August 10, 2021

Navigating career with a wayfinding mindset

Navigating career with a wayfinding mindset  

I’m encouraged that developing a particular mindset about life, ourselves, and the future is a trending topic. It deserves the attention. Stanford University psychologist and researcher Carole Dweck writes and speaks about the growth mindset, which describes how our self-concepts make a difference in our lives. The impact of different mindsets on achievement and interpersonal processes is also of concern for career professionals. Helping people to better understand themselves and their work preferences can be more complex in times of labour market uncertainty. 

The 4th Industrial Revolution (4.0) 

A wayfinding mindset is well worth considering for supporting and successfully navigating careers in this age where the blurring of boundaries between technology and the physical and biological worlds (4.0) precipitates disruptions. In addition to the transformative potential of wayfinding as an approach to leadership, wayfinding and navigation are powerful metaphors for the life journeys that are our careers.

A brief account of wayfinding  

Urban designers, geographers, and sailors, to name a few, would be familiar with wayfinding as an approach to problem-solving. The term describes how people orient themselves and navigate from place to place. Early Polynesian voyagers undertook journeys using scientific navigation methods that saw them successfully travel across vast expanses of ocean. They used this same wayfinding knowledge to reach Aotearoa New Zealand centuries ago. The voyagers carefully observed their environment, using traditional ways of knowing and being to “read” the stars, the winds and ocean currents, and the natural life in their surroundings. Guided also by the wisdom of their ancestors, they sought new horizons with courage and determination. They were astute problem-solvers, adapting as they went along—exploring, discovering, oftentimes settling. And importantly, they were able to retrace their journeys to pass on their knowledge to new generations.  


Adopting a wayfinding mindset  

More recently, the successful revitalisation of wayfinding has inspired innovations not only for ocean journeys without modern instruments, but for new ways of thinking about business, design, leadership, and career development. The rationale for adopting a wayfinding mindset rests on the problem-solving skills needed to successfully navigate from place to place, including in careers, where job titles are now like shifting sands.  

The characteristics of successful early and contemporary ocean wayfinders provide inspiration for navigating careers in the age of 4.0:  

  • adaptability  
  • environmental awareness 
  • grit and resilience 
  • mindfulness about responsibilities 
  • open-mindedness and curiosity  
  • respect for cultural and spiritual dimensions  
  • support for others to thrive 
  • thirst for learning 

Career professionals adopting (and helping clients develop) a wayfinding mindset in the New Zealand context will find the wayfinding principles of respect for self, others, and the environment are well-aligned with the Career Development Association of New Zealand (CDANZ) Code of Ethics. 

The team at The Career Development Company have adopted and promote a Wayfinding Mindset as a systematic approach to career development that draws on expert knowledge, clear thinking for solving problems, and a collaborative approach to managing life’s complexities.

The RECI® model is our unique wayfinder solution, with four practical steps that support both individuals and organisations to make sense of career: Reflect, Explore, Create strategies, and Implement action plans. To learn more, visit or [email protected]. 

Dr Val O’Reilly is an Executive Director of The Career Development Company. 


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