by Veda Darby Soberman, Head Editor, INALJ Hawaii
Keeping a Career Journal
We often get caught up in our busy lives. Do you ever have those weeks which zip by, but by the week’s end you can’t even remember what you did? Surely, you must have done something because you are completely exhausted. Keeping a career journal, like other types of journaling practice, allows the opportunity for one to record and reflect. Just taking the time to stop and think about your professional life can be invaluable. A career journal can be a powerful tool no matter if you are a job seeker, student, career changer, or working professional. To get you started with a career journal here are a few of my favorite entry ideas:
• Analyze your current professional situation. Get some perspective on where you are on your career path. This is a fantastic first journal entry.
• Record your career goals. Refer back to these goals often, and revise them as your situation evolves.
• There is no need for journal entries to be literary masterpieces, or for each to trigger an epiphany. My favorite career journal topic is simply a log of daily career progress or achievements. Depending on your job status, this could be a record of what you did to progress your job search, or what you were able to get done while at work. Through regular logging, you are able to monitor your productivity and efficiency over time. Such entries could also be used as a brainstorming exercise for a more in-depth exploration. After you’ve written your list you may ask yourself a few questions to encourage reflection. Did you accomplish your goals? Or was your day run by constant interruptions and distractions? What did you do to make your day a productive, or unproductive, one? What could you do next time around? What still needs to be accomplished in the future? How is your work-life balance?
• Record any new ideas you may have. Whether it sounds genius or silly, write your idea down. Your thoughts on serving homeless patrons, or how to better arrange a library’s reference collection are both journal worthy. You never know what could prove useful now or in the future.
• Another great use for a career journal is for what I call Job Description Tracking. One aspect of job description tracking is looking at the job description of a position you want, and recording those skills and experiences you have which align with the description. If there are areas where what you have to offer is lacking, journal about what you could do to improve. If you are an intern, student, or even temporary hire, job description tracking in a journal allows you to tick off those tasks you complete which are on a professional job description. When it comes time to write your resume, go on an interview, or pursue a promotion, you will have a list of concrete achievements which you know are valued in the professional world because they were included in a job description.
• Make note of any sage advice, useful tidbits, compliments or criticisms. Write an entry reflecting on why you value the information shared. How can it be useful to you as you move ahead?
• Simply express yourself. Whether privately in bound book, or publicly on a blog, career journals allow one to express good and bad feelings on any aspect of your career. Journaling your negative emotions could be just what you need to relieve the stress of a job search, or unhappy work situation. Through journaling you may find that you can be your own inspiration. An entry where you logged your positive feelings as they relate to your career could very well be the one you will reread to keep you motivated on your career journey.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun with it. Keeping a career journal should not feel like work.