Reflection – on your own and with others – is an essential step in pursuing your career development goals. Here, you need to carefully consider how or if your goals were achieved. Evaluate the impact of those action steps on your career development. Consider if you should continue in the direction you have mapped out or re-strategize. Identify and reach out to people who can help you make connections between what you are learning and your next steps. And remember, reflection is an ongoing, intentional process throughout your career journey. It doesn’t end once you achieve your goals or take the next step.
Here are some tools to get started:
What, So What, Now What Exercise
Read this article to learn how to use the What, So What, Now What Exercise to do some intentional reflection each time you come to the end of a project or assignment, to identify the skills and knowledge you used to complete that task, and to discern what you do and don’t like about the work, the skills, and the knowledge. In the second part, apply the framework to your role: What are the expectations, How do you feel about your ability to be successful there, and What will you do, now, with that knowledge to move forward with intention?
You can also watch the following webinar to learn more about practicing reflection.
Six People You Need in Your Network
As you reflect on your learning, your goals, and possible next steps, it’s important to get clear on what and who you need to help you. Below are the six people you need in your network as you navigate your career path. You don’t need all six of these people at the same time. Get specific: what type of support do you need right now?
- Mentor: has more experience than you in that area in which you are interested in being mentored; willing to engage in a purposeful and personal relationship over a period of time; facilitates your growth and development.
- Coach: skilled in asking questions, listening, and encouraging you to work towards your goals; not required to have experience in the area in which you are being coached; facilitates skill development, goal-setting, and creating a plan of action.
- Sponsor: advocates for you, identifies opportunities and provides connections to those opportunities; promotes you to higher-ups for increased responsibility and advancement based on their personal, political, or organizational capital.
- Accountability Partner: will check in with you at agreed-upon points to ensure that you are staying on course with your work towards your goals.
- Wise Counselor: periodically provides advice and wisdom that may rise to the level of a “mentoring moment”; may also be called “advisor” or “guide”.
- Networking Contact: can suggest opportunities, provide introductions, and may pass along your resume but may not rise up to the level of a “sponsor”.
Use the Network Mapping tool below to identify people in your network who could potentially fill those roles for you.
Map your network and identify strengths and gap areas using this worksheet. Instead of listing out everyone you know, be intentional about your goals and needs. Who is best suited to help you to fill your gaps and achieve your goals? When you are finished, what do you notice about your map? Are there gap areas? To begin to fill those gaps, check out the resources on How to Build Your Network, below.
How to Build Your Network
Creating a broad, diverse network of people to help you is one of the most important things you can do in your career path. To start, read this piece on How to Find the Mentorship You Need (Not Just What You Want).Then, go back to your network map. Who is missing? Where can you intentionally build some relationships to support your growth?
For Wake Forest Alumni, we always recommend joining and using the Wake Forest Alumni Group on LinkedIn, and our Alumni Career Advisers, who are fellow alumni who have raised their hands to support you. You might also have access to professional associations, social organizations, or other networks you can draw upon. And before you make that ask, take a look at this piece: How to Network the Right Way.
Asking for and Listening to Feedback
Feedback is the critical data that helps you figure out where you should invest more of your time and energy, and where you might be falling short. When you ask someone for feedback, more than anything else, you are building a relationship. First, check out this piece on why Feedback Is Your Career and Life Hack. Then start asking for the feedback that you need by reaching out to people in your network. We recommend asking these two simple questions:
- What are 2-3 things you think I do particularly well?
- What are 1-2 things areas of growth or improvement?
Try your best, in these feedback conversations, to focus more on listening than talking. Particularly when we’re told things that we could be doing better, it’s natural to want to get defensive. Try not to do that. You can ask questions for clarification, but mostly listen, take notes if you need to, and be sure to thank the person for their time and their insight. Later, take some time to reflect on the following:
- What did I hear that particularly resonated with me?
- What did I hear that was surprising or challenging to me?
- What will I do with this new knowledge in the future?
- How did these conversations make me feel?
Action Planning: Reflect on Learning
Reflection on learning is an intentional, ongoing process of taking stock of where you are and where you have been, identifying a future path or next step, and figuring out what you need to get there. It is fundamental to personal and professional growth and one of the most important skills you can develop to be successful for the entirety of your career. Complete this worksheet to do some intentional reflection before you move to Navigate What’s Next.