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11 questions to ask yourself when reflecting on your career

27 Jan 2021

Hays’ Jane McNeill highlights some questions worth considering if the pandemic has provided time to think about your career direction.

Pre-Covid, most of us lived busy, non-stop lives. We yearned for more free time. While our present situations may vary, you might have found yourself with more time available to start reflecting on your career.

This presents an invaluable opportunity to think about whether you really are happy in your job. Here are a few questions to help you reflect on your long-term professional goals and aspirations.

1. Who are you (really)?

This time of pause and reflection could help us all to better understand and appreciate what defines us, including our hopes, dreams, likes and dislikes.

Think about your professional life and reflect on what inspires, moves and drives you. This will help you to understand how you could make changes to your career that will boost your professional fulfilment. Why not commit now to bringing more of your authentic self to work once this pandemic is over?

2. How happy are you (really)?

We are all guilty of getting wrapped up in the sheer business of life. We fail to ask ourselves whether we’re truly satisfied by what we’re filling our days with.

So, use this time to think about your level of happiness in your current role. What do you enjoy? What do you not enjoy? What changes would enable you to enjoy your job more? Is this role allowing you to take the steps needed to fulfil your long-term career aspirations?

3. Do you need purpose in your career?

Perhaps the current uncertainty has forced you to realise what brings the most meaning to you personally and, as a result, you’d like to consider progressing your career in that direction.

In short, if you’ve realised during this period of lockdown that you’re simply not deriving real meaning and purpose from your current role, now might be the time to find a role that can give you what you need.

4. Who do you want to work for?

In times of crisis, the way organisations react has a huge impact on their employer brand. Perhaps you’ve been disappointed by your current employer’s internal and external response to the pandemic or particularly impressed by that of another brand.

Perhaps you’ve realised that you need to work for a more purpose-driven organisation, one that more closely aligns with your own personal values.

5. Is flexibility right for you?

While some people understandably prefer the routine of commuting and interacting face-to-face with their colleagues, others are enjoying the greater flexibility that they are now afforded.

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If, for example, you feel that working remotely has helped you to find a better balance while remaining productive and your role doesn’t ordinarily offer this level of flexibility, perhaps the time has come to talk to your boss about long-term flexible working options.

If that’s not possible, maybe it’s time to look for a new job that offers regular remote working.

6. Are your strengths being wasted?

Right now, many people’s roles are shifting in scope. Some have been brought onto task forces, while others are assisting different teams with responsibilities that wouldn’t normally be part of their remit. Many have been given more autonomy and freedom to craft their roles than they’ve ever had before.

If this sounds like the position you’re in, think about whether or not you’re using skills you didn’t realise you had. Maybe you’re developing entirely new competencies, or building on those you already possessed?

Think about the skills you have that weren’t being properly utilised before this crisis. Is it time to craft certain new or emerging skills into your current role, or do you need to find a new job that gives you this opportunity?

7. Where do you need to upskill?

This time of relative pause may have also led you to realise that your skillset is deficient in certain areas. Are there certain roles that you aspire to move into, for which you will require skills you don’t yet have?

Then, look into the online and virtual courses, events, conferences and webinars that could enable you to develop these skills remotely. Bear in mind that after this crisis, some teams and even jobs might look quite different.

It’s therefore important for you to reflect and ensure you have the skills you will need to stay relevant.

8. What are your natural talents?

Reflect on your career to date and try to identify any patterns in terms of your skills and passions. You may realise certain things have repeatedly cropped up during your career that you are naturally good at.

Also think about the tasks that put you into a flow state. In all likelihood, the duties you most enjoy are also the ones you’re particularly good at.

Perhaps now is the time to move your current role in a direction that takes these natural strengths into account or to look for another job that is a better match for such skills.

9. How do you work best?

The current circumstances have forced many of us to work in ways that we have never done previously. As a result, you are likely to have already formed certain habits and become more aware of distractions that could hamper your productivity.

So, why not use this time to consider how you work best, on the basis of what you have learned while working in isolation? Once you understand these patterns, it will be easier for you to self-manage and work as productively as possible – wherever you are working – for the rest of your career.

10. Do your career goals need a rethink?

You may have realised how outdated your previous long-term career plan has become. Indeed, even pre-Covid, a five-year career plan could easily become irrelevant and must be continuously refined and referred to. If you need to revise your career plan, this is the perfect time to do so.

11. Does your CV need work?

Updating your CV is often a task we put off for another day, especially if we aren’t actively looking for a new job. But now that you might have more time on your hands, why not use the results of your self-reflection to update your CV? When you do, be sure to add the skills you have learned and projects worked on during this crisis.

By Jane McNeill

Jane McNeill is director of Hays Australia. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint blog.

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