The Conversation Cafe--Philly Style
Some Thoughts on Blogging as Your Career Journal

Reflections on Career Journaling for Professional Development

One of the best tools I've found for my own ongoing professional development is a career journal.

I began journaling for professional purposes about 7 years ago when I bought an artist's sketchbook to maintain all of my ideas related to a particular project I was working on. Since then, my journaling practices have evolved and in this post I want to explore the different ways you can use a career journal to support your positive professional development. 

Career Journals as Collections

In their most basic iterations, career journals are a place to collect things--ideas, quotes, articles, images, lists, notes, etc. I have journals that are devoted to specific projects as well as more general journals and in each, I'm collecting those snippets of ideas and information that feed my thinking processes.

When I read, I jot down quotes in my journal. When I find an article I will print it out and glue it into my journal. I also use it to collect random Post-It notes, images I find in magazines that may convey an idea or experience I want to capture, and examples of work that others do that I admire or think may have connections to my own work. 

Career Journals to Process

Another way I use my career journals is to process information. I'm someone who often writes her way to understanding, so my journals are filled with entries where I've re-worked ideas, thought through connections, reflected on experiences and applied my understanding of concepts from other fields to the work that I do. There are also tons of mindmaps and VisualsSpeak collages I've used to process my ideas. 

Often when I'm stuck, I will use my career journal to work through an idea or concept as a way to get it out of my head and on to paper. 

CareerJournal 2

Career Journals to Document

Another way to use a career journal is to document. To me, this is separate from collecting items and ideas in your journal. Documenting information carries more intent. I'm writing things down for a purpose, rather than to collect it for some future use. 

Mostly I document plans and "to do lists" in my journals. Often I will see the evolution of a project this way, how it morphs from one iteration to another. But you could also use your journal to document achievements , experiments like the 30 Day Trial, your One Sentence Journal responses or to keep your question log

Ways I Haven't Used My Journals. . . But Could

In looking through my journals to write this post, I also noticed how I typically do NOT use my journal, but really could. 

For reflections on my daily work habits--I know that I'm not as productive and effective as I could be and that if I made more of an effort to use my journal to log and experiment with daily career habits, I think that could be very helpful. I recently finished Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project and was struck with how successful she was in using her Resolution charts to reach her happiness goals. I think it's an idea that could carry over to careers and to working with in my career journal.  

To document emotional reactions to career experiences--I tend to save my emotions for my personal journaling, but think that if I did more to document where I feel energized or inspired by plans, there might be some value in that. I'm trying to live a more integrated life, where I'm not keeping my emotions out of my work, but my journals don't reflect this. 

To reflect on what I'm learning about myself and how I like to work--Periodically I will feel stuck or run up against a need to re-invent myself and my journals often reflect this in terms of the projects I pursue and document there. But it might be helpful if I did something that was more ongoing--even weekly or monthly check-ins with myself about how I'm developing. Keeping track of how I'm developing could show me sooner when I'm starting to get restless or dissatisfied. 

Debriefing on what did/didn't work with a particular activity--This is a habit I want to make more regular in terms of actually documenting my after action reviews. I tend to do these mentally, but not actually write anything down, which could be helpful for later review. Occasionally I've done that type of reflection here on my blog, but it's not included in my journals. 

Benefits of Career Journaling

As I was going through my journals, I started thinking more about what I've found beneficial in using them:

  • Great method for helping me process learning--I learn by talking to people and by writing. So writing my ideas, thoughts, concepts,  etc. in my career journals has given me a lot of insight and understanding. It's also helped me find clarity on the projects I'm working on. I have a quote over my desk that says "Our job is not to control our idea. Our job is to figure out what our idea is (and wants to be) and then bring it into being." My journals help me do that. 
  • An archive of ideas to return to when I need inspiration--Sometimes I have ideas that I write in my journals and then other parts of my life get in the way. When I need inspiration, I can go back through my books and find nuggets that suggest new things I could do or new twists on what I've been doing. Very helpful. 
  • I can see trends over time--As I go through my journals, I see ideas that I keep returning to and questions I keep wrestling with. Recognizing one of these trends led me to write a paper with a colleague at Rutgers University. Another trend was in-person retreats, which led me to plan for Dream It/Do It. I don't always act on my ideas immediatly. But when I see that I'm returning to something again and again, I start looking for ways to bring it into being. 

Some Career Journaling Resources

If you're interested in starting your own career journal, here are some resources to get you going:

I'd love to hear from you if you keep a career journal. How do you use it? How has it helped you in your career? 


Do you have a creative dream you want to bring to fruition? Join me on November 9-11 for the Dream It/Do It Retreat


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