Reflecting on the Year: Strategies for Capturing and Recording Experiences and Skill Sets
By Brent Warman.
It’s hard to believe that another year has passed and that we’re already into a new Holiday Season. Along with celebrations comes end-of-year reflections. I like to capture all that I have learned and accomplished and add these to my tool box as resources that I can draw upon in my work. What can we do as Career Development Practitioners to capture our accomplishments, improve our practices, and provide our clients with practical strategies for reflecting on their own careers over the past year?
Update Your Resume
If a resume has not been updated all along, the end of the year is an ideal time to update this document while details are still fresh. I encourage my clients to create a master resume to capture all of the skills used, certifications earned, duties performed, and results achieved. The master resume would not be used when applying for position openings; rather, it would be referred to for creating customized resumes. The master resume is a living document that is fluid and constantly evolving.
Create Your Portfolio
We often think a portfolio as being within the exclusive realm of artists, fashion designers, architects, etc. But, from a career management perspective, a portfolio is a great place to organize accomplishments throughout the year. It can be kept in electronic or hard copy format and could be organized and presented to employers or clients upon request. I fill my own portfolio with certifications, project samples, professional development materials, favourite articles, performance appraisals, and letters, emails, and cards of appreciation from clients and supervisors.
It takes a lot of discipline to keep a journal throughout the year. However, it’s a worthwhile endeavour as journaling is an effective way to capture and reflect on accomplishments and challenges.
Points of Reflection
An effective method for capturing our accomplishments, experiences, and skill sets is important as it contributes to our professional development and personal growth. When preparing clients for Behavioural Descriptive Interviews (BDI), for example, it has been my experience that working through reflective exercises provided them with the stimulation and preparation needed for recalling relevant information.
The idea of reflecting on the year through utilizing the BDI might seem unconventional on the surface; however, the process stimulates the capture of experiences and skill sets that could get missed or forgotten, especially when not properly recorded in the moment. These could prove essential in communicating a variety of situations to prospective employers in job interviews.
Updating the master resume is one idea for recalling skill sets and experiences developed throughout the year, but the BDI is a useful further step. Here are some suggested points to consider for reflection:
- Give me an example of a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty in your job.
- Tell me about a time when you successfully managed a project or met a challenging deadline. What made it a success?
- Describe a situation that required you to do several things at the same time. What did you do? What was the result?
- Tell me about a time when you were asked to give a presentation to influence someone’s opinion. What did you do? How was it received?
- Describe a team situation where you were the only person with an opposing viewpoint. How did you handle it? What was the outcome?
- Please give me an example of a time when you dealt with a difficult customer/client. What did you do to resolve the problem and what happened as result of your actions?
- Tell me about a time your work was criticized? How did you handle it? What was the result?
- Using your last position, give me an example of a successful team effort. What made it successful? What was your role in the success?
- Tell me about a difficult/challenging problem you have had to deal with.
- What was one of your greatest successes? What made it a success?
- What was one of your greatest mistakes/failures? What made it a failure and what did you learn from it?
- Tell me about a time when you motivated others to take action.
I prefer to use the Situation, Action, and Result (SAR) approach along with Skills Learned/Utilized for providing responses to the BDI when reflecting on the above points. It provides a method for organizing answers:
- (S) = Situation: A description of the circumstances and problems faced.
- (A) = Action: A description of the actions that took place and the steps involved in the process.
- (R) = Results: What were the results of the action steps that took place? What was learned from the experience? We always hope for a positive outcome in the results. What lessons were learned if the results were not positive?
- Skills Learned/Utilized: This part of the exercise is intended to get the client thinking about the skill sets that he or she relied on or incorporated in the different situations experienced. It gives the client an understanding of – and appreciation for – the rich set of skills he or she possesses.
The Holiday Season is the perfect time to celebrate and reflect on our accomplishments and contemplate goals to achieve in the new year. Taking the time to encourage ourselves and our clients to reflect is a career development gift that keeps on giving.