Keeping a journal has always been extremely therapeutic for me. I’ve written about the benefits of journaling before, but a few days ago, I came across the concept of a career journal, and my interest was immediately piqued.
A career journal is designed to help you do a few important things: get career clarity , keep track of significant accomplishments, record constructive feedback, identify areas of strength and weakness, and boost your productivity. In short, the career journal is a tool that forces you to check in on yourself and keep tabs on your career progression.
For a very long time, I thought that careers just happened for people. I thought that if I worked hard, got good reviews, and kept at it long enough, I would be rewarded with promotions, salary raises, and external recognition. But it turns out that the rewards of a successful career don’t just come to you because you want them or deserve them. They come as a result of being intentional about your career choices, and being intentional requires introspection and thoughtful planning.
So, how do you start a career journal, and what should it look like? First, figure out how you like to write – are you a pen to paper type of person or do you prefer electronic resources? Personally, I think the act of physically writing out your thoughts is more effective, but you know yourself best. Choose your writing tools and then move on to step two, which is to create a list of questions you will answer every day. Some examples include:
- Did I have any significant achievements or accomplishments today?
- Did I receive any compliments or critical feedback today? Who did it come from?
- What projects did I enjoy doing the most today? What parts were most enjoyable?
- What tasks were the hardest for me to get through today?
- Did my work align with my values?
- Did I make any new connections today or strengthen an existing relationship?
- What are my goals for tomorrow, and how can I improve my performance?
You can also keep a Notes section where you can write down any thoughts or feelings you had throughout the day. You can also use it to jot down new ideas, reminders, job postings that seem interesting, articles you’d like to read, or the names of people you’d like to learn more about.
Of course, the most important part of career journaling is actually making time to career journal. Set aside a few minutes at the end of every workday or in the evening to reflect on your day and answer the questions you’ve created. Set an alarm to remind yourself or send yourself calendar invitations so that you get into the habit of keeping your journal. You may even want to start your day with your journal and write down your top goals for the day to keep you motivated and on track.
Over time, you may start to identify certain themes, which will help you get clarity about your situation. You will have a list of all of your important accomplishments, which you can use in a salary negotiation or job interview. You will also have created space to expand on your ideas and keep track of all of the helpful (and not so helpful) advice you’ve received along the way. Most importantly, you will have made a big investment in your most valuable career asset – yourself.
Do you keep a career journal? If so, how has it helped you?
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