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Mapping a Career You Love: Create a Business Model Canvas

By February 7, 2020Innovation
A young woman studies and works on her laptop

Remember the days of little perforated Valentine’s Day cards and painstakingly filling one out for each classmate, deciding who deserved the best ones? In true innovation fashion, I was thinking about building on that tradition this year, and filling out a Valentine to myself, because isn’t it about time you fall in love with yourself?

Creating a Business Model Canvas

There’s a widely used innovation tool called the Business Model Canvas (BMC). This method helps you think about your business from multiple perspectives, including who your customers are, what value you provide to them, who your partners are, and how you spend and make money.

You can also apply the BMC to your career, using it to map your personal canvas with your current situation or as a vision board of sorts, with what you want your future to look like. It helps you remember why you love what you do or prompts you to pursue a path you’re more passionate about.

Here’s how to use the BMC to start mapping a career you love:

Key resources: What you have and who you are

Start by listing your interests, abilities, and skills. For example, if you’re passionate about social impact, you’ll list this interest as a key resource, the same way you’d list typing 125 words per minute as a skill you offer. (And if you do, you should probably enter a contest because that’s wicked fast!)

Ask a friend or colleague to help you create this list. An added bonus? It’s like getting a bunch of Valentines written to you about why you’re great!

Key activities: What you do

This is an easier box to complete. If you’re a university professor, your key activities might be teaching, writing, and research. If you’re a retail manager, what you do might be selling, inventory, scheduling, and hiring. If you’re using the BMC as a vision board, think about what you like to do. What activities would be important for you to feel satisfied in your job?

Customers: Who you do it for

One way you can use this box is to help you expand your work by thinking about untapped potential customers. If you’re a freelance wedding photographer, your customers today are couples, but who else might be able to use your services?

Value proposition: What makes you special

This is my favorite box because it distills how you help your customers. Don’t confuse it with key activities. Key activities are what you do, and value proposition is what your customers gain as a result.

If you’re a dog walker, your key activity is walking your customer’s dog. The value you provide includes giving the customer peace of mind that her dog is okay, avoiding messy accidents in the house, and providing companionship and exercise to the dog.

Key partners: The people who help you

These could be colleagues, such as teaching assistants or guest lecturers for the professor, or they could be those who motivate or mentor you. Whose advice do you always seek when it comes to a work issue? They may be a key partner.

Revenues and benefits: What you get out of your work

Jobs have tangible benefits, such as income or health benefits. It’s also important to consider “soft” benefits here, and that can be a key part of your future vision. Maybe walking dogs reduces your stress level and increases your exercise. Enumerating these can really help you fall in love with your career.

Costs: What you give

These can be actual costs like bus fare to get to your job, or they could be soft costs, like sacrificing time with friends and family because of long hours.

Celebrating Your Skills

The BMC can help you take a step back and look at what you’re doing and how you’re using your skills. It can be like going through a scrapbook and remembering why you loved a trip so much, or it can be like planning a new trip and writing your itinerary and packing lists!

No matter which way you use it, the canvas does one really important thing that we don’t do often enough — it gets you focused on you and why you’re great. And that’s something to celebrate any day.


Michelle Histand

As Director of Innovation at Independence Blue Cross, Michelle uses design to solve sticky problems in health care and beyond. She loves taking a mess and making sense of it while giving people new tools and frameworks to get creative. She has been with IBX for over 15 years and previously worked with LA Weight Loss and Nordstrom, where she gained a wealth of customer experience insight. Michelle has her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and her master’s in Writing Studies from St. Joseph’s University. She also teaches topics on innovation and entrepreneurship at Temple University. When she’s not drawing flip charts and ideating, Michelle spends her time in South Philadelphia with her husband and three amazing boys, who do their best to exhaust her tireless energy.