The Power of Reflection

How looking back at your work experiences can help move you forward

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

Where do you see yourself in five years? 

What’s your next career move?

So much of building your career is about looking forward. And that’s OK. It helps with setting goals and making plans. But there is power in looking back and reflecting on how you got where you are today. Every step, skill, experience, and mistake that has brought you to this point in your career can help you craft your narrative and see a clear path to where you want to be—tomorrow, in five years, or at the end of your career. 

How can you harness the power of hindsight to make sure you’re on the right path toward success? Think back on all your work experiences and reflect on how these six elements have influenced where you are today:

  • Accomplishments: What are you most proud of achieving?
  • Strengths: What expertise of yours do you rely on most and why?
  • Professional development: What would you like to get better at doing?
  • Education: What did you learn in class vs. on the job? What’s the value of each?
  • Experiences: What are positive work experiences you’ve had? What do you really not like doing or being a part of?
  • Flow: Have you ever felt “in the flow” at work? What were you doing?

Reflection can help you see how you’ve improved or why you haven’t. It can show you what goals you’ve accomplished and what got in your way. It can show you what you’re good at and what makes you feel good—and what really doesn’t. It can highlight challenges you’re proud of overcoming and bring to light challenges you may have created for yourself. And, sure, you may see a few mistakes you made along the way. But the beauty of reflection is that you also can see what you did to recalibrate and keep moving forward.

Reflection isn’t a one-and-done exercise. A regular routine of reflection can keep you in tune with all the elements of your career path, so you better understand what drives you and why. That allows you to make informed decisions about your future and helps reset your mindset making you more open to opportunities that you may never have considered.

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By W. P. Carey Career Services Center
W. P. Carey Career Services Center