We often get so caught up in our busy work lives, that we forget to take time to step back and think about where we are and how we got here. It is easy to fall into this trap, however, it can be dangerous. Reflection allows us to understand our motivations, to work better with our colleagues and to help us make better career choices. It allows us not only to look at where we are, but to think about where we have come from and more importantly helps us set goals for where we want to be in the future.
The chance for reflection could come in an annual appraisal, however, if this opportunity is not given, then it is important to put time aside to access where you are. Below we explore questions that may help in this reflection.
1. Have I achieved the goals that I set for myself in the past x months?
It is important to have work goals, targets to work towards. Examples could be new skills you wanted to learn, a promotion, projects you wanted to be involved in or professional qualifications you wanted to achieve. If you didn’t meet your goals think about what stopped you and how you feel about this.
2. Have I achieved goals set to me by my business?
Similarly to above, you will probably have had goals that were set by your manager or with your peers. Reflect on whether these were hit and if not, what got in the way. Understanding why you may not have hit goals will help you when setting new targets.
3. What were my biggest successes of the year?
Many of your achievements may not have been things that you had planned to aim for at the beginning of the year. There is a saying that ‘the only constant in life is change’, which means that you can not plan for everything. Think about things you achieved that you had not originally set out to and whether that changes your goals for the coming months and year.
4. What have I enjoyed most about my year?
Work needs to be enjoyable! Think about the aspects of your job you enjoy the most. By understanding this it may make it easier to understand where you want to get to.
5. What were the most challenging times at work?
Reflecting on challenging times can help transform the challenges into positive learning experiences. It can also help you understand areas that you may need to ask for training / support, or it might help you think about ways that approach situations differently in the future.
6. How have I improved over the year?
Think of areas in which you think you have made headway. It could be simple things like the way you have interacted with colleagues, or it may be systems that you have improved. Maybe you have picked up additional tasks that you would not have had 12-18 months before.
7. How have my working relationships been?
Think on all levels. Do you work well with senior management? How is your relationship with your line manager? Do you offer help and support to those with less experience? Do you need to build closer personal relationships at work, or indeed do you need to hold yourself back more?
8. What parts of my role do I not enjoy as much?
Think about the aspects you have not enjoyed. Are these down to the fact you do not perform the tasks as well as others? Could training help? Or is it simply that you find them mundane? Would you be happier if those parts of your job disappeared?
9. What would I do differently if I had the year again?
It is important to look at your actions and behaviours and consider how you things may have gone better if you had not done certain things. These thoughts are not to berate yourself, but to help you perform more effectively in the future.
10. What additional training / support do I need?
No one is perfect! What training and support would make your job easier / less stressful? What would help you to keep pushing forwards and progressing? Think about colleagues you have that you think you could learn off, or others around you that do the same role but have different strengths and weaknesses.
11. Have I maintained a strong work-life balance?
Work-life balance is more important than ever. Is work taking over your life, or perhaps it is not taxing enough to make you feel fulfilled outside of work.
12. What are my professional goals?
It is important to have new short-term career goals which feed into your longer-term plans. Short-term goals should increase focus and help make you more productive. Long-term goals will help you make the right career choices as you go along. Make sure your goals are actionable.
It is important to remember that in order to set yourself up for success, you must be as honest as possible when answering the questions above. Try and keep a personal record for yourself so that you can go back regularly and spend just a few minutes reflecting on your goals.