Designing The Professional


what is this course about?

Now that I have a degree, how do I get a life? What do you want out of life after Stanford?  Wondering how to weave together what fits, is doable, and will be truly meaningful?  Join us for Designing the Professional. This course applies the innovation principles of design thinking to the "wicked problem" of designing your life and vocation in and beyond Stanford.  We'll approach these lifelong questions with a structured framework set in a seminar where you can work out your ideas in conversation with your peers.

Topics include the integration of work and worldview, the realities of engaging the workplace, and practices that support vocation formation throughout your life. This is an experiential class that includes seminar-style discussions, personal written reflections, guest speakers, and individual mentoring/coaching. The capstone assignment is the creation of an “Odyssey Plan” focusing on taking action in the 3-5 years following your Stanford graduation.

Looking for a student perspectiveEmma Cheng blogged about her experience in the 1 week SGSI version of Designing the Professional.  

when is this course offered?

This course is offered twice a year. In the Spring term, it's offered as a 10-week, 1-unit class that meets once a week and is graded on credit/no credit basis. In September, it's offered as part of the Stanford Graduate Summer Intensive (SGSI) as a 5-day intensive. Class is open to all current and incoming graduate students.


Design thinking is a human-centered approach to problem solving and innovation through prototype iteration. Design takes a highly collaborative and hands-on approach to conceiving a new solution and expects to learn by doing and through feedback iterating real ideas in the real world. This approach lends itself especially well to the challenge of designing your vocation, which is a large and vaguely defined task — just the sort of thing design is good at. While some people really do know what they want to do with their lives, the large majority of people have to try a few things out and learn as they go. The steps along the way are prototypes to enjoy and learn from, not failures or practice rounds.

what are the course objectives?

By participating fully in this course, you will learn:

  • A framework for orienting your plans and philosophy regarding career and professional life, and for locating career within life overall
  • An approach to plotting a pathway to meaning-making and success as a professional
  • Ideas for evaluating different career paths and multiple careers
  • Practical skills and exercises for investigating alternatives and career "prototypes"
  • A basic introduction to design thinking which you can apply in other areas
  • A community of your peers in which to share your ideas and hear how others are thinking about these important issues and questions
  • A draft plan for the first season of your professional life following Stanford.


For the spring quarter, the class meets for two hours each week. Outside of class expect 30 or sometimes 60 minutes of reading and usually a reflection exercise. The two major homework efforts are making a number of information interviews and writing them up and at the end of the course developing a draft “Odyssey Plan” for your post graduation season.

where can i sign up? 

Sign up for ENGR311B: Designing The Professional on Axess or through Stanford Graduate Summer Intensive (SGSI)