Ideas & Inspiration

Gregory Heller: Designing Your Life at a top-ranking business school

Life Sprint speaks to… Gregory Heller

We were so excited to speak to Gregory Heller, about his non-linear career path that allowed him to discover the design thinking principles he uses today to help MBA candidates in his current role as Associate Director, Careers at the Foster School of Business.

A self-proclaimed ‘sell-out’, Gregory shared stories of his youth as a burgeoning environmentalist and human rights activist, anecdotes on how the Designing Your Life book has shaped him and continues to impact his students, and why he’s so passionate about helping students reach their full potential.

Check out the audio recording here:

Gregory was joined by a dozen members of our knowledge sharing community who asked questions and shared their own learnings about applying design thinking principles at their university and in their own career journeys.

Our key takeaways:

1. Reframing your mindset

Reframing how you think about outcomes is crucial to staying positive and bouncing back quickly. When searching for a job, instead of fearing rejection, Gregory encourages his students to reframe their experience as not being selected for a role. This slight nuance helps students look more favourably on the whole job seeking experience.

2. Comparison

The only person you should be comparing yourself to is you.

3. Process of elimination

Learning what you don’t want to do and where you don’t want to be, and ruling out pathways, careers and futures, is just as important as knowing what you want to do!

4. Schmooza Palooza

While networking is crucial to business but daunting to most, Gregory encourages people to reframe networking as nonchalantly asking for directions. With this relaxed mindset, you can see how simple it is to get three leads from this Designing Your Life exercise.

5. Finding your strengths

As a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, Gregory is passionate about people knowing your strengths or talents and using them to be more discerning about career pathways and life direction. You can take the assessment here.

6. The TIARA framework

Steve Dalton’s TIARA framework is crucial to conducting an informational interview, an informal meeting you can have with someone working in a particular job or area of interest to you. Following the framework will help you know what questions to ask and the preferred order, in order to dramatically improve your ability to turn informationals into job interviews.

7. Empathy is key

As a Career Management professional, always remember to have empathy for students. Everyone is at a different stage of their life journey, but making sure you serve the design thinking process up front before other academic pressures set in and dedicate enough time to the process, will ensure students are willing and eager and feel involved in the process.

Further reading

Gregory is passionate about a number of books and tools he referenced during our talk including:


About Gregory Heller
Gregory is the Senior Associate Director of MBA Career Management at the Foster School of Business at the University Of Washington and a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach. He is also a Business Communication Advisor for the MBA Program where he works with MBA candidates to achieve their career objectives and establish executive presence through one-on-one coaching. He also lectures on the fundamentals of good presentation design, story telling, public speaking and body language. He is the host of the podcast
Conversations on Careers and Professional Life.

About Life Sprint

Life Sprint is a four-week process for tackling career stuckness. Inspired by design thinking and coaching theory, Life Sprint has been designed to help reframe career challenge, identify obstacles and take small but powerful steps toward a better life. Check out upcoming sprints here.

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