HR Employee Learning and Engagement launches small group life design series for employees

A new offering from HR Employee Learning and Engagement invites VU employees to explore how they can apply design thinking to their lives and careers.

What do you want to do next? This question may prompt you to tackle the next item on your to-do list, what new skill you might want to master as part of a 2022 resolution, or perhaps ponder more deeply the next step in your career journey.

Based on the bestseller Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived and Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans of Stanford University, this small group program is a deeply expanded, in-depth follow-up to ELE’s popular Design Thinking, Upskilling and Career Growth learning experience. Together, we will explore views on life and work, examine design-thinking mindsets to break barriers and free your thinking, envision multiple potential futures, strategize and explore via prototypes, and build our way forward.

Think of this as a relevant and practical journey that we co-create together, with thought-provoking activities and discussions, supportive peers, a designing-your-life coach, and an intentional space to focus on your life and career design. Based on the interest of each small group, we also may work through activities in Designing Your New Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness–and a New Freedom–at Work (Burnett & Evans), a brand-new resource on how to reframe, remodel, relocate and reinvent, rather than resigning.

Here’s what the program will look like:

  • small group sessions from late-January through mid-April
  • design thinking activities during group sessions and between group sessions to get curious, talk to people, try stuff and tell your story
  • a supportive environment of growth-minded individuals across Vanderbilt, and opportunities to interact and create conversation outside of the group sessions (via Microsoft Teams)
  • optional smaller group discussions throughout the series

The approach

Each Designing Your Life and Career group session will involve an hour of discussions, coaching, reflections,and activities. In between group sessions, you will participate in a reflection or activity at your convenience that will typically take between 30 minutes to an hour. These in-between session activities are crucial to the program, in addition to being fun and engaging.

To facilitate the best experience in this cohort program, the number of seats is limited. We ask you to please check your schedule to ensure that you can participate at the scheduled times before applying for a seat. Your experience will be more meaningful and valuable if you can participate in each group session and if you can dedicate time to the reflective activities and exercises between group sessions.

While this series works well in the virtual format, we realize that stepping away from your computer and creating a specific container and space for this experience can be beneficial. We’re offering three small group timeslots for spring 2022, with the hopes of offering an additional in-person small group later in the year:

  • Thursdays, noon–1 p.m. via Zoom (biweekly, mid-January through mid-April)
  • Thursdays, 2–3 p.m. via Zoom (biweekly, mid-January through mid-April)
  • Fridays, noon–1 p.m. via Zoom (biweekly, mid-January through mid-April)
  • Fridays, noon–2 p.m. in person (dates TBA later in 2022)


This learning experience is open to Vanderbilt University employees.

Designing Your Life and Career might be a good fit for you if:

  • you want to grow in your current role;
  • you are considering pivoting or leveraging your skills in a new way, in your current role or a future role;
  • you are feeling somewhat stuck when thinking about your career path or what could be next;
  • you want to optimize the alignment among your values, your life and your work; and
  • you have ideas on what you want to do next and aren’t sure yet how to get there.

This series focuses on life and work satisfaction and fulfillment, exploring new methods of thinking, and finding ways to build your way forward. The DYL methodology has been leveraged with undergraduate students, business school alumni, professionals in a career transition, retirees and many more.

How to sign up

If you are interested in participating in this small group series, please complete the interest form at by Jan. 14, and ELE will be in touch with additional details. We anticipate that interest will exceed the number of seats available in this program and hope to offer additional small groups in the summer.

If the times above do not align with your availability or if you are interested in participating in a future semester, please complete the interest form and you’ll be among the first to know of the next small group offering.

This experience is designed and led by Krista Vaught, Ed.D., assistant director of Employee Learning and Engagement on the Human Resources team.

Small Group Series: Designing Your Life and Career