Journaling for Job Search Success

Young man journaling, with tablet and laptop on his desk

Journaling is defined as keeping a regular record of experiences, ideas, or reflections for private use (think diary). The act of journaling is often recommended for its many benefits. But in the midst of a stressful job search, how do we persuade our clients that journaling can be an effective job search tool that reaps benefits? And how can we encourage and coach them to give it a try? 

In the last two years alone, journaling has been recommended in several articles found on Career Professionals of Canada’s News Feed.

The Benefits of Journaling

There are many scientific papers to be found online about the benefits and therapy provided by journaling. Some of the most commonly cited benefits are:

  • Reduction in feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Improved communication skills and memory
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Facilitation of problem-solving
  • Enhanced feelings of well-being

Positive Psychology offers a comprehensive article listing 83 benefits of journaling for depression, anxiety, and stress! Don’t forget to address any potential drawbacks, if applicable, with your clients. Put forward the liberating power of opening up and being completely honest. Explain they don’t have to share their journal entries with anyone if they don’t wish to. Journaling allows clients to create both a mental and physical commentary as they explore their options and discover their paths.

The Tools of Journaling

The “equipment” needed for journaling is very basic; as simple as a notebook and a pen (or a diary that can be locked to keep curious eyes away). Some people choose to use a computer or tablet. Whether hand-written, typed, or dictated, all methods of journal-keeping have their own advantages. Some recommend writing in the morning while others see advantages of journaling at different times of the day. With regards to frequency, three to four days per week or every other day — writing for  15 to 20 minutes at each sitting — is a good way to start. Clients will determine a frequency that works for them based on their preferences and goals.

Journaling Techniques

There are a wide variety of effective journaling techniques. You can suggest clients experiment with different techniques to determine which one they feel most comfortable with and will ensure a high rate of engagement. Techniques may vary in form and purpose and still be beneficial. Looking for a job is already stressful enough. There is no need to add more anxiety by being “strict” about what technique to use or how many pages to fill.

“What Do I Write About?”

Clients may say they have no idea what topic to write about in a journal. You can suggest free writing, which means they can write about anything that comes to mind, with no judgement and no expectations. Social Psychologist Dr. James Pennebaker has written prolifically about the transformative power of expressive writing. For your clients seeking work or a change of role, you might suggest career-related topics or propose they focus on a specific aspect they are struggling with. A technique I suggest is to give the journal a name and print that name on a sticker on the journal’s cover; for example, “Job Search Journal.” This often helps to focus thoughts while still allowing the client to write freely about anything related to their job search.

Job-Related Journaling Prompts

If the clients express difficulty getting started, you can suggest a number of prompts. Here is a sample list of questions that can help a job seeker get started:

  • Why is it important for me to find a job?
  • Who is supporting me in my job search and how?
  • Are there others who might be able to assist me in my search?
  • What steps have I taken to get closer to an interview and job offer?
  • Are there additional steps can I take?
  • What have I learned from the interviews I’ve had?
  • How can I become a better networker?
  • What does success look like for me?

Material for Coaching Sessions

The thoughts, feelings, observations, and activities recorded in a journal provide rich material that can be explored in coaching sessions. Without a client having to reveal the detailed contents of their journal, you can follow-up with them by asking how their journaling is going. Encourage them to collect their impressions and discuss the insights they’ve gained through journaling. These reflections can provide you with precious information that will help you deliver personalized support. The job search journal can pinpoint specific areas that the job seeker needs further help with.

Journaling is a Powerful Tool

Journaling is not an activity reserved only for teenagers; it’s beneficial for adults, too! I found that journaling can be a powerful aid not only for job seekers, but also for career strategists. Personally, journaling kept me motivated and clarified my decision-making during my own career transition. It’s a flexible and effective tool that can be adapted to any topic and purpose, from self-exploration to self-improvement to job search and career transition.

Call to Action

Have you recommended journaling to your clients? If so, what were the results? Have you kept a journal yourself, and if so, for what purpose? Did it help you? Please share your experience in the comments!

Rita Kamel, CDP, CCS, CES, CIS, CRS, CWS, is a Career Consultant, an award-winning résumé and interview strategist, and the founder of DossierPro. Her mission is to empower professionals with actionable tools to lead their international career move. Rita holds a master’s degree in marketing and has extensive experience in recruitment. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Photo by milkos on 123RF

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Thanks for these ideas Rita. Because I don’t journal personally, I hadn’t considered this strategy for job seekers. I can definitely use this in the future!

Thank you Barb!