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Looking back to look forward – using career reflection to build the work life you want

So how are you feeling right now about the prospect of heading back to work in January?

Are you still hoping that somehow the Christmas elves will work some magic that means you won’t have to go back to work in the new year?

Or did you reach the end of the working year feeling satisfied, happy that you’ve done what you set out to, ready to relax and recharge before getting stuck in to next year?

Whatever stage you are at with your career, and whatever type of work year you feel like you’ve had, taking a few moments now to reflect on what’s gone on this year is crucial to building successful foundations for the year ahead.

This ‘looking back’ exercise doesn’t have to be complicated – even just taking a few minutes to scribble down some thoughts is going to be useful going forward.

Below I’ve given you 10 prompts to think about – and if you’d find it easier, I’ve created a worksheet for you to fill in with the prompts listed.

So what have you got to lose?

10 Questions to get you thinking about your working year.

1. On the scale of 1-10, how was your year, work-wise?

Think of the year as an average – what score would you give it? What would have moved you up to the next number?

2. How are you feeling about your career right now?

Think of a few words that describe how you are feeling about work right now, and explore what they mean for you, as we all attach individual meanings to words. For example, if I said I was feeling unfulfilled – that could mean something completely different for me and for you.

3. How would you like to be feeling about your career?

What are the things that are important for you in your career, for example, being valued, supported or confident. Again, explore what it means for you.

4. What have been your top 3 career moments this year – and what about them was so great?

Be as specific as you can – and what your role was. Focus on how they made you feel.

5. What moments didn’t you enjoy at work this year?

Again, think about specifics, but focus on your take away learning points.

6. What were your greatest challenges this year? And how did you overcome them?

Think about when you had to step out of your comfort zone – how did you find solutions to the challenges you faced? And how did you feel once you had conquered the challenges?

7. What have you learnt this year? And how are you going to put these things into practice?

There’s no point learning lots of things if we aren’t going to make use of them so think about all the new things you’ve learnt, whether that was formal learning on courses etc, or more informal learnings about the way you work best.

8. What would you like to do more of at work this year?

Thinking about when are you in your flow at work can really help pinpoint the things that are important to us, so think about the things that don’t feel like work, or that you lose yourself in.

9. What would you like to do less of at work this year? How are you going to make this happen?

Doing some things we aren’t keen on at work is unavoidable, but take a moment to think about whether you could spend less time on these – could you ‘swap’ some tasks with someone who loves doing them, and take some of the ones they don’t like but you don’t mind? It’s a win:win!

10. What would you like your career to look like in December 2021?

Ah the big one! Think forward 12 months – think about what you would like to be doing. And more importantly, think about how you want to be feeling. You may well technically be in the ‘same’ job, but how you feel about it could be completely different.

And a cheeky bonus question (well, it’s Christmas!):

11. What’s going to be your first step forward when you return to work in the New Year?

Time to commit – have a think about something you can do to help you start the working year off well when you return in January. And then put it in an email to yourself / add it into your calendar for the day you return.

There you have it – 10 questions (well, 11 actually!) to get you reflecting on your career last year, and starting to think about what you want in 2021.

If you'd like more support in planning (and smashing) your 2021 work goals, why not head over to my free Facebook group, the Career Confidence Club – a supportive place for women to focus on building careers they love.

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