Have you been wondering if your career is really right for you? Do you question what the next step on your career path should be? You may find your answer to these tough questions inside the blank pages of a notebook.
I’ve kept some form of a journal for as long as I can remember. One of the best things about it has been that I see what I once cared about, what I learned and how I’ve changed.
Similar reflection can be applied to your job by keeping a career journal. Career journaling can help you keep track of what you’re doing right, where you want to improve and what path you intend to follow moving forward.
There’s no right way or wrong way to keep a career journal. I prefer to keep track of things by using a physical journal, but working with something digital may be the best route for you. After you’ve established whether you want to go digital or physical, the process can begin.
Here are three steps to get started on your career journal.
1. Decide what you want to track
You can track as many things as you feel comfortable keeping up with, but here are a few suggestions:
Track your accomplishments
Every little thing counts. Sure, salary bumps and title changes are easy to document. But keeping track of smaller wins, like solving a problem without having to go to your boss or being assigned a new responsibility, are examples of growth you may forget about if you don’t write them down.
Vent your frustrations
Work can be frustrating! Sometimes we don’t realize what we’re holding in until we let it go. Specifically addressing what bothers you about your work day can clue you in on what changes you need to make to improve your day-to-day. It can also be cathartic, and keep you from spilling your personal drama to coworkers or blowing up at your boss.
Note the highlights
Reflecting on the bright spots of the day helps you realize what you like about the work you do. If there’s not a single thing that makes you happy about your job, then it may be time to reevaluate why you’re there. This practice can also help you notice what your strengths are and what parts of your career bring you the most joy. Then, you can develop your career path to magnify these postive traits.
Set tomorrow’s goals
By focusing on what you want accomplish tomorrow, you are able to think about what actions you can take to get there. Focusing on a goal gives you a specific task to set your sights on. And setting your goal the day before you need to accomplish it makes sure you have the time to do so.
2. Make Time
Captain Obvious Alert, but the career journal only works if you use it. Carve out time to sit down and write each day. Maybe you’ll write on the commute home, stop someplace quiet before you head home, or wait until right before you go to bed each night. If you make it a point to journal after every work day, career journaling will become a habit in no time.
At the start of a new month, reflect on the previous month’s journey. See if you can identify any patterns. How effectively did you meet your goals? Did you notice highlights that reoccurred regularly? Did noticing what frustrates you impact the way you address certain challenges? The more data you can gather about yourself in relation to your career, the better. Keep reflecting at different time frames – every six months, every year – to make long-form deductions about yourself. Then use this information to change whatever needs to be changed, to strengthen what needs to be strengthened, and to lean on what can be leaned on. You'll be shocked how much easier your work is when you work with your true self instead of against it.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.