It feels just like yesterday that I was stuck writing 2016 instead of 2017 and now I’m making the same mistake in a different year – how is it 2018 already?!
Sometimes I get so caught up in life that suddenly it’s a new week, a new month, a newyear and I can’t honestly say I’ve achieved many things despite always being busy and having an endless to-do list.
this last year, Harvard Business Review published an article on “Why you should make time for self-reflection, even if you hate it” (here) and it was an excellent reminder to pause for ten minutes and just think. According to the article, “conscious consideration and analysis of beliefs and actions” allow you to create meaning from your experiences for the purpose of learning. As a result, regular reflection will improve your decision making skills, which is crucial for both work and everyday life.
If you’re stumped on how to start your career reflection, below are some prompts to help you begin.
1) Ask, “What would I like to change?”
Assuming your work life isn’t perfect, what aspects can you improve to make work more enjoyable, productive and fulfilling? For example, it could be the type of work you do, the people you work with, the impact you deliver or even the environment you work in.
Personally, I know that being in a dynamic environment with a team of like-minded people really motivates me so I enjoy working in co-working spaces when I’m learning, collaborating and powering through work. However, I sometimes need time to work in silence by myself and having the flexibility to do this is important to me. When I was in a role that involved constant interaction with people all day, I felt incredibly drained afterwards and my social life suffered… resulting in an unhappy employee.
You can only improve your situation by first identifying where it is lacking, and one way to do that is to ask yourself “What would I like to change?”
2) Think, “What would my ideal career look like?”
After the first reflection, you might have come to the conclusion that you’re in the wrong industry or in a completely incompatible role. It’s also possible that as your experience has grown, you simply feel like a new challenge.
Now is a good time to put on your Elon Musk hat and think of your ideal career – hint: this job may not even exist (yet)! Apply the same questions in the first reflection for your ideal career (type of work? people? impact? environment?). It’s important to extend your creativity and not limit yourself to just the roles you know of. Feel free to employ the help of Google or the insights of people from your network. Go see what’s out there.
After you have a complete picture of your ideal career, it’s time to scale it back to reality.
3) Plan, “How can I go about finding my ideal practical career?”
It’s wonderful that you now know the attributes of your ideal career, but how do you ensure that it’s viable with your personal skill set and experience?
In a previous article (here), I explained how you can find your career passion where competence and flow intersect. Competence being the skill(s) you are objectively good at, and flow being the effortless execution of said skill(s). This is followed by a testing and learning phase, which is where reality kicks in! It’s one thing to think about your ideal career, and another to implement it and see how things work in real life. It’s vital that as you steer your career in a new direction, you set aside time to reflect on your actions and process the feedback you’re given so you can adapt accordingly.