant notifications about their progress.

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Coach Chat Box

Users favored an internal chat tool on the Version Two portal to communicate with coaches about tasks in-real-time.

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Explicit Direction

Users reacted negatively with being given too specific of instructions on how to prepare application materials.

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Application Timeline

Users reacted positively to a visualization of their progress and goals to meet through the job search process.

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Suggested Guidance

Users were open to receiving guidance from coaches across career goal defining, resume writing, and network initiating. 

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Next Steps

Users were open to receiving actionable next steps with applications to confront the ambiguity of waiting.

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Coach Check-ins

Users reacted positively to check-ins with coaches to reflect on their progress and receive iterative guidance.

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Networking Template

Users found it very helpful to have a template to draft networking messages to but wanted to maintain their voice.

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Self-Driven Direction

Users were most proud of being able to set their own pace regarding their career search journey.

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Contact Trading

Users did not find trading relevant contacts as valuable as learning how to approach them for career opportunities.

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Design Characteristics

Customized Assignment of Client Tasks & Deadlines

Clients can self-identify their goal-setting habits in the Version Two portal to give coaches a better idea of their realistic abilities to complete tasks necessary to accomplish the goals they set with job searching.

Obstacles Addressed

  • Clients needing different levels of guidance and workflows based on their personal habits

  • Coaches needing to learn about, address, and manage needs of multiple clients at one time

Testing Evidence 

Users displayed a high amount of confidence when selecting their guidance plan. They knew themselves well, and through their facial expressions and tone of voice when deciding the plan best for them.

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Job Interview

be your best

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