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Article: Mood Board Your Next Career



There are many times in your career when you are figuring out your next move. Sometimes that means finding your first job out of university, moving up the ladder in your current company or elsewhere, switching industries entirely or deciding to freelance and work for yourself. 

As you learn and grow within the field you’re passionate about, it’s natural to consistently reassess your current situation and do a gut check: are you doing what you always wanted to do? Is your work fulfilling? Does your company offer you enough room to grow and the tools to help you build your career? Are you stuck and not sure what the next step is? It’s important to stay clear about your career goals, note any changes, and make the necessary shifts and adjustments. 

Generally, the answers to these questions and the new ideas they generate are more than just words in our minds. They’re a mix of images, emotions, and colors that swirl through our heads.  So understandably, it can be difficult to convey your vision—even to yourself. A mood board allows you to translate that vision in a way that speaks much louder than words alone.
Mood boards are generally associated with designers or creatives working in graphic design, web design, interior decorating or fashion. But the truth is, mood boards are used in a variety of disciplines and are a source for actionable inspiration at the start of a new project or goal. Simply put, a mood board is a visual collage of images, typography, color and text that when assembled define the overall focus and direction for any idea that you want to bring to life.  

Here’s how to get started on your own mood board:

1. Do A Brain Dump
Get everything you’re thinking and feeling out of your head and down on paper. Write down all of your ideas—no matter how irrelevant they seem! Sure, you have a vague idea of what you think you want to do, but the more thoughts and feelings you can put to paper, the more connections you can make later. 

Try this: think about the environment you want to work in. Do you feel more comfortable in a startup or in a traditional workplace? What is your ideal dress code? What type of personalities do you work best with? How much money do you want to make? Are you willing to relocate? Identify everything you care about when it comes to your career and write it down. Remember: don’t edit yourself. There are no wrong answers, here. Just grab your favorite notebook and start writing. 

2. Begin to Word-Map
Now that you’ve put all your thoughts and ideas to paper, it’s time to sift through everything and absorb what you’ve written. Circle or highlight words and phrases that stand out. It’s important to take stock of all you’ve jotted down and make connections that lead you to a clearer understanding of your goal. 

Now, go back and look over the words and phrases that you’ve selected. Look for links between keywords and phrases. Assess the importance of which words stand out the most and choose five of them. On separate pages, write each word in the middle of the page and begin to map out what that word means to you with new words and phrases.  Draw branches from the main topic and as new images and words pop up, draw lines between the different branches. Constantly evaluate your work and begin to answer some of the questions you posed in your initial brain dump. Make notes next to certain standout words or phrases. Feel free to draw images (stick figures count!) that come to mind. This is where you begin to make connections and start to look for consistency between elements. The idea is to gain a clear understanding of what you want your career to look like.

3. Creating Your Mood Board
There are many tools you can use to visualize your thought process up to this point. Pinterest is a great place to start. The key here, however is to stay focused. It’s easy to be distracted by all of the beautiful images and want to go in a bunch of different directions, pinning everything you see. This is why your brain dump and word-mapping are so important. Continually refer to those exercises and find images that reflect the words and feelings that resonated most.  A good mood board helps to streamline all the work you’ve done up to this point, painting the scene of what your ideal career looks like. Incorporate colors, typography, and images that capture your dream career. And don’t be afraid to find inspiration offline! Magazines, postcards, old diaries, textiles —feel free to grab whatever inspires you. Be patient. It takes time to get clarity and reach that “aha” moment. Once your board is complete, print it out, add any offline material, and tape it somewhere near your desk.

Remember, mood boards are directional. Use this new visual masterpiece as a guide to action and bring your new career to life!