Given the staggering workplace and economic challenges of 2009, it makes good sense that many of us can't wait for 2010 to start. We yearn to be optimistic about the new year, and put resolutions, hopes and plans in place to make certain that next year will be different from the one that's just ending. But in our eagerness to put this year and its anxieties and disappointments behind us, we may fail to gain the wisdom that these last 12 months have taught us.
The Value of Comprehensive Reflection
Whether your organization experienced a budget crunch or a downsizing, or whether you personally experienced a layoff, a missed promotion or fewer opportunities to grow and expand your own career in the ways you had hoped, taking a comprehensive look at how you spent your work life this past year will better position you to grow your career in the year ahead. Just as Bill Bridges has taught us for many years now, times of transition represent priceless opportunities to reflect on what is ending, and to better understand the disorientation we experience as we move toward whatever new beginnings we hope to embrace. This same perspective about transitions can be applied to our own professional development as we close out 2009 and prepare for the start of 2010. Why not follow the lead of organizations, large scale initiatives and thoughtful leaders everywhere who do their own "year-end review" to take stock of lessons learned and to better prepare for tomorrow?
The section that follows offers some questions to guide you as you do your own year-end review and reflect on the activities, skill-building opportunities, and connections that have been a part of your everyday work routine and professional development efforts over the past 12 months. To get the most out of this review, gather your appointment calendar from 2009, any products or new initiatives you worked on, classes or seminars you attended, presentations you made, performance reviews you received, letters of appreciation, and any records of your community involvement.
Now, set aside a couple hours of uninterrupted time so you can think deeply about how you have spent this past year of your life and give this review the attention it deserves. This is not an activity to be squeezed in between appointments or done while eating lunch at your desk. Just because we can multi-task doesn't mean we should do so indiscriminately. Research has shown that the quality of our efforts may suffer when we attend to multiple tasks at one time. This review deserves your time - it is your opportunity to thoughtfully reflect on how you have grown, changed and learned over this past year - and it can be your compass for guiding you in the new year. If there was ever a time when we needed a compass to guide our careers, that time is now.
Here are seven questions to guide you in your own year-end review:
Consider this year-end review as a gift you give to yourself. Taking the time and effort to thoughtfully reflect on these elements of your own career development can help you appreciate the hard work you've done and the ways you've grown. The wisdom you gain from this exercise can make you even more helpful to the clients you serve.
Additionally, teaching your clients to do a thoughtful and detailed review will give them a better sense of their capabilities and help them build their sense of resiliency - both of which are sure to be key career strengths in 2010.
Bridges, W. (2004). Transitions: Making sense of life's changes (2nd edition). Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.
Steindl-Rast, D. (2008). Common sense spirituality: The essential wisdom of David Steindl-Rast. NY: Crossroad Publishing Co.
Whyte, D. (2001). Crossing the unknown sea: Work as a pilgrimage of identity. NY: Riverhead Books.
Caitlin Williams, Ph.D. is a career development consultant and coach in San Jose, California. She teaches in the master's program in Counselor Education at San Jose State University and she also is Associate Editor of Career Convergence's Organizations department. She can be reached at caitlin@DrCaitlinWilliams.com.