Have you ever sat back and reflected upon where you are in your career?
For some of us, including myself, it's an ongoing process of reflection ... a process in which I have noted several professional strengths, as well as opportunities for growth. In some areas, I've noted the tendency to be overly critical about my recognized accomplishments and professional acumen. On the other hand, I've observed the continual "lessons" that continue to present themselves within my career, what I perceive as opportunities to enhance specific professional skills that I may be wrestling with.
Whatever the case may be for you, self-reflection is essential throughout the professional trajectory.Why, you might ask? Well, I would argue that it creates a space for us to explore ourselves, in relationship to our careers, as a means of adjustment, refinement, and growth.
In my work with children, I liken self-exploration (and related, behavior) to an active volcano. On the surface, everything appears at rest; yet, hot lava is rumbling beneath the surface, waiting for the right time to erupt and disrupt the prior calm. I explain that our internal, emotional state is like the lava; and, because human beings need to be in balance, what's on the inside will eventually manifest on the outside. Further, this entire process affects our physical and emotional well-being in significant ways.
Fellow colleagues, this same analogy is true for us, as we consider our professional careers. Why not consider what's on the inside (self-exploration) and let it flow on the outside (action)?
Here are a few ways the practice of ongoing self-reflection throughout your career can benefit you ...
Provides a way to chart professional insights and growth over time. As I mentioned previously, honest self-reflection has enabled me to own my professional strengths, as well as recognize the ways in which I have grown, both clinically and interpersonally. Why not reflect upon the evidence that supports your skill set and consider ways to become even more skilled as a professional? It's a win-win situation!
Allows for an opportunity to make mid-course corrections. Should you not take the time to self-reflect on your career journey, how will you recognize the need to change directions? Too often, we mindlessly flow through our careers, focusing solely on "getting the job done," without taking stock of where we are. Self-reflection creates a space to "pause" and shift gears, if necessary.
Lends itself to support seeking and guidance. As busy professionals, we can find ourselves working non-stop, which is the perfect breeding ground for the development of physical and/or emotional stress. Taking the time to reflect on ourselves is essential for professional longevity and opens the door to receive support from others, as needed.
Creates a space to consider previously forgotten ideas and/or resources. If you're like me, you can sometimes become hyper-focused on "the goal" and overlook creative strategies for actually achieving the goal. As you stop and reflect upon where you are, as well as where you hope to go in your career, you may stumble upon ideas that may actually help you realize the goal in front of you. Imagine that!
Positions you to discover "hidden passions," affording you the ability to connect those passions with action. Let's face it! We've all sacrificed a bit of passion for career advancement at some point in our careers. However, it's our passion that fuels our creativity and helps maintain career longevity. If we solely focus on "end goals" without integrating our passion, we are setting ourselves up for failure, fatigue, and career burnout. Self-reflection helps align our hearts with our actions, igniting a spark inside of us that no "job" can thwart!
So, colleagues ... step away from the laptop and take a few moments to self-reflect in an intentional way. Put pen to paper, jotting down all that you have observed about yourself throughout your professional journey. I imagine that you will make beautiful discoveries about work, life, and self ... discoveries that will shape your future. Enjoy!
Mekel Harris, Ph.D., NCSP is an Associate Professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology – Los Angeles and a licensed psychologist in Los Angeles, CA, with expertise in health psychology. She has presented at over 25 national and international conferences throughout the past 5 years, targeting an array of health-related topics. As an avid proponent of wellness, Dr. Harris recognizes the importance of cultivating physical, emotional and spiritual balance in all areas of life and leadership.