When you consciously take time to think about your career and the direction in which you are heading, and how it makes you feel, it’s important to start first with your self-reflection.

Not the day to day commute, your working environment, your colleagues, customers and your boss(es), your salary or even what you and your boss might consider your future potential to be!  These are the everyday occurrences, the elements of your job, the people you serve and work alongside and in some cases, the people who will (if you allow them to!) control your future career.  Which, for some of you, could translate into controlling your life.

William Barclay quote

It’s important to be clear at the outset whether you are thinking about your job or your career.  There are some distinctions which could help you with this:

  • Your Job – your job, or occupation / employment, is your role in society, an activity performed in exchange for payment. Your job consists of duties, responsibilities, and tasks (performance elements) that are specifically defined and can be quantified and rated.


  • Your Career – your career is often composed of the various jobs you have held, titles you earned and the work you accomplished over a significant period of time. It is a series of work related activities that provided opportunities for progress, continuity, order and meaning in your life whether in one organisation or many.  Your career provides experience and learning for your continued growth.

Self-reflection plays a key role in deciding on being happy in your job or wanting more, to stretch yourself and to develop your career.

Some define self-reflection as looking in the mirror and describing what you see. For me, this is superficial, and relates to what is on the outside.  What you will likely see is your features (which you may or may not like), your hair, make-up, laughter lines (not wrinkles!), your clothing, jewellery etc.  Yes, certainly, you can reflect on this, but again at a superficial level.

The self-reflection I refer to is about going within – inside yourself.  You just need some quiet time when you will not be interrupted either physically or electronically, to sit and be.  Be still, get comfortable with yourself and reflect on you.  Who you are, how you feel, what thoughts are running through your mind – especially those which are recurring.  Also consider your actions and behaviours and ponder the reasons behind them all.

When self-reflecting in the context of your career, the first and most important question you need to ask yourself is:

  • Who do I want to be?

How many of you can remember what you said you wanted to be when you were growing up and then leaving school and deciding on which studies to undertake? Has this changed in any way or are you actually employed in this sector or specialist area now – or has your career taken some pretty interesting turns? Now though, you need to move beyond that into how you feel in this sector or role, how you behave and how much more you want to achieve while doing good for others.  You are moving into the ‘Who do I want to be’ arena.  Think about any role models you greatly admire and then ask yourself why you admire them so much? List the qualities and characteristics you admire in them, their way of behaving in the world (not just in their role), how they communicate etc. Then ask yourself why you want to emulate these?  In answering these questions, you will be able to reflect on your own qualities, characteristics, behaviours etc. and you will become motivated to either apply them more consciously in your life and/or to develop them further in the pursuit of your ultimate goal.

  • What is My Dream Job / Career Move?

Naturally this is intrinsically linked to who you want to be and refers to the work you would love to do and the company culture you would love to experience.  To define these, think about what your ideal working day would look like, what this work means to you, how it will make you feel and who will you ultimately serve.  Additionally, you can think about where and how you want to work.

  • Why is this the Dream Job / Ideal Career Move for Me?

If you feel you have so much more to give and achieve but can’t seem to move forward, then this time of self-reflection can provide some answers for you.  Are your core values aligned with the stated core values of your current employer or is there a mismatch and you feel you no longer fit in?  If at this stage you are not clear on your core values, then this is a good time to work on them, as they are foundational to you and your way of life.   And think beyond the near future – always look to your ultimate goal and ask yourself what impact you want your work to have on the world – locally and globally?

Self-reflection takes time, trust and honesty.  It is a powerful tool when used correctly.  In your approach to this worthy practice, start from a position of strength and focus on developing your self-belief.

If you are unsure about engaging in this, I would like to recommend a small but hugely impactful book for you to read.  It is ‘The Present’ by Spencer Johnson, author of ‘Who Moved My Cheese’. This is a story about a young man, disillusioned with his work and his life, who asks for help to find The Present.  The old man responds ‘Only you have the power to find The Present for yourself.’  The young man searches tirelessly for this magical gift that holds the secret to his personal happiness and business success.  After giving up his relentless and unsuccessful pursuit, the young man relaxes and discovers The Present – and all of the promises it offers ………

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