Self-reflection is key to career progress

Most of us have contemplated writing a journal – we’ve probably even bought one or two in our time – but they are surprisingly challenging to commit to.

Or at least they are for me. I have tried to achieve this goal of becoming a journal writer, a diary keeper, a be-quilled (is that even a word?) self-reflector since I was child and have failed at every turn.

I would write it for a few days, then I’d forget, or not get the chance, or pretend to forget when really I couldn’t be bothered, only to get an attack of the guilts and find myself writing multiple backdated entries to try and trick my future self into believing I’d managed to keep the wretched thing going on a daily basis.

Once I was writing more than a week at a time in daily entries under the false pretense of keeping to the daily discipline, I  would give up entirely and give the pretense away.

I tried secret diaries, complete with the little padlock that could be jimmied open with a nail file, I tried stream of consciousness journals (how abstract of me). 

I tried travel journals and I even tried writing one with an actual quill in actual calligraphy by candlelight.

This was during my uni days where I studied medieval history and saw this as a chance to go all “method” in the pursuit. Such a nerd, I know!

None of it stuck. I just didn’t have the discipline. 

However, despite the overall failure of committing to a long-term practice, I did achieve skills in self-reflection and this is perhaps a surprisingly necessary tool in the career toolkit.

We need to know ourselves before we can market ourselves, and the greatest way we can build our self awareness is through self-reflection. 

Christmas offers us a relatively rare opportunity to take a step back from work (at least for the public holidays) and take stock of our career. Is a new job on your Christmas list? 

For many of us contemplating a new direction, this desire stems from a sense of dissatisfaction or perhaps even misery in our current experience.

However, often this urge to seek a new role comes from an undefined place – we rarely take the time to consider what is lying at the heart of our work issues and we focus on “getting out of Dodge” as the quickest and easiest route to take away from that misery. The trouble with doing this is that we run the risk of taking the problem with us. 

Without unpacking what is really going on at work, without considering the relationships that you have with your colleagues and that they have with each other, without taking stock of the tasks you are doing and the goals that are set for you, you don’t really know what has gone wrong.

What’s more, if you don’t know what you want to achieve in your job, what success looks like to you, who you want to work with and how you want to work with them, you won’t be able to build a successful career, even if you do move companies. 

You don’t need to keep a journal, but the skill involved, self-reflection, is vital.

You might feel Iike your boss is the problem, but what if you find yourself working with someone who has a similar management style in the new job? Do you leave that role too?

Or do you find a way to make it work?

Take the time for self reflection so you don’t take your work troubles with you to your next job and you make the most of each role that you undertake.