Engaging in a practice of reflection can not only provide a chance to slow down and think through your likes and dislikes but also make difficult decisions seem easier. You can see the benefits of reflecting more clearly if you continuously make time for it on a daily basis. You can also count this as a wellness and mindfulness habit as you evaluate how your semester is going. The strategy that my colleagues and I recommend for working through a reflective process is reflecting before, during, and after an experience.
It is often implied that reflection happens after an experience is over. However, I would argue that you need to reflect before and during an experience as well. As you consider a commitment to a student group, start your summer internship, or register for classes, ask yourself the following:
- What skills will I learn from doing this experience? What topics will I be exposed to?
- Does this allow me a chance to explore a new interest area or deepen my knowledge of something I like?
- Do I have time to dedicate to making this experience worthwhile? What else might need to give?
As your experience unfolds, documenting your learning, assessing any changes you need to make, and keeping track of your experience will help you recall your story more easily for your resume, interviews, and networking. It also allows you to maximize your experience and be more intentional about meeting the goals you set for yourself. Throughout your experience, ask:
- What do I like the most and least about this experience?
- What am I doing that energizes me? Depletes me?
- Do I care about the work I am doing? Do I find myself motivated?
- Is the experience meeting my original expectations? If not, what changes can I make to adapt my experience to better meet my needs?
Your experience is over and now it is time to assess its impact. Your time is so valuable! It is important to analyze how it went and what is next. It is time to make note of your answer to these questions:
- What did I learn about myself through this experience?
- How did this experience impact who I am becoming?
- Does this kind of work align with my values, skills, interests, strengths, and personality?
- How does this impact what I will do next?
Reflection can be difficult because it forces us to take a deep look at what we are doing and why. Often it requires us to do things we don't typically like to do–like slow down, take personal responsibility, address insecurities, and think about the future. However, this process can also lead to valuable insights about yourself and even breakthroughs.
Schedule time, start small, and start reflecting today. If you get stuck, you can make an appointment with a career adviser to work through your reflection strategy.