Conducting Personal Career Reflections | The Nation Online

Matthews Mtumbuka

You might have read or heard of the quotation from a popular novel that was used on Malawi School Certification of Education (MSCE) syllabus, The Scarlet Song: “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

In career too, one needs lots of self-examination. Throughout the year, we need to continuously think about our current job, the ultimate goal in our career as well as the path in between. In addition to the continuous evaluation of our career, we also need a focused personal reflection on the career that takes us deep into this evaluation process.

What this involves is a stock-take of all the activities we have been involved in a period like one year, including the highs and lows as well as the things that we omitted to do. We need to question ourselves if our performance was the best that could be or if we could have done better in some aspects.

As part of this evaluation process, it helps a lot to get input from those that we regularly interact with—subordinates, some of the people above us, our peers, suppliers, customers and even those in human resources department.

It is always good to start this kind of evaluation exercise with the positive side. You should list down the major highlights of your job. What are the biggest things that you achieved? In looking at your biggest achievements of the year, go deeper to look at what exactly you did that helped you to excel. We rarely excel by accident.

Often, we excel because we actively and methodically thought about what to do and how to do it right. Recall all the thoughts you had at the time of planning and time of execution. Consider what risks you had taken into account and how you had managed those risks.

Once you have thoroughly considered what went well in the job, dwell on what you did not do as well. Here you need a good approach if your evaluation is to be productive and effective. Key to effectiveness of this phase of the evaluation process is objectivity.

You need your personal objective insights and also objective input from your stakeholders. Listen only to those that tell you the truth and only the truth. If some people tell you things that will badly demotivate you, think briefly about those things and move on. Remaining positive and motivated is far superior than harbouring big negativity (even if true and real) as the former helps you to achieve big positive things while the latter kills your self-confidence and esteem.

Thirdly, you need to consider all the good ideas that you never thought about or never took action on. Why did you not take the action? How could you have behaved and acted differently to be more effective and efficient?

In this personal conversation, you also need to think about your medium and long-term career plans. Ask yourself where you want to be in your career in two years’ time, in five years and also in 10 years’ time. Create a simple picture and vision of where you want to be. Think first of how you can achieve your ambitions within the organisation where you work.

If your current organisation does not seem like the place where you can achieve your goals realistically, think twice. If you are truly and really convinced that the current organisation cannot help you to realise your goals, you need to now chart a plan for how you can get to companies or organisations that will help you to achieve your medium and long-term goals.

A lot of people spend their free time watching TV, feasting and partying. Successful people use a portion of that free time to also stock-take on their professional achievements and lowlights to make a good wining plan going forward for the next two years, five and 10 years.

Good luck as you also plan to rise and shine!

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