4 Starting a work experience journal
During a busy internship, where you’re trying to make the most of a relatively short time period, it can be difficult to find time to reflect on your goals and the things you are learning. Writing a journal can help you to clarify any thoughts/questions/concerns.
If you can get into this habit from an early stage in your career, it will stand you in good stead when you reach more senior leadership roles.
You can use it to:
- capture and explore your ideas or note down questions you’d like to answer
- look back on specific events and consider how you felt at the time, what you did and what you could have done differently etc.
- rehearse future conversations
- note anything of interest – quotes, goals, feelings and lessons learned etc.
- note things that have gone well. Consider what you did, how you felt and what you would do again. Positive reinforcement can give your confidence a boost when you need it.
Over time, you can reflect on what you’ve written and look for patterns or themes that will give you insights into your typical behaviours and responses.
All of this information will also be useful during future job application processes.
Activity 4 Starting my journal
Decide whether you are going to create an online journal or do things the old-fashioned way! You might decide to treat yourself to a new notebook and pen or explore some of the numerous journaling apps that are available.
Also consider the best time of your day for journaling. For example, is it first thing in the morning, before you go to bed, in the office or at home? You must be able to focus on what you are doing with no distractions.
When you have decided on your time, set aside 10–15 minutes to write about things that are currently in your head. This might mean that you come back to this activity later on. In time, you can use your journal to explore wider issues in your life but for now, try to focus on issues that relate to your work experience and the aspirations that you outlined in. If you want to use it to reflect on your goals, you could use the SMART goals you outlined in Activity 1 this week.
You might ask yourself questions, jot down ideas, revisit events and experiences that you have recently had, or outline your goals for the future.
When you’ve done that exercise think about how this process could enhance your work experience.
Did you spend more than 15 minutes on this activity or did you struggle to think of anything to write in the time? Self-reflection is a skill and it can seem difficult or awkward at first but it does get easier with practice. The key element is to make the time to do it. If every day seems too much, try setting aside 10–15 minutes each week to start with. If you aim to do this at work, you might need to schedule a slot in your diary.
Setting goals and monitoring your progress is a great way to use your journal. Mead (2019) describes using a journal as ‘a strong visual and physical representation of how far you’ve come already towards achieving your goals’.
She recommends the ‘One year from now’ exercise, where you write down what your best possible future self might look like one year from now. This might be helpful to you in clarifying how you want your work experience to aid your development.
You’ll have a go at this exercise now.
Activity 5 One year from now
Where do you want to be one year from now?
In a work context, some of the key areas to think about when answering this question include where you want to be in terms of your work-life and where you want to be financially. However, the more detailed and rounded you can make this picture the more powerful the exercise will be, so focusing on where you want to be physically, mentally, socially and personally is also important.
Consider each of these areas in turn to help you plot what your best possible future self might look like this time next year.
- My work – What job will you be doing? Where will you be working? How will you be working towards what you want your life to look like? If you’re still studying, what work experience will you be doing alongside your studies?
- My finances – Do you have some debts you want to pay off? Are you saving for something in particular? Do you want to get on top of your retirement plans?
- Myself – How do you want to feel about yourself one year from now? Mentally, physically, socially, personally? What does that look and feel like?
Once you’ve created ‘you – one year from now’ , you can start thinking about the steps required to achieve the things you’re aiming for. An action plan will help you to break it down and you’ll look at action planning in more detail in Week 8.
Journaling encourages self-reflection, but another way to enhance your self-awareness is to find a good mentor who will give you advice and feedback. The next section will help you to know how to make the most of a mentor.